That awkward silence!
Just like on a first date, finding something to talk about.
White space that we just want to get out of!
But it's so telling!
But they don't really learn anything. Except one thing.
They learn to become passive, because if they wait long enough, the teacher will give them the answer. Is that a college and career ready skill?
"I...was...an...I don't know that next word," she told me, her eyes waiting anxiously for me to give her the word. "What do you think?" I asked.
Her teacher hedged in her seat. So did the student. She went back to the text. "Owl...I saw an owl in-...[looking at picture of the owl]...inside the tree." Wow! She got the word right, but she also learned from the reading.
She read the next page. The words said, "I saw a deer stare at me." She read the words, "I...was [notice that? same mistake again!]...a...[long pause]...deer...I saw a deer...st...[very long pause]..." It was getting half-past awkward, over 2 minutes, so I said, "stare, do you know that word?"
"Yes, I have staring contests with my brother all the time!" she said. Clearly, she knew the word. "So, finish up the sentence," I told her. "I saw a deer stare at me," she said.
We learned that when she can't decipher words, she goes for the visual cuing system, and not the meaning, and not so much the structural. She goes for those once she has some footing based on visual cues. We learned that in a heavily pattern-based Level D text, she doesn't recognize the patterns in the text. We learned that even though she knew words like "stare," she didn't recall her bank of familiar words. All this sets us up for our next few conferences!
This happened in reading. The same silence of wait time can happen in writing, math, science, social studies, art, music, foreign language, driver's ed, discipline, anything! If you wait long enough, you'll learn a tremendous amount about the student's learning, and the road map of how to reach and teach them will magically unfold in front of you!
An awkward silence is a learning silence!