Responding Strategies

Classrooms that have high levels of engagement (the LTA Environment identifies three types of engagement: physical, social, and intellectual) have established an expectation that all students will participate and learn. It is best to set this expectation early in the year, if not on the first day of class. Everyday, students should be expected to collaborate and share ideas with the class. To do this successfully, teachers need methodology that is practical and that can increase participation in the classroom.

One goal is to hear from every student by the end of class or at least have every student talk multiple times (research suggests every 5-8 minutes). We want to shift the responsibility for learning back on the students. We want to ensure students are thinking about the ideas and concepts that are presented in class. And we want to hold them accountable for their own learning. The following strategies will help teachers build an interactive classroom where students actively participate in classroom activities and discussions.


Ticket out the door

A "Ticket out the door" is a great way to get them to share an idea with you while holding them accountable. To set up a "Ticket out the door," simply ask students to respond to a question on a piece of scrap paper and have them turn it in as they leave the classroom.

Say "no" to "I don't know"

Say "No" to "I don't know." When a student says, "I don't know," stay calm. There are a few things that you can do here. First, explain to the class that all students will be expected to share ideas with the class, but at the same time, explain that they will be given additional time to think and prepare an answer if they need it.

As the teacher you can say, "Instead of saying 'I don't know,' when I ask you a question, say, 'Can you come back to me' or 'I need time to check my notes.'" Students will appreciate what you are doing and will take the extra time seriously. Move on to another student while those who have requested additional time think about the question. When you make your way back to the students who requested more time, they should be ready to answer. In this situation, everyone wins. You got your response you were looking for and the student had an opportunity to think and come up with an answer. The class sees how you respect everyone. They will repay you with hard work and greater participation.

Vote with your hands (or feet)

Allow students to vote with their hands and feet. Ask a question to the whole class and have them communicate numbers with their fingers, attitudes with their thumbs (thumbs up, to the side, or down), or have them acknowledge who agrees or disagrees by simply raising their hands.

Having student vote with their feet is a bit more involved. Designate places in the room that represent an idea, feeling, or belief. Have students stand and walk to the area that best fits how they think or feel. This is called voting with your feet. You will quickly learn what your students know, think, or believe. The added bonus, they get to move and burn off some extra energy.

The Queue

The Queue is a great strategy for a class that has lots of volunteers. Imagine asking a question that's followed by five to eight hands in the air. (This may not be your reality, but it is a reality for some teachers). In this case, you want to acknowledge all of the volunteers and hear from each of them if time permits. A good way to do this is to put them in a queue.

Number off each student who has a hand up. "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8." Start with number 1 and work to number 8. Don't worry too much about who was assigned number "5". The students know. They will remind you. Setting up a queue allows the eager volunteers to calmly sit in their chairs and listen to their classmates. They don't have to worry about anticipating the next opportunity to launch their hand in the air, nor do they have to worry about flailing their arms around to get your attention. There is order and peace in the classroom.

Green, Yellow, Red Cards

"Green, Yellow, Red Cards" is a nice active engagement strategy that teachers can use to engage 100% of their students. The green card usually means good, I agree, or yes. The yellow card means mediocre, somewhat agree, or not sure. The red card means not good, I don't agree, or no. All you need for this strategy is colored paper (green, yellow, red) scissors, and thirty or so paper clips to hold the sets of colored cards together. Students love this strategy. Give it a shot.

Roll the Dice

Roll some dice. One die is for the row and one is for the student desk. Let's say you roll a 4 and a 3. Student in row 4 seat 3 must share.

Student Cards

Student cards: Have names of students written on index cards. Shuffle the cards and ask a student to pick a card. The student who is chosen shares with the class.

ID what you see

"ID What You See": Scan the room while students are working. Identify something the a number of students are wearing like shorts, or sandals, or jackets. You could also look for styles, brands, or colors. Once you have identified something, say "Everyone wearing ________ will share their responses with the class."

Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

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