Wait Them Out

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



16 thoughts on “Wait Them Out”

  1. This is very important, Ben. It really ties in with the “mind meld” idea that you were talking about at NTPRS (to a somewhat confused audience!). Teachers need to understand that we’re going beyond traditional expectations (as with your post on Jen’s Great Rubric). This is about getting total buy-in, and therefore total comprehension and acquisition. Doing the “broken record” until they all play the game seems like a great way to tap into peer pressure, but in a positive way which makes them all feel responsible for each other, especially the clowns who desperately want our attention, but don’t know how to get positive attention.

    This strategy also strikes me as helpful because it ensures that the classes that need more CI get it, through the repetition of the question until everyone is on board. The class is in fact indicating how many additional reps it needs, and the teacher is simply responding to that need by refusing to move on until they are ready.

    On the topic of students feeling responsible for each other, I made a change to my “don’t understand” gesture policy. When I was reviewing this with the students, one student asked: “what happens if a student is making the gesture, but you don’t see it?” I responded: “If you see a student making the gesture, and you see that I don’t see it, I want you to do it too, because we are all responsible for our learning, as a class.” In order for kids to actually do this, however, I think we have to be very explicit that saying you don’t understand is never a bad thing. I can see the looks on my kids’ faces, they are ashamed of not understanding something, so there’s a lot of re-programming that needs to take place. Ben, at NTPRS, when a “student” made the sign, and was the only one brave enough to admit he didn’t get it, you looked at him and said: “You know what? You just got a 100% on the next quiz. You don’t even have to take it. Just write 100% at the top.” There is the incentive right there.

  2. I, too, suck at insisting on a strong choral response. My conundrum is that I think just because they give me a loud, enthusiastic response, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand. Is it not possible that the kids who don’t understand (and still haven’t gotten the message that this is o.k.) can now hide behind their loud classmates and just mimic what they hear them say?
    My plan for today is also to take a few minutes to go over Jen’s GR again before this current group of 8th graders gets away from me.

  3. I watched Bryce, the master of waiting them out, in Breckenridge. I have completely shed my discomfort and I just wait. I relax, remain cheerful and actually enjoy it!

  4. I have found this all very true. I’ve begun telling my classes that when they are silent, I will think that perhaps I wasn’t yet understandable to them, so I should repeat and pause & point more, and slowly re-ask. When I only get one or two students responding, I ask for someone to tell what my question meant. Then I repeat again so that the whole class, or at least all those now on board, can hear & respond to it. I’ve told them that a big way they can show they understand is to respond to questions that way.
    Another benefit to the choral responses: I think it will build a sense of class camaraderie. I sense they’re all together in this, and each one matters, not just the fastest processors in the class.

    1. The camaraderie point is a good one. Some of my kids try to out-clever each other and quiet students seem even more reticent to speak. The choral responses from everyone may help.

  5. Last year I was so upset with my 4th graders (the beginners in my school). They were like bumps on logs. It was a frustrating year, watching them drown in a sea of words, as I jumped around like an idiot trying to get them to understand. (Contrarily, my 5th and 6th graders were like little TPRS machines, eating everything up that I threw at them.) This year, I have really made circling my priority, which is forcing me to go slowly. I have almost 100% engagement in every one of my 4th grade classes; I suppose having classes under 14 doesn’t hurt (yes, the school board is kicking itself for hiring that third teacher). However, I have found that my 5th graders (last year’s immobile 4th graders) and so much more engaged now that I am going slowly. It’s incredible. It’s like someone flipped a switch. Everyone is so very happy: students, me, parents. It’s like I’m walking on clouds, all the time.

  6. Absolutely SLOW counts as does Staying in Bounds, but the most important thread here of the past month, among some really important ones, in my view, is found in this sentence here my:

    …then I repeat again so that the whole class, or at least all those now on board, can hear & respond to it….

    Key word being RESPOND. (see link below on the importance of RESPONSES from everyone in the class). This is Blaine’s constant message over twenty years and I have noticed as I observe CI teachers it is by far the most ignored one that only took me 12 years to get.

    But the part that I must disagree with in that sentence is this:

    …or at least all those now on board….

    I disagree with allowing some to be on board and other not. I insist that they all be involved. It is not a choice. Just my opinion. So for those trying to do the cardboard cutout student thing (bc it works for them in so many of their other classes but NOT IN MINE) and this is the second most important thread here recently, I use jGR to make sure that they get a max 2 of 5 (this can devastate a grade and SHOULD) until they SHOW UP for class for the simple reason that they have chosen to take my class and my class is all about SHOWING UP and that is what I insist they do.

    So the two links in support of both points I make above, both listed now as categories for ease of reference bc I personally need to read them over and over and over, and which I have time stamped for republication here in a the next few weeks, are:

    1. on the topic of getting ALL the students to chorally respond:


    2. on the subject of tying observable behaviors (choral responses) and the ability to negotiate meaning in class to ALIGN THOSE BEHAVIORS WITH THE NATIONAL STANDARDS:


  7. Are we still in agreement that a strong choral response is key? I think strong responses from everyone will be one of my few main objectives in starting the year next time I’m teaching French. I had a little mental break-through during my French 1 class yesterday. It’s 32 kids and several of them are VERY chatty. I stopped class for the umpteenth time yesterday to wait for silence. I waited literally about 2 whole minutes for chatting and fidgeting to stop. I opened the blinds so I could stare out the window at the sunny courtyard. Those two minutes were a gift though, because as I stared out the window listening to the chatting slowly die down for the 100th time that period, I realized that I will NEVER have a class like this again. I will train them right from the beginning. We will practice strong choral responses and when they get weak I will stop class like Ben did above and we will practice again. Engaging in the big class “conversation” will be the only talking going on, mostly in choral responses.

    Ben’s reasoning on why I don’t do this already is spot-on:

    “We don’t get a good choral response on our y/n questions because we lack spine. We are afraid to make a group of surly kids who are used to being allowed to not show up for class answer us loudly and with enthusiasm.”

    Is anyone else having to step up their game in enforcing strong responses next year?

      1. “It’s your job to know and it’s my job to know that you know. I can’t move on until I know that you know.”

        This is going on my wall. Short, direct and to the point.

    1. Certainly something for me to work on again at the beginning of next year. It really does matter. Kids try to hide that they don’t understand, or they shout random answers, rather than focus and respond to each question.

      I subbed for a math teacher for one period Tuesday. The kids were working on math problems the whole period and constantly chatting with their classmates, sometimes about the problems and sometimes just randomly. I think that it the norm in other classes. So when we ask all students to think all the time in class, it’s much more rigorous than their other classes. That’s what I think. Some of them don’t like that feeling and fight it with chatting in English or passively not responding to questions.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben