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Redirect to another student after the first student’s answer

“Judy, can you tell us?”

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Redirect to get more, build, and extend

“Okay. You’re on the right track. Judy, would you add anything to that?”

“Wrong” with the reason “Not quite, because you left out the exponent.” Then the teacher waits while the student tries again.

Supply the question for which the answer is right, cue, or hold accountable

“That would be right if I asked for the formula for the circumference. Now do you remember anything about the use of exponents in that formula? [Now the student gets it right.] Right! And I bet you’ll remember that after lunch if I check you too. I’ll ask you then, and I bet you’ll get it!”

Wait time Silence.

Follow up question to double check or extend

“Can you tell me how you were thinking about that?”

Acknowledge “Umhmmm.”

Restate in fuller language “Okay. So, you get the area by multiplying pi times the radius of the circle squared.”

Ask the student to elaborate “Can you tell me more about what you meant by that?”

Praise “Way to go!”



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p “My job is to guess the answer in the teacher’s head, and say it in precisely the way he’s thinking it.”

p “I muffed that one, and I should get back in gear. I know this stuff.”

p “The teacher thinks I can think this one through and get it.”

p “What I said was worthwhile, but there’s more.”

p “My teacher really listens to what I say.”

p “My teacher really wants to know what I mean. There must be something worthwhile in what I said.”

p “My idea wasn’t as good as that one. Boy, I’m glad I didn’t get called on.”

p “Wow, I guess I did pretty well on that one.”

p “It’s not safe to risk an answer here unless you’re really sure.”

p “It is safe to risk an answer in here. If I don’t get it, I won’t be put down.”

p “I can say what I think and be respected and accepted for that.”

p “If I can’t get it, I’ll be helped to remember or figure it out.”

It is likely all of us have received these messages at one time or another in our experience as students. Clearly, the effects can be powerful. What the teacher does or says after a student responds in class can engage students and open their thinking or close them down; can make them feel more confident, curi- ous, encouraged to participate, or afraid, timid, protective, quiet, and defen- sive. Simultaneously, the effect is either to stimulate students to search, scan, wonder about, reflect, think, try to get it right, shine, impress, and win (or protect themselves from getting wounded).

These responses form a repertoire (see Table 14.4). No one of them is inher- ently best, most appropriate, or most effective. Readers could create the context in which each of them, even criticizing (but not put-downs), could be appro- priate. Matching is the name of the game. Several of them, however, are par- ticularly effective for specific purposes and should be considered for inclusion into any teacher’s repertoire. Wait Time (or silence) is one such behavior.



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Table 14.4 Teacher Responses to Student Answers

Ways of moving on to another student

• Criticizes: “Come on. That answer shows no thought at all.” • “No” and redirects to another student. • “No” then gives the correct answer. • “No” with the reason, which may serve as a cue. • Moves to another student if the first student doesn’t answer. • Redirect to another student to add, build, or extend. “Would you add anything to that,

Zach?” • Student authorized to call on another student to answer in his or her place.

Ways of sticking with a student

• Supplying the question for which the answer is right, cuing, and holding the student accountable.

• “No, but it’s good you brought it up because others probably thought that too.” • “Try again.” • Validate what is right or good about an answer and then cue, sticking with the student. • Ignore the answer and cue the student. • Wait time II. • Follow up with an expression of confidence or encouragement: “I think you know.” • Ask the student to elaborate. • Call for a self-evaluation of the answer. • Follow up with an expression of confidence or extend. • Ask the student to elaborate. • Call for a self-evaluation of the answer. • Follow-up question to clarify: “Are you saying that . . . ?”

Ways of acknowledging, affirming

• “Um-hmmm.” • Repeat the student’s answer. • Restate the answer in fuller or more precise language. • “Right.” • “Right” with the reason. • Praise or praise and extend.

In the late 1960s, Mary Budd Rowe (1987) discovered that if teachers purpose- fully paused and waited a minimum of 3 seconds or more after asking a ques- tion, many students who ordinarily did not answer did so, answers tended to be full sentences rather than single words or phrases, and the answers were at a higher level of thinking. Rowe also discovered most teachers wait on average less than a half-second after asking a question before jumping in with cuing, redirecting, telling the answer, or restating the question. Her research continued for almost 20 years with similar findings. Waiting 3 to 5 seconds after posing a question is referred to as Wait Time I.



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Waiting after a student has responded is called Wait Time II. This response be- havior achieves similar desirable outcomes to Wait Time I. Teachers tend to in- crease the cognitive level of their questions, and students increase the cognitive level of their answers, speak in more complete and more elaborate sentences, exhibit less tentativeness in their responses, and are more likely to start re- sponding to each other and to comment on each other’s answers (Figure 14.7).

While the idea of pausing for at least 3 to 5 seconds after posing a question or responding to a student answer appears to be simple and straightforward, most who have experimented with it will agree that it is initially uncomfortable

Figure 14.7 Wait Time

W A I T T I M E A purposeful pause of 3-5 seconds or more

After a Student Answers

After Asking a Question

After Calling on a Student

After a Student Asks

a Question


1. 300-700% increase in the length of student responses. 2. The number of unsolicited but appropriate student responses increases. 3. Failures to respond decrease. 4. Confidence increases—there are fewer inflected responses. 5. Speculative responses increase. 6. Teacher-centered question change in number and kind. • The number of divergent questions increases. • Teacher ask higher-level questions (Bloom’s taxonomy). • There is more probing for clarification. 8. Students make inferences and support inferences with data. 9. Students ask more questions. 10. Contributions by “slow” students increase. 11. Disciplinary moves decrease, and more students are on task. 12. Achievement on logic tests improves.



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and easy to forget to do. We are so used to filling silences with talk that unless we specifically commit ourselves to try wait time and get someone in to watch us trying it, we will likely fail to internalize this valuable behavior. Hence, it is a behavior where coaching or some form of peer feedback can be particularly helpful. The very presence of an observer reminds us of the commitment and increases the likelihood of successful practice. Wait time—or “think time”—is a behavior we believe teachers should teach to students so they know what it means and why it is being used and so they can be comfortable using it them- selves and honoring it when it happens in the classroom.

Supplying the question for which the answer is right, cuing, and holding the stu- dent accountable is another that we should include in our repertoires because it accomplishes several things. First, it salvages self-esteem. As Madeline Hunter (1982) says, “Our job is to help learners be right, not catch them being wrong. When someone is humiliated or feeling unworthy, their perception narrows.” This strategy also strengthens a connection between the answer and the ques- tion it goes with by supplying that question. To use this strategy with every wrong answer would not be practical, but it is an excellent strategy to use from time to time and especially when there’s a question to link up with the wrong answer, often an item of recent learning.

The ways of moving on to another student in Table 14.4 represent how a teacher might respond when a student has an (apparent or actual) incorrect answer. While there is nothing wrong with making it clear when an answer is incor- rect, it does matter how a teacher says it, and what he or she does next. Each of those moves is a different way of saying “no” or “not quite,” but a common characteristic of all of them is that the teacher responds and then moves on to someone else.

The moves for sticking with a student in Table 14.4 represent how a teacher might stay with a student. Teachers who stick with students—especially if their initial response is seemingly incorrect—send messages that they have confi- dence in their students’ ability to think through to an appropriate response. Giving a student a cue and lingering sends quite a different message from saying no and immediately calling on another student. Cuing the student but then call- ing immediately on another says the teacher doesn’t really think the student has the capacity to use the cue. Whereas any response from this continuum might be effective in a given situation, the main point is that teachers who convey positive expectations and build confidence and risk-taking in students practice many moves from the middle of the continuum.

Sometimes teachers in our workshops ask how an instructor has enough time to do such sticking and cuing with students and still get through all the mate-

Wait time is a behavior we believe teachers should teach to students.



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