“Silence is golden!”

When it comes to “learning,” my self talk the past two weeks has revolved around these conversations.

“Wait, wait, wait.”

“Keep your mouth closed.”

“Wait.”

” LISTEN! ”

“WAIT!”

“Listen with your mouth closed.”

“Don’t fix.  Don’t tell.  Just listen.”

And it has been incredibly hard. Increasing “wait time” is a cheap and economical way to provide students with the opportunity to really tell me what they know.  If I interrupt their thinking, I do not let them respond to the task at hand.  If the task was “easy” for the student, he or she would already be at an “independent stage” and really would NOT need me as a guide or coach.  I could move on to work with a student who needed assistance.

This has been an eye-opener for me!

It’s so easy as an educator and a Mom to be in a perpetual “fix-it” mode.  After all, I have years and years and years of experience in a variety of educational and Mom (including step-mom) roles.

However Vicki Vinton reminded me in her blog post (please read it here) To Model or Not to Model: That is the Question  that “Less = More.” If learning truly is the goal, I cannot be the person doing all the work.  Sometimes that means I have to stop, wait, close my mouth and listen to the student.

Wait time for our students is so powerful when the classroom is a trusting, student-centered environment.  It isn’t about 25 sets of eyes staring at Joey who didn’t even hear the question.  There are no “eye rolls” from exasperated peers because “Would anyone like to help Joey out?” is going to be the teacher’s followup question. That is a non-example of wait time.

Respectful, thoughtful wait time is the result of students working collaboratively as the teacher checks in with partners to see what strategies they have tried or are currently using.  Yes, there is a lot of work to be accomplished this year, but I cannot rush through teaching without providing opportunities for the students to literally show and tell me what they know.  Simply “waiting”  to hear each student voice (scaffolding with questions,prompts, or cues AFTER listening is acceptable) results in both formative data to guide my instruction and evidence of STUDENT learning.  That doesn’t happen when the teacher is busy telling.

Why is this important? Why does it matter?

After references to Ellin Keene’s new book, Talk About Understanding, from Vicki and my retired, but still voraciously reading, friend Darlene, I’m actually reading a book that doesn’t have the words “Common Core” in the title.   Observations of teachers revealed trends in talk that resulted in these behaviors:

  • “Cut students off before they have a chance to fully develop their thinking
  • Accept students’ first thoughts without probing for deeper thinking
  • Move on before we label students’ descriptions of thinking (i.e., naming for them what they’re doing) so that the thinking can be transferred
  • Segue from modeling to student responsibility too quickly”

In order to really talk with students, we must “WAIT” and allow them to both use their voices and interact with the meaningful, real-life tasks they are presented.  Instead of rushing to complete the task, please stop, WAIT and LISTEN for the student evidence that will inform instruction as you see and hear them collaboratively tackle the task before releasing them to independent work.  Remember, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey would BOTH tell us, modeling does not have to be the first interaction.  It may be better served later in the the learning period as a demonstration during the “debrief” so learning is at the forefront with student talk as evidence of student thinking and learning.

So yes, sometimes “Teacher Silence is golden!”

Thank you @melaniemeehan1 for the suggestion of tying wait time into the self-talk.

What do you think?  Agree? Disagree?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

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