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A quick tip on how to use "Wait Time" to encourage student participation

Uncategorized Dec 17, 2021

By. Robin Satty, Ed.D.

Silence is golden. In teaching, it is even more important - but not for the kids, for the instructor!


Nobody’s brain works instantly. For students, who are learning new skills and developing procedural knowledge (the “how” to do stuff, like solving a linear equation), their brains take some time to evaluate a question, decide how to approach it, and then solve the problem.


Unfortunately, teachers don’t usually leave students enough time before revealing the answer. Without enough time to process questions, students can feel discouraged or even get used to not actually doing the work, because the answer will be given to them soon enough.


How do you avoid that problem?


All you have to do is…wait. Give students at least 3 seconds of silence, and sometimes more, depending on how complex the task is. It’s harder than it sounds! It can be helpful to count to 5, or 10, or 15. See what works best for you in different situations!


Teachers who waited silently at least 3 seconds ended up with more correct answers, more students volunteering to answer, and even higher test scores.


As an added bonus, teachers who used wait time also asked higher-quality and higher-level questions.


What would this look like in real time?


For a simple definition, it might look like this:

“What is the nucleus of a cell?” Count to 3, then offer a hint or answer.

For a more complex question, it might look like this:

“What is the next step you would do in your proof?” Count to 5, and consider taking multiple answers before revealing which is correct - or for even more challenge, have the students decide which is the best next step!


Wait time is a simple but can be surprisingly challenge to implement, especially when time is tight. It’s worth the time!




Questions for Dr. Satty?  Write her here:  [email protected]



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