Slowing down the class

Research has shown (as if we needed much research to know this!) that some students process questions slower than others.  This may be for a variety of reasons, among them that the student may be an introvert or shy, or may be a detailed thinker who wants to pause over certain parts of a question before giving an answer, or maybe the student wants to pose some interior counterarguments before answering.  There are minds that barge ahead at 80 miles and hour, and others which cruise at 35.

For this reason, a teacher should always leave breathing room for answers and points of view to develop. Even rapid-fire thinkers will appreciate the stress-free, tranquil atmosphere of a moderated pace.

Leaving an even longer time to respond would be a good idea in many situations in a classroom. Let’s say you pose the question, “Are good manners important?” when discussing Huckleberry Finn’s objections to Miss Watson.  That answer requires some thought and requiring an instant answer would guaranty a superficial discussion.

EXERCISE:  After posing a meaty question or introducing a poem or story, leave an extended period for reflection and meditation.  Not every such period need be the same.  Here are variations:

Allow the students to refer to their books during the period, as long as they are quiet

Allow the students to take notes or make lists

Turn off the lights so they can meditate quietly on the issue for a given period, perhaps 3-5 minutes.

If reflecting on a poem (it would have to short-ish), have each student, or a selected group of students, read it aloud so that everyone can hear it read at least six times, with a pause between readers.  Then turn off the lights and allow 2-3 minutes of meditation.

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