“What is the relationship between poverty and the central theme of our novel? I am going to give you twenty seconds to really think about this one. It’s going to require deeper thinking, so in twenty seconds I will start taking volunteers.” Notes are flipped, pens are active, and brains are clearly chugging along. Hands slowly start going up, but the teacher continues to wait. A few more hands go up with confidence, others with hesitation. At the twenty-second mark, the teacher repeats the question and calls on a student. Her well-formulated response demonstrates deep thinking and is indicative of the teacher’s high expectations.
Great teachers do not reward quick thinkers by only taking the first couple responses. They give explicit wait time to encourage high-level thinking. Wait time also communicates high expectations, insisting that all students can operate at a high level if given adequate time.