Teaching Tip #1: Do you want to know about wait time during questioning?

Give your students time to think about your questions before asking for an answer; this is called wait time. If you look at the way teachers often ask question after question, you will realize that students have little time to think. Looking at it another way: the more questions that are asked, the less thinking occurs. It is suggested that increasing the time between asking a question and having students respond to that question from the typical 1 second to 5 seconds has benefits like:

  • Length of student responses increases 400 to 800 percent.
  • Number of appropriate responses increases.
  • Failure to respond decreases.
  • Student’s confidence increases.
  • Students start asking more questions.
  • Student’s achievement increases significantly.

Try counting to at least three in your mind (one mis-sis- sip-pi, two mis-sis-sip-pi, etc.) before repeating the question or rewording it. Your wait should depend on the complexity of the question, the ability of the students and the clarity with which the question is asked. Recall and lower-level questions will take 1-3 seconds to answer, while questions that require higher-order thinking would need more thought and thus could take anywhere from 6 to 10 seconds to generate a reply.

Here’s a suggestion: when you ask a question, don’t begin by calling out a student’s name, for example, “Anil, what are some of the reasons for ……?” As soon as you take one student’s name, all the other students in the room will immediately be saying to themselves, We don’t have to think now because Anil is going to answer the question, and they tune off.


Contributor: Sonali Bhattacharyya

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