January 21, 2016
3 Timely Tips
Engaging students in instruction is a critical component to students’ understanding and learning about what is being taught in their classrooms. Opportunities to Respond (OTR) is an evidence-based teaching strategy that improves academic performance, increases student engagement and decreases behavior issues during instruction. OTR is defined as a teacher-directed prompt to which students respond verbally, in writing or gesturally. Research suggests “that at least three OTRs per minute is the optimal rate to positively affect student academic and behavior outcomes” (Whitney, Cooper & Lingo, 2015, p. 18). However, according to Whitney, et al., (2015) data shows OTR is not occurring at the appropriate level across all grade levels. There are many approaches teachers can utilize to embed opportunities to respond into instruction.
1. Verbal Responses
There are a variety of ways students can verbally respond to teacher prompts in the classroom. A common OTR method is choral responding. This verbal repetition strategy encourages students to respond in unison when prompted with a cue by the teacher. The oral response can be either to answer a question or to repeat something said by the teacher. The response allows the teacher to determine if most students understand a concept. This method is ideal for curriculum content that can be answered in short one to three word responses, has only a single correct answer to the question, and is presented in a fast paced manner. It is important for the teacher to establish a clear and consistent cue for when students should respond as a group to either a question or a repeated phrase. Anita Archer is shown here providing students with the steps they need to complete in order to practice choral responding.
According to Robert Marzano (2007), games are another way to actively engage students in the classroom as long as the focus is on academic content. One game that emphasizes verbal responses from all students in the classroom is Classroom Feud, modeled after the television game show Family Feud. This is an engagement strategy organized around a series of teacher-prompted questions. Students are divided into teams and each student takes a turn being a responder. The teacher prepares different questions for all the students in the class and the responder determines the answer to his or her question. However, before giving an answer, the responder validates his/her answer with teammates, or can call on teammates to help with the correct response. The rules of the game are easy to follow and all students have an opportunity to verbally respond during this interactive game.
2. Written Responses
Students can also be provided opportunities to respond through a variety of written formats. Guided notes are handouts prepared by the teacher where blanks are inserted in the notes for key facts or concepts. As information is covered throughout class, students write the missing information in the blanks to complete the guided notes. According to Blackwell & McGlaughlin (2005) “guided notes not only provide opportunities for students to respond, they also provide students with a summary of the lesson and assist in teaching effective note-taking strategies” (p. 2).
Another OTR method that utilizes written responses is a processing activity called “Stop and Jot.” This allows quick checks for understanding to help students make sense of what they are learning before moving on in the lesson. To use stop and jot, the teacher first asks students to draw a rectangle on the page where they are taking notes for the day; this will serve as their “stop box.” Next, the teacher stops several times during a lesson and asks an important question for students to respond to in their “stop box.” The last step has students reconvene, and the teacher asks volunteers to share one or two responses with the whole class. Another option is for the teacher to model the response. These boxes can later be used by students as study tools because important information is highlighted.
Having students write responses on white boards is a third written response strategy that keeps students highly engaged and can also be used to quickly assess their understanding of what is being taught. Teachers can use white boards for student responses to open-ended, multiple choice, yes/no, or true/false questions, or to show work for math problems. If a classroom set of white boards is not readily available, other options for making a set include: plastic dinner plates; a piece of cardstock inside a sheet protector (inserts may be graph paper, templates, maps, etc.); laminated sheets of cardstock; and student desk tops.
3. Gesture Responses
Gesture responses are perhaps the easiest way to incorporate opportunities to respond in the classroom. Using response cards is one strategy meant to keep students actively engaged while a teacher performs a quick and easy check for understanding. A response card is any sign that can be held up by all students following a teacher prompted question. Cards can be created using index cards or different colored pieces of paper or cardstock. They can be labeled, pre-printed and laminated with answer choices, and a multitude of possibilities exist. Responses might include multiple choice (A, B, C, D) or color-coding, such as green for yes and red for no, or blue for addition and yellow for subtraction. Sets of cards can be put in an envelope or hole-punched in the top left corner and attached with a ring.
Similar to response cards, hand signals require engagement from the whole group and also allow the teacher to check for understanding. Hand signals might include thumbs up/thumbs down to indicate yes/no or agree/disagree answers, or holding up fingers to match numbered answers. Another example is "fist to five" as a formative assessment of student comprehension of information, with "fist" representing that a student doesn’t understand, and up to five fingers held up, to indicate confident understanding of information.
Blackwell, A. J., & McLaughlin, T. F. (2005). Using guided notes, choral responding, and response cards to increase student performance. The International Journal of Special Education, 20(2), 1-5.
Marzano, R. (2007). The art and science of teaching a comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Whitney, T., Cooper, J. T., & Lingo, A. S. (2015). Providing student opportunities to respond in reading and mathematics: a look across grade levels. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 59(1), 14-21. doi:10.1080/1045988X.2014.919138
2 Teaching Tools
1. Response Cards
A third grade teacher uses response cards to teach a phonics lesson (select the “watch elementary” option).
2. Stop and Jot
Middle school math and special education teachers use Stop and Jot to teach a math lesson.
“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”
Seth Godin, writer and entrepreneur