Recently I called on a student to present his work on a problem. He said he didn’t have any. (I kinda knew that, that’s why I called on you).
Me: So, do you have a question you’d like to ask about solving the problem?
Student: No, I didn’t actually try it. (Yep, I knew that too).
Me: We’ll wait while you try it. Let us know if you have a question.
So he began working on it and the rest of the class patiently waited.
Student: I’m still working on it.
The class kept waiting. They did a really nice job. There was no grumbling, just silence. It didn’t even seem to be an uncomfortable silence. Not a hint of tension in the air.
Student: I don’t understand why you’re still waiting for me to finish the problem. Someone else has the answer.
Me:Because if I let you off the hook now, I’m telling you it’s okay not to know and not to try.
He presented his answer. It was correct. The class applauded.
Part of me is still not sure this was the best use of those four minutes or so. So early in the year, I think it was.
How do you handle the “I don’t know” response in your classes?