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Wait time after a teacher question

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Wait time after a teacher question

Big questions

Pupils are given time to reflect independently

A significant question that cannot be answered

on a question, to think and formulate ideas

immediately. By its nature, it draws answers

before being asked to answer.

from many pupils and encourages them to

come up with a list of smaller questions they

need to answer before an answer to the big

question can be formulated. Sometimes the

‘smaller questions’ are provided by the teacher.

Rich questions

Teacher models prompts and body language

Open-ended, higher-order questions which

to encourage continuation

require learners either to link or to apply ideas,

Use of body language or verbal prompts to

give reasons, summarise or evaluate.

encourage pupils to develop their answers. For

Sometimes they force pupils to ask themselves

example ‘Go on…’ or nodding when the pupil

further questions to qualify what the question

stalls. By making these explicit the intention is

is actually asking them to explain. The answers

that pupils adopt similar strategies in their

to such questions generally require extended

group dialogue


No hands-up questioning

Peer discussion

Teacher selects the pupil who will respond to a

Teacher prompts dialogue, often via a

question, i.e. they are conscripts rather than

question, to enable peer interaction to support

volunteers. By watching pupils’ body language

learning. The opportunity to discuss ideas

it is often possible to identify those who have

within pairs or small groups helps pupils

ideas to contribute.

articulate and check ideas before they reveal

their group’s answer to the whole class.

Answers are better formed through the group


Cues and prompts

Pausing to scan or survey

Teacher uses gestures or short phrases to bring

The teacher stands back to take stock of the

pupils into the dialogue, e.g. ‘Does anyone

learning across the class. This enables them to

disagree?’ or ‘Who can help us to think this

quickly assess what the pupils can do, can

idea through?’

partially do or can’t do, and to adjust the

teaching in response.

Wait time after a pupil response

Using wrong or partially correct answers to

Pupils are given time to reflect on a peer’s

prompt responses

response to a question. This enables them to

Teacher models not being sure about what the

check whether they understand it and to

right answer is, i.e. teacher seen to take risks

formulate a further response which builds on

and be vulnerable, or teacher helps pupil

what has been said.

unpick thinking leading up to partially correct


response and asks others to challenge or

support each step.

Using group discussion strategies

Acknowledge when pupils demonstrate

Teacher employs strategies such as envoying,

effective dialogue

rainbow groups, jigsawing and snowballing to

Teacher explicitly comments on the features of

structure group work so that dialogue remains

effective dialogue where they occur.

focused and ideas from pupils are effectively

shared across the groups.

Models interest and enthusiasm

Varying length of wait time.

Teacher models respect for others’ points of

The length of wait time is adjusted according

view by reflecting on them and exploring


them, or models a positive response to sincere

the importance and level of challenge in the

‘off the wall’ comments, or is excited about a

question – for example, from a few seconds for

good response.

thought to longer pauses of a few minutes for

reflection or discussion.

Negotiating whether answers are right or

wrong and why

Teacher invites a vote on a reasoned response,

or crystalises the views of two camps to help

focus further discussion, or constructively

challenges points raised by providing an

alternative argument

or perspective.

The formative use of summative tests

  • Pupils should be engaged in a reflective review of the work they have done to enable them to plan their revision effectively.

  • Pupils should be encouraged to set questions and mark answers to help them, both to understand the assessment process and to focus further efforts for improvement.

  • Pupils should be encouraged through peer and self-assessment to apply criteria to help them understand how their work might be improved.

  • Summative tests should be, and should be seen to be, a positive part of the learning process.



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