Think time is an important part of the communication process that is often overlooked in planning. Those periods of silence in the flow of a lesson can be awkward for students and teachers alike, but those moments of thought can yield tremendous insights from students.
What should a teacher do during the silence of a student in thought? In her article All the Time They Need, author Ellin Oliver Keene writes about using think time with students who are learning English as a second language. The following suggestions for those quiet pauses for reflection can be used with all students (Keene, E. O. (2014). All the Time They Need, Educational Leadership, 72(3), 66-71):
- Restate a question or comment the student previously made
- Tell other students you respect the thought time
- Offer the student an opportunity to review something related to the question
- Ask all students to quietly reread the text in question
- Use silent signals (i.e. lowering your hand, thinking pose) to encourage other students to lower their hands and wait
- Ask students to write down comments or questions to be included later in the dialogue
Giving individual students time to think in the communication process can help other students develop their thoughts as well. Over time, silent thought will become the norm and students will begin to use it independently. As you prepare for next week, plan for a little quiet space in student communication opportunities. You and your students will benefit greatly!