Literacy 7-12

Systems Change


Wait time, or think time, of three or more seconds after posing a question increases how many students volunteer and the length and accuracy of their responses. Having more time to think also increases students' Motivation to respond and supports their Short- and Long-term Memory. Waiting after hearing a student's response has also been shown to improve the quality and variety of teachers' questions, in particular increasing the number of questions that require higher-level thinking.

Use It in the Classroom

Watch this short clip on wait time in a middle school classroom. This teacher waits at least three seconds after posing a question about making connections across different genres and cuing her students to look back at their notes as they think.

  • Teachers need to combine a focus on wait time with a focus on the types of questions they ask. To be most effective, three or more seconds of silence should follow a clear, higher-level question and cues for students on how to think through their answers (e.g., look at their notes). Extended silence after imprecise or lower-level questions tends to increase students' confusion or frustration.
  • Design It into Your Product

  • Product developers should consider wait time in the pacing of activities. For example, products can tell students to pause a video or activity to take time to think before they answer. Products can also build in reminders that pop up if a student is working quickly through a program, suggesting they slow down to give themselves time to think.