Harry Wong
Dec 2017
Vol 14 No 4

Teachers: Shush-up Again! Kids Need Time to Think (continued from January)

By Bill Page

Bill Page’s popular book, At-Risk Students; Feeling Their Pain is available at

I have two more words, without which, no class can function efficaciously. – Bill Page

Dear Bill:  The two-word idea you gave in the last Gazette to “Texas Sally” was terrific.  I introduced student dialogue to my classes.  They love it, use it, and would never go back to traditional communication. I was astonished at how kids talk when I shut up. I hope you have another strategy I can introduce that will make such an impact and continue all year. Li’l Angel

Dear L’il: “Oh, Yes! I have two more words for you to love and write on your palm—another concept guaranteed to continue the dialogue strategy while adding another dimension to your progression toward greater student involvement and satisfaction.” Bill Page

Just Two Words to Remember

Two words can make a world of difference, as you have already seen.  Now two words can also be added to the reminder on your palm, but I can suggest an even better memory jogger: Teach your students the two words, their meaning, their value, and their “magic.” You will never need to remember them, yourself; your students will remember them for you. A concept measured in seconds that will last throughout the year. Are you ready? . . .Wait-Time!

The Pause that Refreshes

Wait-time: three seconds of complete silence at two points in a lesson: 1) between asking a question and soliciting or accepting a response; and 2) between the response and further comment, new question or moving on. The three second pause is nothing short of a miraculous boost in student attention, participation, reflection, thinking, and individualization. Providing several seconds of time immediately following a question, while kids to think their own thoughts, can permit every individual in class an opportunity to ponder, reflect, and become actively and mentally involved.

Then, providing additional wait-time after a student has responded before commenting or calling on another student allows thinking time.  Both or these pauses allow all students to reflect on, think of, and compare their own ideas or mental response before their thoughts are interrupted and discussion ensues.

Wait! Before Permitting an Answer and after an Answer

Waiting three seconds before and after questions consistently results in longer student responses, more appropriate and unsolicited responses, more students asking questions, and increased higher order thinking responses. This increased quality of response may be particularly true for ESL students and for students who frequently fail to respond because of other students’ quick responses and teachers’ eagerness to move on.  Studies found that most teachers move on with more questioning in about one-seventh of a second, giving students little chance to think.  The duration of the wait-time is, of course, a matter of teacher determination but three to five seconds is a good starting point.

Three Seconds Time Goes Mighty Fast

A three second pause seems so little to ask for better quality of responses; yet it is difficult to accomplish without commitment and practice. Teachers typically wait only a fraction of a second to get a response or to continue.  How long is a second? Try counting three seconds right now—I learned to count seconds this way:  one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.  I guess it’s kind of like the saying, “How long a second is depends on which side of the bathroom door you are on.”  I found that my habit of rapidly fire questions, quickly moving on as a student hesitated, and always assumed I knew which students would know the answer were the reasons I failed to hesitate for three seconds after asking a question.

A Pause that Lasted a Lifetime

Almost 40 years ago I read an article in a teacher journal, “Give Students Time to Respond” by Mary Budd Rowe that changed my teaching instantly, dramatically, and permanently.(I had my own reprint of the article for years and may still have it.) Mary Budd Rowe, a science teacher at the time went on to become famous for her research and writing on the matter of wait-time.  Her published articles and legacy can be Googled under her name. Try it! The information is overwhelming.  I applied the wait time concept in my English and social studies classes the following day with remarkable results—until I slipped back into my old habits.

I found “The Solution”

The solution to backsliding into my former questioning techniques was simple:



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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 and is filed under *ISSUES, Bill Page, February 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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