Doing One Thing (DOT) to Step up Student Engagement: Increasing Opportunities to Respond

Elaine Gould, M.Ed.

February/March 2011 Link Lines

Students who exhibit challenging behaviors in the classroom are more likely than peers to experience negative relationships and have fewer instructional interactions with their teachers (Sutherland, Alder, & Gunter, 2003). Teachers can use easy-to-implement and effective strategies to improve relationships with and increase academic performance for students with behavioral difficulties. One strategy, increasing the rate of opportunities to respond (OTR) to academic tasks, allows students to be actively involved in instruction, to engage in appropriate behavior, and to develop more positive relationships with their teachers (Partin, Robertson, Maggin, Oliver, & Wehby, 2010).

OTR is defined as a teacher prompt for a student response to a question, teacher request, or an academic task (Partin et al., 2010). The optimal number of OTR depends on the learning situation. That is, during instruction of new academic material, teachers should allow students 4 to 6 OTR per minute with at least 80% accuracy. During activities of previously reviewed material, teachers should provide 8-12 OTR per minute with at least 90% rate of accuracy (Partin et al.).

Teachers can use self-monitoring to determine the number of opportunities their students are given to respond to academic tasks and to plan for improvement, if necessary. This might include audio- or videotaping a weekly 15-minute classroom session and tallying the number of student OTR (Partin et al., 2010).

In a review of the literature to locate evidence-based classroom management practices, Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, and Sugai (2008) found that active engagement of students in observable ways, including increasing student OTR, was one of the five critical features of effective classroom management. They identified specific strategies to increase OTR, including the use of individual response cards, choral responding, classwide peer tutoring, computer-assisted instruction, and guided notes. Use of these strategies has been found to increase students’ on-task behavior, academic engagement and achievement, number of correct responses, and positive behavior (Simonsen et al.). Table 1 describes these strategies to increase OTR along with links for more information to support their use.

Table 1
Increasing Student Opportunities to Respond 


Strategies to Increase Students’ Opportunities to Respond (OTR)
Through Active Engagement in Academic Tasks




Individual Response Cards

Students write the answer to a question on an erasable board and then show the answer to the teacher. Students may also have pre-printed cards (e.g., true/false, yes/no) to hold up in response to a question asked by the teacher.

Intervention Central

Choral Responding

When prompted by the teacher, students answer a question in unison.


Intervention Central

Class-wide Peer Tutoring (CWPT)

Students are paired with one another and take turns in the roles of tutor and tutee. They provide instruction and immediate feedback to one another.


Special Connections

Iris Learning Center

Instruction (CAI)

The use of technology to provide one-on-one instruction with frequent OTR.

Access Center

Guided Notes

The teacher provides a written outline of the chapter or topic during lecture or reading, and students write in the details.

Intervention Central

Providing students with adequate opportunities to respond not only improves student behavior, but also allows teachers to quickly and frequently assess how their students are responding to instruction. By implementing the use of OTR as part of a structured classroom management plan, teachers can engage their students in multiple, observable ways that help turn negative interactions with students into interactions that support positive student behavior.


Partin, T., Robertson, R., Maggin, D., Oliver, R., & Wehby, J. (2010). Using teacher praise and opportunities to respond to promote appropriate student behavior. Preventing School Failure, 54, 172-178.

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.

Sutherland, K., Alder, N., & Gunter, P. (2003). The effect of varying rates of opportunities to respond to academic requests on the classroom behavior of students with EBD.  Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 11, 239-248.