Embrace the Silence

When you teach a concept and then ask your class “What questions do you have?,” wait at least 3-5 seconds (that’s 2 deep breaths) before you jump in to fill the silence. Let those crickets chirp for a few seconds longer than what may feel comfortable to you so that students have an opportunity to (a) critically think about what questions they have, and (b) muster up the courage to ask their question coherently in front of their peers.

“Wait time” is an underutilized pedagogical technique pioneered by Mary Rowe and discussed further in this article. Rowe found that most teachers (from Kindergarten through college) wait less than one second before answering the question themselves. Rowe also discovered that student responses tended to be more substantive after longer wait times. As an added bonus, wait time can also allow you more time to strategize your responses and formulate higher level questions. In short, slowing down your class can actually speed up learning!

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