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Indicator 28 – Wait Time

Delivering Instructions

Developing Thinking Skills

Indicator 28 - Wait Time UETS 2d., 3b., 7d., 7h.

Effective teachers pause after asking a question, between 3-5 seconds, to encourage students to work through the problem-solving process. Increasing wait time results in an increase in: 1) the length in student responses, 2) the number of unsolicited responses, 3) the frequency of student questions, 4) the number of responses from less capable students, 5) student-student interactions, 6) the incidents of speculative responses, and 7) student achievement. Pauses this long are also linked to reduced student confusion and fewer student interruptions.


  1. Ask a question before you identify someone to answer it. This technique increases the anticipation of personal involvement by everyone in the class. Be sure you wait 3-5 seconds before calling on a student or students to respond. This gives the students time to think.
  2. Keep students on their toes so they will always be ready to respond:
    • In reading groups, change readers often, and ask questions at different times to keep students alert.
    • "Thanks for reading, Jill! Now who can tell us why Jeff made the decision to ignore his father's advice and spend all of his money on a new bike? [Wait 3-5 seconds.] John? Can you remember what Jeff said about that?"
  1. Remember that wait time increases the ability of students to process what they know and answer appropriately.
  2. Remember, the teacher remains quiet and expects the students to remain quiet until a student is called on to answer. The teacher might use a signal or gesture to show that students need to think and wait.
  3. Some of the following strategies help teachers provide wait time, and engage more students in the learning:
    • Pull sticks from a can with students’ names on them.
    • Ask the students a question. Before calling on students for responses, have students turn to their neighbor and talk about it first.
    • Write a question on the board or flip chart and read it aloud. Allow the students an adequate amount of time to think of an answer. Ask them not to raise their hand, but write the answer on a piece of paper. When time has expired, ask for volunteers to answer the question.
    • Write several questions on individual pieces of paper and distribute among the students. Students will have their own question to answer. Provide an adequate amount of time for processing and formulating a response. Call on individual students to read-aloud their question and answer. You can also modify this activity by selecting specific questions for individual students based on their ability.
    • Write several questions on a sheet of paper and distribute among students. Vary the difficulty of the questions. Ask the students to select one of the questions to answer, and then provide time for them to formulate a response. Ask for volunteers to read their chosen question and response.
    • Ask students to come up with their own questions based on the content and topic. Have them write their top three questions on a paper, and choose one of them to answer for the Q&A session. Give them time to work, and then provide an opportunity to share with their peers before sharing a few out with the class.
  1. Wait time may need to be differentiated based on specific student factors:
    • Students may need more than 5 seconds when the question is above their recall level.
    • English language learners may need additional processing time.
    • Students with expressive language difficulty may need more time for the retrieval of words and thoughts.
    • Some students with learning disabilities have difficulty locating and retrieving stored information and benefit from increased wait time.

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