I always find it helpful to pay a visit to the Smart Classroom Management blog, to get me thinking about my teaching practice. I really like the most recent post on this blog about the impact that pausing can have on students, when presenting lessons or giving directions. This is a good reminder for me to slow down and give students moments to reflect and take in what I am saying. I do, at times, find myself rushing through discussions and directions. I’ve definitely observed that skilled storytellers and public speakers use pauses effectively, to add drama, suspense, and emphasis to what they’re saying. It makes sense that well-timed pauses would be an effective tool to utilize in teaching.
According to the writer of the Smart Classroom Management blog, these are some of the benefits of pauses:
Anticipating answers and outcomes improves learning, and when you pause, your students will instinctively predict what you’re going to say next. You can use this instinct to your advantage by pausing before revealing important ideas, words, theories, or points of emphasis.
They build suspense.
When used strategically, a pause creates suspense and curiosity in the listener, causing them to sit up straighter and lean in closer. It can make the most mundane information seem interesting and worth listening to—making easier a critical skill many teachers struggle with.
They add depth and drama.
Pausing can be as important as content when presenting lessons. With the right timing and pace—and a bit of attitude—it can infuse your words and the visualizations you create with depth and drama, flair and emotion. It can help bring your curriculum to life, giving it the punch and energy it needs to matter to your students.
They discourage misbehavior.
Speaking without intentional pausing sounds like droning to students, who are quick to lose interest, grow bored, and misbehave. An occasional two or three second pause breaks up the familiar tone of your voice, keeps students on their toes, and helps them stay checked in and on task.
They allow you to adjust.
A pause gives you a moment to quickly assess your students’ understanding. It allows you to make eye contact, stay in touch, and make adjustments to your teaching along the way. It trains you to be sensitive to their needs and attuned to their nonverbal reactions to your lessons.
They help your students retain information.
An occasional pause, if for only a second or two, breaks ideas, theories, and directives into chunks, allowing them to sink in before your students are rushed along to the next thing. This improves memory and understanding and gives your students a framework from which to build upon more learning.