The idea behind wait time is to give students time between the asking of a question and the response. By waiting a few seconds longer, more students are able to retrieve the information stored in their memory and formulate a response. The quality of student responses increases when given more time to think.
When wait time is paired with having students then turn and share their thinking with a partner, the benefits are even greater. More students are actively engaged than may be the case with the more traditional question-answer format, where only one or two students are called upon to respond.
Increasing wait time is an excellent strategy for a differentiated classroom and for use with second language learners.