Joined: 19 Oct 2011
Do you want to know one of the biggest mistakes teachers make?
Wait…wait…wait for it.
That’s it! They don’t wait for the answer.
The number one mistake teachers make, in my opinion, is they let students off the hook. Go into most classrooms and you will see the teacher ask a question of a child, then if that child does not know the answer, they will either tell them the answer, or more commonly, they will ask another child.
They simply don’t wait long enough for the answer.
According to Dr. Richard Courtright, an expert of gifted education at Duke University, who I recently had the privilege of learning from during a seminar, said the average time teachers wait for answer from students is about one to one-and-a- half seconds. That’s simply not enough time!
I first realized I was letting kids off the hook in my classroom after I watched Atlanta-based educator Ron Clark teach a math lesson. He asked a student a question to a word problem they had been working on and the child did not know the answer. Rather than pass the question off to the next child, Mr. Clark simply folded his arms and waited. The class also waited patiently (I learned later that he trained them to wait). With a little prodding, and after what in a normal classroom would have seemed an eternity, the student blurted out the answer and the whole class broke into applause.
Later, during lunch, I asked Mr. Clark why he waited for the child, and he explained that, by waiting, he created the expectation that students in his class were responsible for their learning. In other words, when the teacher called on you, you must answer the question, and answer it correctly.
I began practicing the art of waiting on answers, and it transformed my teaching. I explained to my students that when I called on them they must produce the correct answer. I also told them that they were not allowed to answer for each other. Rather, I continued, that if they felt restless, like they just had to help that student, they could quietly cheer him or her on with phrases like “come on, Julie” or “let’s go Julie.”
Suddenly, my students became more alert in class, knowing that if called upon, they would have to produce quality answers. No more daydreaming, no more stalling until another student bailed them out.
At first, students might feel uncomfortable as you wait for a child to answer, but if you explain your rule and practice with the kids, it will become second nature. Also, at times, you may have to guide a child or prod them a little to get the correct answer.
Finally, if you want to add even more power to the practice of waiting, I suggest that you also “cold call” on students, meaning don’t always ask for them to raise their hands but rather call on them randomly. Combining these two practices—waiting for answers and randomly calling on students- will bring your teaching to a whole new level.
So come on, what are you waiting for?
(To join a discussion on the topic of waiting for students to answer, please visit http://community.educationworld.com/content/wait-0?gid=NTEyMQ==)