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November 13, 2023

Increasing Opportunities to Respond: Written Responses

Have you ever been at a staff meeting or professional development seminar where you (or some of your colleagues) were not paying attention?  Perhaps they were grading papers, texting, scrolling social media or having private conversations....

As we know all too well, kids are not a whole lot different than adults: if they aren't fully engaged in what is going on, they will find something else to absorb themselves in. 

I know all educators strive for maximum learning for all of their students, so we must avoid student disengagement at all costs!  One of the ways to do this is by increasing opportunities to respond (OTRs).

During a lesson students should have LOTS of opportunities to respond by saying, writing and doing! And by lots, I mean 3-5 OTRs per minute for simple responses (verbal or gestural) and 1 OTR per minute when the OTR is more complex (think solving a multi-step math problem) (MacSuga-Gage & Simonsen, 2015).

In my previous post I shared TEN ways students can engage in content in a verbal way You can find those posts by clicking here or here.   For this post, we will focus on ways students can respond to learning in a written way!  Keep reading for FIVE easy strategies that will get your students responding to content in written form. 

1. Quick Writes:

Encourage students to engage in brief, focused writing exercises, known as quick writes. Pose open-ended questions related to the lesson and give students a short time frame (e.g., 5 minutes) to express their thoughts. 

Quick writes serve as a low-pressure way for students to respond individually, promoting reflection and comprehension.

2. Think-Pair-Share with Writing:

Combine the traditional think-pair-share strategy with writing. After pondering a question individually, students pair up to discuss their thoughts and then collaboratively write a concise summary of their discussion. This approach not only enhances critical thinking skills but also encourages peer interaction.

3. Journals and Reflections:

Implement regular journaling or reflection sessions where students can express their thoughts on the material covered in class. Journals provide a personal space for students to connect with the content on a deeper level.

If your students struggle getting pen to paper, perhaps supporting their thoughts with sentence frames will do the trick. 

4. Interactive Note-Taking:

Transform note-taking into an interactive activity. Encourage students to annotate their notes, ask questions, and make connections to their own experiences. This method not only promotes active engagement during the lesson but also serves as a valuable reference for future review.

Interested in some specific note-taking strategies? Check out this easy WICK strategy from Edutopia. Or, take a look at downloadable graphic organizers from HMH or Thinkport.

5. Exit Tickets:

Use exit tickets as a writing tool for students to demonstrate their understanding of the day's lesson. Require them to summarize key concepts, ask questions, or share their opinions. This quick form of assessment helps both students and teachers gauge the effectiveness of the lesson.

Interested in a FREE exit ticket for comprehension?  Download the resource pictured below, by clicking here

When you incorporate written opportunities to respond in the classroom, you are enhancing student comprehension while contributing to the development of communication, critical thinking and collaboration.  Embracing the power of written expression truly empowers our students to deepen their educational journey!

If you are interested in deepening your knowledge about student engagement, check out How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class from Edutopia.  This is a great quick read with resources at the end! 


MacSuga-Gage, A. & Simonsen, B. (2015). Examining the effects of teacher directed opportunities to respond on student outcomes: A systematic review of the literature. Education and Treatment of Children, 38, 211-240.

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