Counting Down

This term – or something like it (countdown?) – was recently used here, but I can’t find the comments. Is that the same as wait time? I’m trying to get clarification on this term, which I haven’t heard before.

Laurie was in on that discussion, I do remember that. She was talking about the period from asking a question to waiting for a response, I think. So is that what this term means? I call it wait time, and oh man is it important and it is also something we rarely do often enough.

We must allow the students time to process the sound into meaning. We need to wait before going on to the next question. Few of us do this all the time. This is a huge point. We must wait for a strong one word choral answer all the time before going on. That was my big learning of the summer from Von.

So this post is just to remind myself to wait those three or four seconds after asking the question, counting to myself or not. If we are just starting to learn what the all-important questioning/circling process is all about, we should probably count it out, but if we have been at it for a long time we should have it as part of the natural pacing in our questioning technique. We just have to make sure that we do it.

This topic falls under the category of checking for meaning, and in this space we must absolutely return to it. We must always remember the idea of constantly checking to make sure that our students have understood us. What we do is we wait after asking the question, (consciously counting seconds or just feeling the wait time), and we wait for a strong choral one word response from group, and only then do we go on with the questioning.

The other big categories for success, in my view, are SLOW and Staying in Bounds. We should be talking about those three things all the time here, reminding each other to always do all three of them.




4 thoughts on “Counting Down”

  1. A related question: Do you also ask the fast processors to hold their answer for that same number of seconds?
    This came up in my highly-motivated 5th grade class. There are a couple kids (one quick girl in particular) who can answer every question immediately. On day another student gasped out, “That’s too fast!” or something like it. I thanked him for speaking up about needing more time. I reminded the class that I’m looking for each of them to respond, so if they need clarification they should signal (twisting their hand in front of them). The student said he could understand, but needed a little more time before answering. On the spot, he and another student near him came up with tapping on an imaginary watch to signal “I need more time.” I asked if we could answer after I do a hand countdown (held up one hand with all five fingers: when no fingers up, answer). Lots more responses, and the quick processor was good with that.
    I was pretty excited about the class dynamics and their commitment to responding and letting me know what was happening. I’m thinking of asking a student artist to draw each signal and I’ll put it on the wall near “3. Signal if you don’t understand”. Might best change the phrasing of that: signal if you need time or clarification. (?)

  2. I’d say make it simple and impose on the good will of the faster processor while you slow yourself down even more. That would be a win-win. That fast processor has got to get that she benefits most when you slow down even for her fast self. I’ve taken a lot of Chinese classes with Linda and Annick. You could never ever go to slow for me.

  3. I did need to slow down for some. But the student was talking about understanding my questions but needing more time before he could reply. The fast ones who answered quickly discouraged the slower answerers from doing so at all. It’s like he heard her answer and went, Man! That’s it! This is when I did the hand countdown and I think it worked. But it’s not my habit to countdown before they can answer. I’m wondering if it needs to be my habit, or if I can just ask those who answer really fast if they would wait a few seconds. Somehow, it needs to be done all together. Ideas?

  4. …I’m wondering if it needs to be my habit, or if I can just ask those who answer really fast if they would wait a few seconds….

    Neither. First, you’ll never be able to remember to countdown. Too much going on. Second, the fast processors will never wait a few seconds. So what to do? You must understand that this is all about strong group choral responses from the class. Who is in charge of that? You are. The fast ones need to be taught to respond at the same time as the slow ones in big ONE WORD choral responses. If someone were to walk down the hall they should hear that going on, that big one word choral response to each of your questions. If you don’t remember to do that, you will always have the problem of slower people being shoved off to the side, and it will hurt the class over time bc your job is to bring all the kids in.

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