Strategies for Providing Students With Time to Think

The Edutopia website is one of our favorites.  The article “Extending the Silence” discusses the strategy of using “wait time” effectively in the classroom.  Research has provided evidence that “pausing for three or more seconds showed a noticeable positive impact on learning.”  However, research also shows us that “the average length that teachers pause was found to be 0.9 seconds.”  The author notes that, while silence in the classroom can be uncomfortable for both teachers and students initially, students need time to process new information, make connections to previous learning/experiences, and then prepare a thoughtful, organized response.  That’s a lot to ask for in 0.9 seconds!

Here are some strategies from the author for incorporating this information in the classroom:

“Provide wait time: Give students five to 15 seconds to formulate a response to a question for which they should know the answer. Not every learner processes thinking at the same speed. Quality should be measured in the content of the answer, not the speediness.

Give think time: Give students 20 seconds to two minutes to make sense of questions that require analysis to synthesize concepts into a different construct or frame. You can aid this by encouraging journaling, silent reflection, or partner discussions. 

Teach reflection: Coach students on the value and practice of reflection. 

Teach students how to manage a conversation: It’s a beautiful thing to witness students running thoughtful conversations around topics that combine curriculum and real-world connections. Establish a culture for students to engage in such conversations, and they’ll soon be doing most of the heavy lifting during the lesson.”

The author reminds us that students should always be the central focus of the learning environment if the goal is for our “students to become independent learners who can navigate challenging material and situations.”

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