Strategy: Increasing Opportunities to Respond

Check-Up Menu > Increasing Opportunities to Respond
An opportunity to respond (OTR) is any time you ask students an academic question (e.g., “What is 4+4?” or “What is the capital of Wyoming?“). OTRs are essential for increasing overall learning, eliciting important academic feedback from students, and increasing on-task behavior. Providing OTRs at a brisk pace can be useful in increasing student attention and engagement because students are required to pay attention in order to answer academic questions.
Increasing your use of OTRs and using a brisk instructional pace during instruction has been shown to increase student academic engagement. When students are less engaged in instruction, they are more likely to demonstrate off-task or disruptive classroom behaviors.
How Increasing Opportunities to Respond Connects to CARES
Part of keeping students connected to the curriculum is keeping them engaged and interested in the lesson and content being explored. If there is too much down time for students between activities and if the classroom instruction is too slow, students will more easily become distracted and will “tune out” from what is happening in the lesson. In addition to making sure the pacing of the content is appropriate, it is equally important to ensure that the academic questions are meaningful and that students can relate to them. When students feel that their input is valued and they can see reflections that represent themselves, they will be more engaged in what is happening in the classroom. Additionally, the way that you allow for more opportunities to respond in your classroom can help to increase student engagement. By simply providing for some movement, even if it is a simple hand signal or a different way to show an answer to a question, you allow students to physically connect to the content.
Some key elements for effectively using opportunities to respond:
1) Ask academic questions that are relevant, meaning they are important and applicable to student experiences, and are provided at the appropriate level of rigor.
2) Incorporate variety and unpredictability into question asking so students learn they can be called on at any time. This includes random calling as well as providing a variety of responses permitted.
3) Use OTRs to stimulate interest, challenge the class, and avoid predictability. Don’t use OTRs to try and catch inattentive students to punish or embarrass them. This can damage student-teacher relationships.
4) Ask group and individual student OTRs using a brisk pace. Having a brisk pace and interspersing between whole class and individual OTRs keeps students engaged.
5) Ensure all students are provided OTRs. Avoid calling on only those students who are more active participants. Find ways to allow for random and equitable calling on students to respond.
6) Use the level of student accuracy to OTRs to inform instruction. When students’ responses are less than 80% accurate for new material or below 90% accurate on review material, students may benefit from additional instruction and practice before moving on to additional content.

How To

How to Increase Opportunities to Respond in Your Classroom
There are a number of strategies that teachers find helpful in increasing the number of opportunities to respond they provide to students. The following are some ideas that you may find helpful:
  • Break complex problems down into smaller chunks, providing opportunities for students to answer for each chunk of the problem.
  • Use a deck of note cards or flash cards with drill-and-practice questions. Intersperse individual student responses with group choral responses.
  • Have each student use a small whiteboard to quickly write down answers to OTRs, holding it up to show the answer.
  • Have each student hold up two-sided cards with yes/no, true/false, agree/disagree with an answer to an OTR. Students could also use thumbs up or thumbs down to agree or disagree with an answer.
  • Provide opportunities for students to use simple movements, whether it be hand gestures or moving to a specified space in the classroom to share their responses.
  • Mix brief, fast-paced teacher-directed review of previous material into every lesson, asking both individual and group responses.
  • Ask a question, allow think time, and then call on students without having them raise their hands.
  • If a student does not know the answer, allow some think time, then allow the student to “phone a friend” to help with the answer. Return to that student in a few minutes with the same question, giving the student an opportunity to respond correctly.
  • Ask an OTR and then draw a stick with a student’s name out of a jar. Once a student answers correctly, remove their stick from the jar until everyone gets a chance (see below).
If the student response to the question is: The correct teacher response is to:
Correct, quick, and firm Maintain the momentum of the lesson. Give a quick, “Right,” and present the next question.
Correct, but hesitant Praise the student for the correct response, and then review the reasons for the correct answer or the steps associated with finding the right answer.
Incorrect, but a careless error Give a quick, simple correction and allow the student to provide the correct answer. The feedback should make it clear what the correct answer should be. The feedback does not need to include the reasons why the information is correct.
Incorrect, due to lack of knowledge of facts or process Provide the student with prompts to lead them to the correct answer. Use the correction procedure for academic errors.
Example Videos:
Individual and Choral Responding

Video Prompts: 

  • Notice how she moves around the classroom as she asks questions of individual students. Also notice how she rotates to different tables when selecting students to respond.
  • She intersperses praise and describes what the students are doing well throughout.
  • She also asks the students to read and respond together.
  • She provides 14 OTRs in just over one minute. Wow!
  • What did you like about how the teacher included so many students and asked so many academic questions?
  • Why do you think the students were so engaged?
  • How might you incorporate some of what you saw and liked about from this video into your classroom practice?
White Board

Video Prompts: 

  • This lesson demonstrates using white boards during math story problems.
  • Notice how the teacher uses a fast pace and lets the students know when they have completed the answer correctly.
  • Notice how the teacher includes the students in the story as well by asking them how many of them eat chocolate. While not all of the students say they eat chocolate, they can all relate to the simple concept of sharing a treat with friends.
  • Notice that the teacher includes characters that are familiar to her students within the math story problem.
  • What did you like about how this teacher provided academic questions and gave students feedback?
  • How did she make fairly complicated math problems fun and interactive?
  • How might you incorporate some of what you saw and liked about how she explained the lesson in your classroom?
Yes Knocks

Video Prompts: 

  • This is an example of a teacher using “yes knocks” for students to respond to an academic question.
  • How might you use this type of OTR in your classroom?
  • What would you do if students were not responding correctly?
  • What are other ways that you could incorporate the same concept but with other methods for responding?
Show Answers on Chest

Video Prompts: 

  • This teacher provides an opportunity to respond by letting all students answer the question and show her on their chest.
  • Notice how quickly the students respond, providing the teacher with quick feedback on whether everyone understands.
  • Notice that students do not have to leave their seats in order to respond, but they are still provided with an opportunity for some movement.
  • What do you like about this way of having students answer?
  • What other ways could you provide movement that would still engage your students and provide you with the chance to quickly assess their level of understanding and concept attainment?

Strategy Tool

Increasing OTRs - Strategy Tool
Use the Increasing Opportunities to Respond in My Classroom strategy tool to help you increase your use of opportunities to respond.


Increasing OTRs - Reflection
Take a moment to make sure your plan is going to work.

Goal Setting

Increasing OTRs - Goal Setting
Use the following goal sheet to determine whether or not your strategy produces the results you want.

References to Other Relevant Resources:

Reinke, W., Herman, K., & Sprick, R. (2011). Motivational interviewing for effective classroom management: The classroom check-up. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Sprick, R. (2009). CHAMPS: A proactive and positive approach to classroom management. Eugene, OR: Pacific Northwest Publishing.

Haydon, T., MacSuga-Gage, A. S., Simonsen, B., & Hawkins, R. (2012). Opportunities to Respond: A Key Component of Effective Instruction. Beyond Behavior, 22(1), 23-31.


Concentration Areas: Connection to the Curriculum; Authentic Relationships; Reflective Thinking About Cultural, Racial/Ethnic, and Class Differences; Effective Communication; Sensitivity to Students’ Culture

What is CARES?

CARES is an acronym for the five domains that research has found to be successful in engaging students of culturally diverse backgrounds at school. Each letter refers to a significant element of interaction within the classroom. Applying all five domains of CARES works because it promotes a better understanding of students and ourselves by using strategies that deepen those relationships every day.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All five CARES domains, together with the Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, support one another and need to be applied in the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

Research has shown that each of the five CARES domains has a significant impact on students and their behavior when used regularly and over time. Students who are known and understood by their teachers as individuals in the classroom report deeper connections academically and to their school. When teachers understand their own cultural heritage, they better understand the differences between themselves and their students and report higher levels of mutual respect with students. This also helps teachers to recognize the similarities they share with their students as well as recognize ways in which they are different. Students are more connected and engaged in classrooms where teachers welcome exploration; invite, acknowledge, and celebrate cultural differences; make relevant connections to the curriculum; listen attentively to understand how each student is approaching the concepts; and use humor and other effective communication tools.

Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate

Concentration Areas: Smooth Transitions, Pacing of Instruction, Student Engagement, Clear Expectations, Use of Praise, Use of Reprimands, Level of Disruptive Behavior

What is Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate?

Positive Behavior Supports refers to the proactive ways that teachers work with their students, as well as the ways that teachers respond to challenging situations with students. The focus is on recognizing and affirming student strengths rather than punishing them or taking something away from them. A positive approach to the classroom will promote a classroom climate that is welcoming to all students and is a place where students want to engage with the teacher, each other, and the curriculum. All individuals, students and teachers, and the interactions between and amongst all classroom members play a role in the climate.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, together with the CARES domains, support one another and need to be applied to the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

In a classroom climate that is positive and welcoming to all members, the classroom becomes a safe place where culture and diversity can be openly discussed. A supportive climate is one that promotes student engagement and success. Students feel supported and motivated to be an active member of the classroom community. The teacher taking a positive and proactive approach creates a climate of care and respect and promotes desired student behaviors. This classroom is also a place that provides consistency to students, which is especially important for students who may experience stress and uncertainty outside of the school building. Teachers who have positive and proactive classrooms report fewer disruptive behaviors from their students, an increase in student achievement, and better overall perceptions of school climate.

Increasing Opportunities to Respond

CARES Overview

Greeting Students at the Door

Using Journals to Build Relationships

Identifying Reinforcers for the Classroom

Using Social and Emotional Coaching

Using Behavior-specific Praise

Using Active Supervision

Using Group Contingencies

Using Precorrection

Teaching Behavior Expectations

Providing Academic Feedback

Developing and Using Clear Academic Objectives

Posting and Using a Schedule

Coaching Process – Menu of Options

Coaching Process – Providing Feedback

Coaching Process – Introduction and Overview

Observation Practice 4

Observation Practice 3

Observation Practice 2

Observation Practice 1

Using an Attention Signal

Teaching Classroom Routines

Physical Classroom Structure

Values Card Sort – Example

Card Sort Introduction

Coaching – Interview Guide

Opening the Meeting

Defining and Teaching Classroom Rules

Mrs. James

Miss Faber

Double Check Classroom Check-Up Overview