SIOP Feature #18:  Provide sufficient wait time for student responses consistently

Under the SIOP component, Interaction, is this feature on wait time.  Wait time is the amount of time a teacher waits after asking a question.  Using wait time has many benefits including increased quality and quantity of student responses.  Teachers can use a variety of strategies to give students the wait time they need to succeed.

The 18th feature of SIOP, using wait time, is one of four features found within the component, Interaction.  Wait time, sometimes called think time, is an important instructional component.  Using wait time effectively has many benefits.  There are many different places a teacher can experiment with wait time to help improve learning in the classroom.

Kid in class learning

Why should we use wait time?

Unfortunately, as teachers, we often reward "the quick one out of the gate."  The average teacher waits less than one second between the time she or he asks a question and the time s/he answers the question for the class.  This means that if you are a quick learner, you get a chance to shine.  If you are not the quickest one in class, you may find that it difficult to contribute in class. A teacher who gives students 3-5 seconds of wait time upon asking a question will notice the following benefits:

  1. Increase in the quantity of responses.
  2. Increase in the quality of responses.
  3. Increase in student engagement.
  4. Increase in student comprehension.
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When should we use wait time?

There are a number of different places we can use wait time.  Here are three of the most powerful:

  • After asking a question to the class, wait before responding to it.
  • After a student answers a question, wait before moving on to something else.
  • After clarifying a student's response, wait before going to the next step in the lesson.

How can we use wait time effectively?

There are quite a few ways that we can improve our ability to use wait time effectively.  Like anything, using wait time (or think time) effectively requires conscious practice.  Nonetheless, here are four tips to make sure you're getting the most out of this technique:

  1. Educate students on what wait/think time is and why it's important to use it.
  2. Count silently in your head to five every time you ask a question.
  3. If you need more time, get students to confer with a friend (pair share).
  4. Every so often, take the pulse of the students and get feedback from them on how wait time is or isn't working for them.
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