Instructional Support Services

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES

March 2023

Issue 6

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Content & Pedagogy

Wait Time

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Wait Time

Rethinking Wait Time

In this Mathematics Teacher article, Kathryn Early, Brea Ratliff, and Gary Martin

(Auburn University) and Elizabeth Hammonds and Mariya Rosenhammer (Columbus State University) describe what one of the authors noticed observing a preservice teacher: “He had a tendency to ask a question and then immediately ask another question or launch into an explanation, which limited opportunities for students to respond.” After class, the observer showed him an abbreviated transcript indicating when he spoke (T) and when a student (S) spoke; it looked like this: T T T S T T S T T S. Coached on asking better questions and giving three seconds of wait time after each question, the teacher improved, producing this pattern: T S T S T S T T S. But classroom interactions were still quite teacher-centered. The solution was to leave wait time not only after the teacher’s question but after each student's response. When the teacher tried this, participation and interaction showed marked improvement: T S S T S T S T T T S T S S S T S T.

Research on wait time (sometimes called think time or purposeful pauses) goes back 50 years, with the following documented benefits:

- An increase in the length and number of student responses.

- Students using more-advanced reasoning and sense-making.

- Teachers getting a better understanding of student thinking.

- Students asking more questions.

- Teachers asking more open-ended questions.

- An increase in students’ emotional and attitudinal engagement.

- Teachers using student responses to make on-the-spot changes to meet students’ needs.

The research notwithstanding, many teachers need to be reminded of how silently saying One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi after each teacher question and student response can bring about marked improvements in classroom dynamics. The authors offer the following suggestions and insights:

• Wait for three seconds! “Like initiating a new exercise program,” they say, “it is hard to get started. Building the habit of counting to three before you begin talking is a way to ensure that you do wait.”

• Be persistent as students get used to the change. When wait time is first implemented, some students are confused because they’re not getting an immediate teacher evaluation (Was I wrong?). In addition, the silence can feel awkward.

• Recognize that wait time will slow down the pace of instruction. But less is more, say Early and colleagues, because the quality and depth of teacher-student and student-student interactions improve. It is important to choose your questions wisely so that essential content is addressed in each lesson.

• Cold call and poll. Some students will thrive when there’s more space to discuss ideas, say the authors, but others will remain quiet unless the teacher has a system for making sure everyone participates.

• Continuously improve question quality. “More open-ended questions will naturally support the necessary wait time that will drive the conversation,” said Early et al. “After each class, note the kinds of questions that best promoted productive discourse.”

Source: Marshall Memo 973 February 13, 2023. “Rethinking Wait Time: What Can 3 Seconds Do?” by Kathryn Early, Elizabeth Hammonds, Brea Ratliff, Mariya Rosenhammer, and Gary Martin in Mathematics Teacher: Learning & Teaching PK-12, January 2023 (Vol. 116, #2, pp. 108-114).

New York Civic Learning Week

Decoding Democracy: Media Literacy for Civic Readiness *Pre-recorded session will be available starting Sunday, March 5th*

Interview with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, to discuss his latest book, "The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens." - Monday, March 6th: 3:00-4:00 PM

First Annual Summit on Civic Readiness: Preparing Democracy-Ready New York Students - Tuesday, March 7th: 4:00-6:00 pm

Civic Learning in the Early Grades: A Whole School, Whole Child Endeavor - Wednesday, March 8th: 4:00-6:00 pm

Beyond the Vote: Youth Civic Participation from Classroom to Community *Youth-organized and youth-led session* - Thursday, March 9th: 4:00-6:00 pm

Register here for the webinar of your choice:

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March Focus

The March focus for New Teacher Mentoring is recognizing and addressing trauma-based behaviors from students.

What can a teacher do to help students who exhibit trauma-induced behaviors? Learning for Justice offers three solutions:

1. Establish social and emotional safety in your classroom.

Social and emotional safety is the cornerstone of positive classroom outcomes. Research shows that students need to feel both physically and emotionally safe to learn. Students experiencing trauma, including bias, bullying, and social isolation, are more likely to feel unsafe.


  • Classroom contracts
  • Explicit anti-bullying or community-building curricula
  • Timely interventions in conflicts and hurtful exchanges
  • Teaching and modeling empathy and active listening skills

2. Create a behavior-management plan that focuses on positive reinforcement.

Discipline and behavior management are central to classroom culture and often present unique challenges for students responding to traumatic events or experiences. Foster compassion for and among your students. Focus on praising students for appropriate classroom behavior, not on punishment.


  • Implement student-generated agreements and contracts
  • Adopt “zero indifference” (NOT zero-tolerance) policies
  • Seek out training in restorative justice techniques
  • Explore stress-management strategies to diffuse tense situations and help students process feelings in the moment
  • Give students opportunities to demonstrate their strengths

3. Increase your self-awareness and trauma competency.

Increase your knowledge about trauma and how it may manifest for your students. Remember, students respond to trauma in different ways, and their responses may be influenced by cultural traditions, religious beliefs, or familial relationships. Connect with students and their families to identify resources and services that can inform how best to support students who experience trauma.


  • Seek professional development in working with specific identity groups
  • Share support resources with other educators
  • Connect with community organizations
  • Engage in ongoing self-assessment and reflection on your trauma responsiveness

Source: "Responding to Trauma in Your Classroom" Learning For Justice. Issue 52. Spring 2016. The full article can be found at:

In a 2012 lecture, Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Learning presented the following behaviors to recognize:

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