to being called on and that incorrect
responses have value.
We recommend putting two
expectations for students front and
center (while emphasizing that yours
is a risk-free classroom): ( 1) Use
teacher questions to prompt your
own thinking, not to try to guess the
teacher’s answer, and ( 2) Use incorrect
answers or misunderstandings as
opportunities to learn. With time and
support, learners will accept these new
Talk About Thinking
You might discuss the fact that questions prompt thinking, but most
people don’t form a response instantaneously. Getting to a well-formed
response is a multiphased cognitive
process. First, students must be paying
attention as the question is posed.
Second, they must figure out what
is being asked. (This step is especially important for second-language
learners, who may have to translate
the question from English to their
home language and then work to
understand its meaning.) Next, students search their long-term memories
to make connections between their
prior knowledge, experience, or preconceptions and what the question
is asking. Then, students can answer
to themselves and finally answer
Almost all students can profit from
the three to five seconds of think time,
especially internal processors who will
move through these steps methodically
and silently rehearse their answers.
External processors—who think by
talking—benefit from learning to
control their impulsivity and rethink
their initial responses. And it’s good
for all students to develop an understanding of the thinking process and
to respect the fact that individuals
process differently—that speed in
responding does not equal intelligence.
Use Think Time 2
for Formative Assessment
Think Time 2 can produce even
greater benefits for student thinking
and learning than the first pause.
When used appropriately, Think
Time 2 contributes significantly to
real-time formative assessment by
providing an opportunity for the
teacher, the responding student,
and nonresponding students to
reflect on a proffered answer.
When students use Think Time 2
as intended, they’re actively engaging
in self-assessment, which is potentially the most powerful type of formative assessment. Consider a student
responding to this question: “What
are some ways the Watergate scandal
changed U.S. citizens’ views on public
service?” With time to reflect, that
student could evaluate the answer she
gave, going deeper into her knowledge
base and self-correcting or adding
to the response. Or she might form
and ask a question that would help
clarify what the teacher asked. Such
self-assessment requires time and, for
many of us, silence.
There’s the risk that Think Time 2
will become “dead time” if nonresponding students don’t use this
time productively, but rather tune
out and get overtly off-task. However,
when teachers hold nonresponding
students accountable for listening
and comparing their responses to the
answer provided, these students can
become full participants in the questioning transaction and in their own
Let students know you expect them
to compare the answers they brought
to mind (during the first pause) to the
response of a classmate—and decide
whether they agree or disagree with
that peer’s response. Listening students
must be ready to provide reasons for
their positions, pose questions to the
responding student, or piggyback on
the answer. This means that teachers
must establish a classroom routine of
actively involving students in assessing
a peer’s oral response—perhaps with
a simple signal like thumbs up if you
agree, thumbs down if not, thumbs
to the side if you don’t understand.
Students who use this second pause
for thinking realize that their teachers
intend questions to engage every
student in assessing, rethinking, and
extending their learning.
Worthy of the Wait
For think time to bear fruit, we
must pose questions that require
students to think rather than
Questions Based on Recall
n Is 17 a prime number?
n In what year did the United
States enter World War II?
n What is a renewable resource?
n In Charlotte’s Web, how old
was Wilbur when Mr. Arable
decided he should live outside?
Questions That Require
n Why is 17 a prime number?
n Imagine that you are a U.S.
citizen during World War II. How
would you justify neutrality during
the early years of the war?
n How might you convince a
friend that it’s important to
know whether or not a resource
n In Charlotte’s Web, how do
you think Mr. Arable attempted
to help Fern understand his
decision to move Wilbur