This is my first blog post on this site in English. To be honest, I'm not sure where I'm going to go with this. I have ideas, and I want to start writing them down. I love teaching and I love learning how to be a better teacher. As I take this well-trodden road I will write down reflections and ideas that have been helpful for me, and hopefully they'll be helpful for you as well. If you do find anything useful, let me know in the comments! I love talking to people about teaching as well and am interested in what other people think and do. Here we go.
I want to write today about an extremely important, simple and often forgotten strategy for getting kids (or any learner) to improve in whatever you're teaching them (and they're hopefully learning!) - wait time.
What is wait time? It's just as it sounds. It is the purposeful action of giving students time to think when we have asked them a question rather than either rushing to tell them the answer or moving on to the next one. There are a couple of reasons why this is important. The first is that when we give our students time to think we can find out whether they actually understand what we have taught them or not. It's a type of formative assessment whereby we can determine the student's current understanding. Secondly, often students do know the answer or will at least search for an answer if we just give them the time they need to find it. Furthermore, there is often more than one answer to any well-formulated question. So, the potential amount of valuable cognition that can take place in that created thinking space increases with the amount of time that we allow our students.
It seems so simple. Just wait. But, we teachers are human and therefore there are other factors to consider. My experience is that when I am not feeling confident about something that I am teaching is when I am most likely to move a student along faster than I should, possibly because I don't want to face the fact that my student doesn't know or understand something that I have taught. It can be tied to our own insecurities as educators. It is, therefore, important to have everything else in place such as planning, class control and effective presentation of that which we want our students to learn. A second reason is that it can be really uncomfortable - that awkward chasm of silence between the question and the answer. Sometimes we feel like 'rescuing' the student from that discomfort, which is natural because silence can be uncomfortable. But what we perceive as kind can also be the worst thing we can do for somebody else.
How do we implement wait time? You could use any strategy that you like, but I simply count in my head (to make sure that I'm actually doing it), usually to ten. Like I stated earlier, that ten seconds can seem like a long time, but it's important. I think it's worth noting too that when we get to know our students better we can modify the amount of wait time we give depending on their needs as learners. Every student is different and therefore some will need more time than others. Like almost everything in teaching - it depends.
How good are you at waiting? Is it something that you are good at, or something you feel like you could improve? Let me know of any strategies that have worked for you in the comments!