Part of the Process

Thoughts on becoming a teacher.

Wait Time


I remember hearing that on average teachers wait about one second for an answer. One second! This leads to students not trying to answer the question at all, giving a short answer or just hearing from the same people all the time.

Wait time is something that I have been thinking about a lot. As someone who likes to have a little more time to think about a question before sharing in a large group setting, I really value wait time. When I am in the role of teacher, I find it to be more difficult. Its not really that I think the silence is awkward or uncomfortable, I feel like I don’t want to put students on the spot. Its also hard for me not to call on the child that often shares (how can I not call on the smiling, eager student, bursting with something to share?).

I recently came across the concept of wait time in parent teacher conferences, while reading The Essential Conversation by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot. I think this is an important idea and could give parents the space to say something that they were hesitant to bring up. In my experience I haven’t seen wait time utilized in this type of setting. I think it could be very challenging to allow this type of space, especially taking into account time constraints. But I’ve been thinking about what a powerful tool it could be in getting to know your students and their families.

I know wait time will be something I continue to think about and work on.


4 thoughts on “Wait Time

  1. I have seen a teacher implement wait time brilliantly. It is not silence, rather she, first, she states that she that she knows there are more thoughtful children in her class than the few students who raised their hand. She, then, restates the question. Then, she asks the students if some crazy, silly answer makes sense. The students all laugh (and seem to become more at ease). She may do the “crazy, silly answer” thing two or three times. She asks the question one more time and this time there are always a significant amount more of hands raised (almost the whole class). It is a way of using silliness and repetition to buy time for some students and make all students feel at ease about their answer. Brilliant. …just brilliant.

  2. I also tend to take more time than most to gather my thoughts before answering a question in class. It’s hard sometimes to keep this in mind when you are in the teaching role. I really love the idea of filling that wait time space with silliness and restating the question, growingteacher. It’s a great idea that I will definitely have to try out in my class!

  3. I really appreciate this blog posting. In fact, I just blogged about something related to wait time.
    Do you think culture has to do with this? I remember going to Japan and being warned, “Silence is okay there. You don’t have to speak every minute.” and after making Japanese friends being told, “Americans don’t like silence”.
    What can we do to reassure that there is wait time with so much to do during the day? Did you ever notice that when all the children are engaged in class wait time hardly matters? Where’s the balance? On stage when I bow I always look at my feet and think in my head, “WakuWakuTamago, your shoes are tied.” Maybe we can train ourselves to silent say, “You’re students are awesome and need another 3,2,1 seconds of wait time.” What do you think?

    • I think you are right about culture being a big part of this. I wonder if educators are having these wait time conversations in places where silence is more comfortable.
      I agree with you that wait time doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue when the class is really engaged in the lesson, but I still think there is a pattern of who we are hearing from. Wait time is still important if we want to hear more voices in the conversation.
      I think I’m going to find myself using your idea, “My students are awesome and need…” as I practice utilizing wait time. Maybe I’ll find myself thinking about specific students and wondering if I wait a little longer if I’ll here from them.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

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