Wait Time … We Need to Use It More

How much time is spent in your classroom spent THINKING?

When we give students time to THINK, then they can process their ideas.  So often, teachers rush to move on.  Students can’t always move that fast!  Many brains need time whether it is to answer a question,  THINK about a text or to THINK about a math equation.  I hate that I cannot remember where I found the graphic below because it is great!  I believe tells us so much. If you know, please leave a comment so I can give them credit.

If we think about ourselves, how frequently do we wish that we had THOUGHT before we spoke?  We need to give that same courtesy and teach that ability to our students.

This past week, I was reviewing assessment-taking strategies with 6th graders.  During two- 35 minute sessions, four students raised their hands before I had even said the main idea of my question.  We have indirectly trained our kids to answer right away.  And THINK about this puzzling question:  We wonder why students don’t put the pieces together in our content!  The simple answer is they can’t because they haven’t had time to THINK.

We do have to remind our students to pause to use their brains.  Like I wrote above — these boys and girls — were eager to participate even though they didn’t know the specifics of what they were going to have to answer.  For many years when I was carrying a full-load of 5 classes a day and 120-135 students, there were two signs in big bold letters:  Reading is THINKING.  Writing is THINKING.  The signs weren’t there for show; I used them as a frequent message.

Before asking a question, I  remind my students not to raise their hands until I ask them to THINK about my question or statement.  When hands are up, students already have an idea in their minds; they are not THINKING.  When hands are up, they believe they know the answer to the puzzle we are asking. They can’t put the pieces together because they haven’t THOUGHT.

I have believed in THINKING for a long time because I was one of those learners who could not answer right away. I was intimidated by questions.  And because of my auditory processing, lots of times I hadn’t even heard or had misheard the question being asked.  Therefore, how could I answer the question right away? I needed time to THINK!  Usually I had to figure out the puzzle of what had been asked and then put the pieces together. I wasn’t a strong student and was told that many times.  The longer I took to answer the more impatient my teachers became. The instructors didn’t give me time to THINK which I needed.

Don’t be that restless teacher that is eager for an immediate answer so you can move on.  In the long run, the information stays with the student when they have the opportunity to THINK.

So the next time you are in front of the class, whether you working with a small group, or conferencing one-on-one — give the student time to THINK.  It will take practice and retraining those arms and hands that want to pop into the air.  But it is worth it.  You will be amazed that although you might not see immediate improvement, over time, you will see great results.

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