Classroom Strategies for Diverse Learners


Incorporating “Wait Time” Into Classroom Activities

In today’s high stakes educational environment, there is often little time to spare in our classrooms. Teaching is often fast-paced and targeted while time for creativity and reflection can be limited. The amount of time that an educator waits for a response from a child is often referred to as “wait time.” When a teacher poses a question to the whole class, many eager hands go up in the air to be the first to answer while some students try to avoid eye contact and sink in their chair. The amount of time that it takes to process information and formulate a response varies from child to child. Children with sensory impairments, cognitive challenges, and those from linguistically diverse backgrounds often require more time to analyze questions and formulate appropriate responses. When these children do not have the benefit of additional time, the consequences can be decreased confidence, withdrawal, and lack of self-esteem. Below are some strategies to consider that incorporate a greater amount of time for children to process information before having to provide a comment or answer:

  • Write a question on the board or flip chart and read it aloud. Allow the students an adequate amount of time to think of an answer. Ask them not to raise their hand, but write the answer on a piece of paper. When time has expired, ask for volunteers to answer the question.
  • Write several questions on individual pieces of paper and distribute amongst the students. Each student will have their own question to answer. Provide an adequate amount of time for processing and formulating a response. Call on individual students to read-aloud their question and answer. You can also modify this activity by selecting specific questions for individual children based on their ability.
  • Write several questions on a sheet of paper and distribute among students. Vary the difficulty of the questions. Ask the students to select one of the questions to answer and then provide time for them to formulate a response. Ask for volunteers to read their chosen question and response.
  • Ask students to come up with their own questions based on the content and topic. Have them write their top three questions on a paper and choose one of them to answer for the Q&A session. Give them time to work and then provide an opportunity to share with their peers.

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