Waiting in Vain

TECHNIQUE #32  Wait Time

indexMoving into Chapter 7, Building Ratio Through Questioning, our attention is directed toward building a solid ratio between thinking and participation.  Thoughtful, consistent participation is what ‘Champion’ teachers are looking to establish in their classrooms.  Without further ado, Wait Time is a tactic that encourages teachers to deliberately allow students time to develop thoughtful response to questions asked in class.  TLAC claims that is requires a lot of discipline to create Wait Time for students; deliberate pauses after you posit a question.  “…a lack of Wait Time makes it more likely that the teacher will waste time processing a poor answer before he gets to discuss a good one…affording students significant periods to think after each question you ask increased think ratio.”,(p.244)¹.  Here is a condensed list of the benefits of  Wait Time:

  • Enabling a wider range of scholars to raise their hands
  • Supporting better, more rigorous answers.
  • Prompting more cognitive work during the “wait”
  • Decreasing the number of failures or “I don’t knows”
  • Increasing use of evidence in answers.

(On a professional /personal note):  The most successful use of wait time that I have seenimages.jpg in classroom are teachers that actually use Wait Time as a silent period of introspection and re-investigation of the central text, notes or documents.  I’ll reference ‘Mr. A’ as an exemplary teacher, who, specifically uses Wait Time on a regular basis in his classroom, to exemplary effect.  I was very impressed with the mindful manner in which he proposed questions, prompted the use of resources that were available to the students, and the very deliberate manner in which he waited and assessed the range of raised hands in his classroom.

Step1: Narrate Hands:  I initially started doing this after reading the first edition, Teach Like a Champion², 2010; the idea is simple, yet in my opinion, radical.  Demonstrate to theryh group, after an initial pause, that you do expect “a forest of hands” to be raised.  Encourage those students who are merely contemplating the pro’s and con’s of raising their hand to join the list of hands being acknowledged.  “I see two hands, three hands; I want to see 6 hands on this question.”   This tactic yields immediate results; as soon as I numerate/narrate the number of willing hands in the air, invariable 2 or 3 more join the ranks.  Or, let students know when you expect them to raise their hands; “OK, we’re going to take 20 seconds to think about our answers before we raise our hands; I’ll let you know when you can raise your hands….OK, now hands”.

3-PS-SMALL-300x160.jpgStep 2: Prompt Thinking Skills:   If the classroom teacher is willing to allow for more Wait Time (30 seconds to 1min1/2), this is where you would direct student attention toward what I would refer to as a more “mindful” response.  In a recent middle school Social Studies classroom, I observed the teacher, after a full 45second (approx.), pause asking the students to refer to specific documents in the text they were evaluating, rewording the essential questions that were posted on the board, giving careful quiet direction as to how the question posited might be answered well, “all the way right”, mindfully, be answered.  Here are some great sample teacher narratives/statements from index.jpgthe text:

  • “I’m waiting for someone who can connect this scene to another play…(e.g. or document, novel, chapter, etc.)”
  • “I’m seeing scholars going back to the chapter to see if they ca find the scene”
  • “I’m seeing people thinking deeply and jotting down thoughts.  I’ll give everyone a few more seconds to do that” (I’m really interested in the shift in timing with this statement; typically, I would say “I’ll give you a few more minutes to think about this; perhaps the shift to the word choice “seconds” might be a more relevant frame of time reference.)

index.jpgStep 3: Give Real Think Time:  From time to time, I’ve been known to be truly standoffish when it comes to redundancy, reiteration and common sense in the world of pedagogy.  Step 3: and I quote, “This is critical because the first two steps require you to interpret student thinking.  It’s important to give students real think time. [This is not even good grammar], …it requires inaction, it can be hard to do.”,(p.247)¹.

Here is a solid video of Colleen Driggs, 5th grade teacher effectively using Wait Time.  It’s a short clip; very impressed with the manner in which she asks students to refer back to their notes.



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