We’ve all been there. We ask our child a question and they stare blankly back at us, and we wonder if they heard what we said. So we repeat ourselves. They might mutter an “um” or “uh,” and our impatience grows. Finally, we give up and either tell them the answer or move on, without giving them a chance to respond.

Wait time is not easy. It’s hard to wait for an answer. It’s also hard to let our kids figure things out for themselves. By nature, we want to take care of them. But when we don’t give kids time to think and come up with their own answers- even if they are the wrong answers- we keep them from growing and gaining confidence in problem solving.

The concept of “wait time” was invented by science educator Mary Budd Rowe in 1972. Her research in wait time in classrooms found that the periods of silence between a teacher’s question and a student’s response rarely lasted more than 1.5 seconds. She discovered, however, that teachers who waited at least 3 seconds after posing a question to students received longer and correct responses.

Other positive outcomes Rowe found included:

  • The number of “I don’t know” or no answer responses decrease
  • Students become more likely to volunteer
  • Test scores increase

Rowe also discovered the longer wait time had benefits for the teachers as well:

  • The strategies used in forming questions became more flexible and varied
  • The quantity of questions decreased, while the quality of questions increased
  • The questions asked required higher-level thinking skills and complex information processing on the part of their students

So how can you, as a parent, incorporate wait time into your daily interactions with your child?

Firstly, when you ask your child a question, give them time to answer. If you don’t pause, then they can’t answer. Rowe suggested waiting 3 seconds, but that time can extend up to 10-15 seconds if the question requires deep thought.

Secondly, try to avoid interrupting their thought process. Count in your head to 3, 5, 10 seconds if you need to. 10 seconds doesn’t seem like a long time until it is filled with silence. It is in this awkward silence that your child is forming their own thoughts and ideas. The time is uncomfortable for you, but it is so helpful for them.

Thirdly, if after the initial time has passed, and your child hasn’t answered, try rephrasing the question. Repeating the same question you asked before may not help if they didn’t understand it in the first place.

Finally, be patient and encouraging. There is nothing better than your child grasping a new concept and growing in knowledge. Be positive, even if the answer is incorrect, and help guide them towards the correct answer instead of telling them the right response.

Here at Learning Ascent, we implement wait time when working with our students. It would be easy to just tell them the answers to make sure their homework is done or to know what will be on their test. But we would rather help each child learn critical thinking skills and teach them how to effectively think through questions, so that they may grow and become more confident, both in the classroom and in life. Whether you are a parent or student from Geneva, Batavia, South Elgin, or St Charles, IL or elsewhere, ask the tutors at your tutoring center if “Wait Time” is part of their tutoring.

For more information on wait time, click here.

To learn more about Learning Ascent and the services we offer, click here.

Since 2002, the professional tutors at Learning Ascent in St Charles, IL have provided tutoring and ACT prep, helping thousands of students from Batavia IL, Geneva IL, South Elgin IL and other Fox Valley towns to improve their academic performance.

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