Opportunities to Respond

The Intervention

An opportunity to respond (OTR) is a universal instructional strategy that involves a request for a student response. By increasing the opportunities to respond, students may be more on task, participatory and engaged during academic time. These strategies can also give the teacher additional opportunity to assess student learning, check understanding, and provide feedback. A common method to increase OTRs is through the use of dry erase boards, hand signals (e.g., raising 1, 2 or 3 fingers), or response cards which allow a group of students to all provide individual answers to a question simultaneously.  OTRs can be increased in the whole class setting, in small groups, or individual contexts. In any of these settings, the goal is to increase engagement and the opportunity for feedback to enhance the student’s learning experience.

Students with behavioral challenges can struggle with engaging, participating, and staying on task during academic activities. These students will often benefit from the more frequent use of OTRs. In addition to increasing whole class OTRs, the teacher could also increase OTRs for an individual student. This could include calling on the student more frequently, using attention check questions to help the student with staying on task (see below), or providing more feedback and reinforcement.

  1. Identify content areas or domains that are particularly challenging to maintain student engagement. These domains may be specific to a given student or may be challenging for the class as a whole.
  2. Select a method for student responding that will be appropriate for the content area and provide the opportunity for more engagement. Common examples include using dry-erase/white boards, hand signals, or whole class choral responding. See the Common Strategies and Sample Scripts below for additional guidance on how to use these common methods.
  3. Once the strategy has been decided, provide clear expectations for the activity to the student(s). Describe how the questions will be asked, how the students should respond, and how the materials should be treated/managed in between questions.
  4. Begin teaching content and eliciting responses. Reinforce correct responses and appropriate behavior. Prompt students to make changes or corrections when needed.
  5. Use Beacon progress monitoring tools to evaluate the extent to which this strategy is improving the target behaviors as intended.

Be creative. Below we listed common examples, but you may be able to come up with additional methods.

Response Cards

  • Response cards are cards, signs, or items simultaneously held up by all students to display their responses to a question or problem presented by the teacher. Response cards are an easy-to-implement alternative to the traditional method of choosing individual students to answer questions posed by the teacher.
  • Preprinted cards: yes/no and true/false cards, parts of speech, math operations. If the card has multiple options on one side, students can move a clothes pin to show their answer on the card.
  • Write-on response cards: students mark their answers on blank cards or personal dry erase boards.

Response hand signals 

  • After explaining each small piece of new content or after a set of instructions, the teacher asks the students to report their status.

    • 4 fingers mean: “I understand well and can help a peer.”
    • 3 fingers mean: “I understand.” 
    • 2 fingers mean: “I think I understand but have a question.”
    • 1 finger means: “I need assistance.”

Choral responding 

  • Teachers pose a question and ask that all students respond together, as a chorus.

Peer Tutoring; or Think-Pair-Share 

  • Working in pairs or groups gives students the opportunity to respond to academic queries at a higher rate than when the teacher is working with the entire classroom.
  • Working in dyads students can read to each other, answer questions, come up with multiple ways to solve a problem.

Attention Check Questions 

  • This is a type of OTR designed to gauge whether a student is actively listening and attending to a lesson. They are simple and brief, and should be asked randomly throughout a lesson (not just when a student does not look like they are paying attention).
  • Whereas OTRs are typically about academic content, attention check questions should be more about process.

    • What page are we on? What problem is next? What vocabulary word did we just review? What instructions did I just give? Who answered the last question and what did they say? Where did I say to [put the scissors? your paper?]?

  • For students with problems paying attention, ask 2 to 4 attention check questions per lesson.

  • Provide opportunities for students to try again or correct their work if an error is made. Provide consistent feedback and reinforcement for both correct and incorrect work.
  • Prompts can be a useful way to encourage students to check and correct their work without singling a student out in front of the group (Remember we are adding in this example, not subtracting). 
  • Try to allow enough time for most or all students to process the material presented and respond to the question.
  • Stay positive! Students will be more likely to engage if interactions are warm and supportive.
  • Keep in mind that an OTR can be used in a target manner with a specific student.
  • If you need help implementing or evaluating this intervention, it may be helpful to seek out consultation from your school mental health professional or intervention team leader.

Opportunities to respond is rated as moderate at the elementary level and as not evaluated at the secondary level.

Elementary: Research has demonstrated that at the elementary level, opportunities to respond can lead to decreases in interruptions, off task behavior, out of seat behavior, invasions of personal space, and increase classwork accuracy test scores.

Secondary: Opportunities to respond have not been rigorously studied at the secondary level to determine its effectiveness.

Recommendation: Opportunities to respond can be a useful intervention for both elementary and secondary students. While opportunities to respond has not been studied for out of seat behavior and interruptions in secondary students, based on the strong evidence in elementary students, we believe that it may be effective in older students as well. We recommend using opportunities to respond when a student’s core presenting challenge includes engagement in class lessons or activities.

Intervention Scorecard

This intervention is recommended for the following presenting problems.

Select an age group:


Other suitable presenting problems