My Favorite Teaching Tip

Stacy Hagen_NEWStacy Hagen

The best teaching tip I ever got came from a TESOL presentation long ago. A very perceptive teacher-trainer, whose name I no longer have, suggested that every time we ask a question — no matter the question — we silently count to 10 before moving on. Ten seconds sounded like a long time to me, but when I got back to class, I decided to give it a try. It didn’t take long to see the wisdom in his advice.

I noticed that in the first few seconds, I either didn’t get a lot questions, or I heard from the more vocal students. That would typically be the point when I tended to move on. At 5 to 6 seconds, I got a few more questions. But magic occurred around 9 or 10 seconds. Students I didn’t ordinarily hear from began talking. They had good questions, and those extra seconds gave them time to realize that they were worth asking.

Counting to ten became second nature, and I found that it carried over to other situations. When I’m a presenter, as soon as I ask, “Are there any questions?” I begin counting. Invariably, I get the most questions between 6 and 10 seconds.

As an audience member, I appreciate speakers who do the same. Like my students, I’m not always sure of how I want to articulate my question and am grateful for that additional time.

If this isn’t already part of your repertoire, give it a try. Your students will be thankful for the extra time you’ve given them, you’ll have more insight into their difficulties, and there’s a good chance they’ll perceive you as a more patient and understanding teacher.