I can make you a better maths teacher in ten seconds. It doesn’t matter what age group you teach or how your school organises its teaching groups. You won’t need any special training and or any equipment, any electronic wizardry, any textbooks or software.
Better still, you can do the same and make all of your colleagues better maths teachers in the same time, and your school won’t have to pay a consultant a thousand pounds to do it.
It’s widely quoted that teachers typically expect an answer to a question in 0.9 seconds. What kind of considered response can you give in less than a second? For many children the most likely reaction is panic.
On the other hand, if you give children some thinking time then they’re got the chance to assess the question and frame a suitable response. So the strategy I’ll offer you is that all you need to do is to count to ten before you accept an answer to any question.
Whether or not this is spelt out explicitly doesn’t worry me one bit; the point is you’re giving children a little bit of time to think about the answer they’re going to give you. At one session one teacher was rather sceptical that such a simple technique could have any significant effect, but she agreed a little reluctantly to give it a try. A couple of weeks later I had an e-mail: “I have been amazed how helpful it is to wait ten seconds before asking children to answer questions, so simple, yet effective.”
Share this technique with your colleagues and you’ve already earned your consultancy fee, but you can certainly take things further. Are there questions which genuinely do merit an instant response? And what does a 30-minute question look like?