Increasing Student Opportunities to Respond

By Elaine B. Gould, M.Ed.
Updated September/October 2013
Originally Published September/October 2012

Instructional opportunities to respond occur when a teacher invites students to provide a verbal (e.g. choral response), written (e.g. guided notes), or gestural response (e.g. response cards) to a prompt (Simonsen, Myers & DeLuca, 2010; Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers & Sugai, 2008). When teachers provide a high rate of opportunities for students to respond during instruction, she increases the likelihood that students will be engaged, will demonstrate appropriate and on-task behaviors, and will provide a greater number of correct responses (Simonsen, et al., 2010). When these positive student behaviors increase, it is less likely that students will have time to engage in inappropriate behaviors (Simonsen, et al., 2010).

Teachers will want to plan for increasing their students’ opportunities to respond through frequent checks for understanding, asking questions at different cognitive levels, and actively engaging and involving students in their learning (Hattie, 2012). There are a variety of ways in which teachers can increase their students’ opportunities to respond including:

  1. Direct Instruction: Instruction is carefully planned when this teaching method is used. Instructional plans include a) clear learning objectives, b) high rates of opportunities to respond, c) a structure for the lesson presentation, d) opportunities for students to engage in guided practice, e) lesson closure, f) time for independent student practice, and g) ongoing assessment of student progress (Hattie, 2012; Simonsen, et al., 2008).  In this video, a teacher demonstrates the use of high rates for opportunities to respond during direct instruction.
  2. Classwide Peer Tutoring: This approach to cooperative learning is an effective means to increase student opportunities to respond during instruction. Both the student tutor and the student being tutored experience great benefits through engagement with their peers in the teaching and learning process (Hattie, 2012). In classwide peer tutoring, students become proficient in both the teacher and learner roles allowing both students the opportunity to enhance their learning by teaching others (Hattie, 2012; Simonsen, et al., 2008). Click here to see classwide peer tutoring in action.
  3. Computer Assisted Instruction is used for teaching or remediating academic or behavioral skills (Simonsen, et al, 2008). Computers provide a means by which students can interact with the content and receive immediate feedback for their responses (Simonsen, et al, 2008). Check out these resources to find out ways in which computers can be used in reading and writing to increase students’ opportunities to respond during instruction.

There are many easily implemented strategies to increase students’ opportunities to respond. To learn more about the specific strategies mentioned in this article and additional ways to increase opportunities to respond, download a free copy of the Training and Technical Assistance Center’s (T/TAC) Considerations Packet, Techniques for Active Learning.


Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Simonsen, B., Myers, D., & DeLuca, C. (2010). Teaching teachers to use prompts, opportunities to respond, and specific praise. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children. 33, 300-318. doi:  10.1177/0888406409359905

Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D. & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education and Treatment of Children, 31, 351-380.