Wait Time & Wait Time II


Stronger questioning techniques has always been an area of needed growth – I have improved through the years – but in order to be my best – it requires me to be very intentional.  I understood the idea behind wait time – but when I read A Student’s Perspective of Classroom Culture – how no wait time and allowing callouts from a handful of students is frustrating for the student who wants to be engaged and learn.  It reminded me of times I had the same experiences – when I was trying to think, wanted to answer, but someone else was calling out the answer before I could even get my thoughts together – and the teacher moved on…

This past week at my KLN (Kentucky Leadership Network) meeting – we were given a modified pair-share as we participated in our book study of Mathematics Formative Assessments – 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction and Learning (Keely, Tobey 2011).  I was in a group assigned to #72 Wait Time Variations found on page 212.  Ok, I thought, I know I need to pause 3-5 seconds following a question before calling on a student…as I began to read my assigned reading.

The first line referred to Wait Time as “The Miracle Pause,” (Walsh & Sattes, 2005).  Rowe found in her research:

“teachers tend to leave no more than one second of silence before addressing an unanswered question or asking someone to answer it. When teachers increase their Wait Time to at least 3 seconds, class participation increases, answers are more detailed, complex thinking increases and science achievement scores increase significantly.  Wait Time II involves the interval between when a student answers a question and the teacher responds.”

Wait Time II grabbed my attention…something, I’m not sure I’ve ever done consciously.  As I read more – the authors encouraged  to use a 3-5 second pause AFTER the student answers and before you respond to their answer – this allows both the student and the class to think about the response…  GREAT. IDEA.  Makes so much sense – seems so simple – so why haven’t I thought about it before? I know I’ve repeated a student response and paused – but I believe this will have a positive affect in my classroom.

This Formative Assessment Classroom Technique (FACT) “informs instruction because it encourages longer, richer answers, the teacher gains a better sense of what the students know and the reasoning they use to formulate their ideas.  Practicing Wait Time increases the sample from which teachers can gain information about the progress of learning in the class.”

On page 214, the following effects on teacher practice have been attributed to Wait Time:

  • teacher responses are more thoughtful, tend to keep the discussion focused and ongoing.
  • the quality of teacher feedback improves
  • teachers ask fewer questions – the questions asked require increase in cognitive demand
  • more is expected from previously nonparticipating students

In many cases, students are used to rapid-fire questioning (the one who answers fastest, must be the smartest).  Its important when beginning your growth focused on wait time – to explain to students “WHY” wait time is used and the reason for your long pauses.  When they understand the why, the long pauses will not be uncomfortable or as one of my students phrased “awkward.”  There is a suggested Wait Time Poster found on page 215 – definitely worth a look.  It, like many classroom routines, will need to be practiced before it becomes the norm.  Don’t give up…

Each FACT is organized with

  • Description
  • How the FACT supports student learning
  • How the FACT informs instruction
  • Design & Administration
  • General Implementation Attributes
  • Modifications
  • Caveats
  • Use with Other Disciplines

Whether I find new strategies in this book or names for simple things I’ve done for years – I feel it will be a valuable resource for improving my classroom strategies – providing new ideas or great reminders of “Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction and Learning.”

5 responses »

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