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Give students time to think about their responses.

You may know where you are going with your question, but if your question is designed to make students think, then they need time to think. At the beginning of the term, tell students how long you will be willing to wait for a comment after a question (we suggest 45 seconds). Forty five second seems like a short time, but is an eternity of squirming silence in a discussion. But if students know you will always wait for this time after a question, they can relax and use the time to actually think about a response. When students don't come up with answers to your questions after even a reasonable pause, give them five or ten minutes and have them write out a response. Then they can read their responses to the rest of the class or share them with one another in groups.