Skills That Will Take Your Lesson Delivery to the Next Level

Opportunities to Respond Arrow

 Opportunities to respond (OTR) is one of the skills which can be used to take Lesson Delivery to the next level.

Explicit instruction requires frequent responses from students. The benefits of requiring frequent opportunities for students to respond (OTR) are proven by research. Responses allow students to work and deal with information as well as provide the teacher with checks for understanding. The teacher creates momentum through opportunities to respond by creating a situation where the student has a high likelihood of being correct. These correct responses lead to positive feedback. This also works within the overall use of the expectancy X(times) value theory. Students will be engaged in instructional activities and less likely to misbehave.

 What is OTR?

Opportunities to Respond (OTR) occur when students are given a chance to engage in instruction by responding to a question in an academic session. Students can respond by speaking, writing, or acting.

Effective use of OTR includes:

  • Successful engagement in academic tasks
  • Rapid pacing of student responding

What are the musts?

Our students must have many opportunities to respond and their responses must be correct.

How do we accomplish that?

Here are some things to consider while utilizing Opportunities to Respond (OTR)

  • Use scaffolding to ensure that the response opportunities are carefully controlled to promote maximum student success.
  • Don’t talk too much.
  • Break complex problems into smaller chunks and have students provide answers about each small part.
  • Mix brief, fast paced, teacher-directed review of previous material into every lesson.
  • Use equity sticks.
  • Mix individual responses with choral responses.
  • Have 4 to 6 OTRs per minute on new material with 80% accuracy.
  • Have 9 to 12 OTRs per minute of instruction on drill and practice material with 90% accuracy.
  • Use an Opportunities to Respond Observation Sheet.

Despite the importance of opportunities to respond, they should not be used to dress up poor lessons. The goal is not to increase the number of responses but the number of successful responses.    -Anita Archer

Why is successful engagement such a big deal?

Successful engagement gives us a chance to provide feedback so we can correct or even better, PRAISE the students for getting it right which can impact MOTIVATION.

We will be taking a close look at feedback in a later post, but I do want to talk a little here about motivation. When you think about motivation you need to think about expectancy and value. When it comes to motivation, it takes two to make a thing go right. What is the student’s expectation of being successful on a particular task? Does the student value the task? Both of these impact motivation. For example, if someone offers you one million dollars to complete a task, it is likely that you will value that. However, if the task is to translate this blog post into Greek, it is likely that your expectancy of success will be low due to the fact that it’s Greek to you. Motivation occurs when the value and the expectancy of success are both high. We can manipulate those two variables to impact motivation. This is expectancy X(times) value.

Successful engagement helps us have a 3:1 ratio of positive interactions, which means we call attention to students getting it right three times for every one time we have to correct them. Positive interactions help us to build and maintain a positive relationship with our students. Successful engagement leads to increased rates of student success and we all know that success leads to more success. It creates momentum.

Why is rapid pace of student responding so important?

Pace is important. James Spann came to visit our 6th grade students at C. E. Hanna and delivered a fantastic presentation. He is obviously very knowledgeable. He had great visuals to show, but to me that was not what stood out the most. I couldn’t help but notice his pace. It was crisp. His presentation was extremely organized and had a flow that was in no way accidental. He moved smoothly from one thing to the next with our students hanging on every word. It was great!!

Pace is important; ask any coach. The best practice sessions are those that are crisp and have great tempo with all players having many opportunities to practice their skills. These opportunities are often called reps, which is short for repetitions. Every great coach knows perfection comes from players getting in as many correct reps as possible. Players love it too. Pace can make a two-hour practice seem a lot shorter.

Pace is important; ask any movie fan. The blockbusters have great pace and tempo. They move quickly and smoothly from scene to scene keeping us on the edge of our seat. The ones that drag on don’t make it.

NOTE: Keep in mind the importance of REP INTEGRITY. Pace is great, but you must balance the increased number of repetitions with the necessity of those reps being correct. That is REP INTEGRITY.

What are some examples of Opportunities to Respond?


A key skill that will take your lesson delivery to the next level is the use of Opportunities to Respond. There are oral (SPEAKING), written (WRITING), and action (SIGNALING) responses. In this post, we will discuss the types of opportunities to respond and the benefits and potential problems with each. We will take a look at how to effectively use OTR and ways in which this supports our instruction of reading specifically.

Oral Responses

Choral Responses

Definition: all students are asked to say the answer together

When to use Choral Responses:

  • When the answer is short
  • When there is only one correct answer


Partner Responses

Definition: all students turn to their partners and share their answers

When to use partner responses:

  • When the wording is long and the answers vary

Special considerations:

  • You select the partners
  • Have the partners sit next to each other rather than across the table
  • Assign each partner a number
  • Use a strategy such as Look, Lean, Whisper
  • Give the students a sentence starter

Here are some successful Partner Response practices:

  • Think-Pair-Share

THINK = Ask a question and give them time to think

PAIR = Ask students to pair up and talk about their ideas with their partners

SHARE = Call on a number of students to share with the class UNLESS the answer is short and there is only one correct answer = then use Choral response

  • Developed by Frank Lyman
  • Has TWO emphases
  1. Give students time to think before responding
  2. Directs students to say answers to their partners instead of calling on one student
    • Think and Write-Pair and Write-Share

This practice simply adds a WRITE step (brainstorming) in which students write their ideas down before pairing up. This is helpful concerning accountability because the teacher can monitor the WRITE step a little easier than THINK. When the students pair up, you can ask them to write down their partner’s two best ideas. Use the ideas that they write down as the SHARE to save time that is usually spent calling on students to respond.

  • The Pause Procedure

After lecturing for 12-18 minutes, PAUSE for 3-4 minutes to allow students to:

  • Summarize the lecture segment
  • Answer a focus question
  • Predict what will come next in the lecture
  • Share their own experiences
    • Study-Tell-Help-Check

Give the students an opportunity to study for 1-2 minutes. Then one partner tells the other all that they know from memory. The partner helps by asking questions, giving hints, or telling them what is missing. They both then look at available resources to check their understanding. This can help students feel more accountable for their learning.


  • Numbered Heads Together

First put students on TEAMS. Then ask a question and tell the TEAM to “put their heads together.” When ALL team members are confident with the question and answer call on someone to share the answer by using equity sticks or something similar.


  • Partners First

 The student shares their answer with their partner before sharing the answer with the class. This results in higher quality answers.

  • Question First

 Use this when you do not want the students to share the answer with a partner first. First ask the question. Then give all students think time. Then call on a student randomly to answer the question. By asking the question before calling on the student, you will get ALL students to think about their answer.

  • Whip Around Or Pass

This is used when you want to have students take turns responding. It is good for when there are many possible responses and the students’ personal background knowledge is helpful. The student can contribute without anything being sad by the teacher or other students. The student can contribute or PASS. Remember to give thinking time.

Some Common Mistakes With Individual Responses:

  1. Calling on volunteers

Who volunteers (raises their hands)?

  • The highest performing
  • The most assertive
  • The most English proficient

PROBLEM = This leads to “teaching the best and leaving the rest.”

  1. Calling on students who are inattentive

PROBLEM = Their answers will likely add nothing to the class and will waste time.

A better way to get their attention:

  • Move closer to the inattentive student
  • Give a directive to the whole group
  • Give the students something physical to do
  1. Favoring some students
  • Have a plan for calling on different students
  1. A student responds with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”

Do not let the student “off the hook” with this response.

Things you can do:

  • Break the task down into easier segments and guide the student
  • Allow the student to confer with a partner
  • Guide the student by referring them back to the text, notes, assignment, etc.
  • Ask the student to comment on the answers given by other students
  • Tell the student the answer and have the student repeat it

Written Responses

  • Response Cards and Response Slates

First ask a question and give think time. Then the students write their answer on a card or slate and hold up their answers for the teacher to see.


  • Increased opportunities to respond
  • Increased student participation
  • Increased academic achievement
  • Decreased off-task behavior

Some Common Problems With Written Responses:

  1. Some students write answers quickly; some write the answer slowly.

Solution: Have the students write the answer to one item and provide immediate feedback. This will result in less downtime. You can also increase student success with the immediate feedback.

  1. Some students work ahead.

Solution: Only let the students finish one item and receive feedback before moving on.

Action Responses

  • Touching/Pointing

 Teachers of young or struggling students can ask them to touch or point at things to show that they understand a concept or are at the right place.

Example: Put your finger on the first word in the paragraph.

  • Acting Out/Responding with Gestures or Facial Expressions

 Have your students act out the concept. Students can also respond with gestures or expressions. Your creativity will drive this response practice.

Example: Use a facial expression to show the meaning of furious.

  • Hand Signals

This can be a thumbs up or down for yes or no. The student can give a choice with 1 finger, 2 fingers, or 3 fingers, etc.

NOTE: When using this, do not allow students to copy the responses of other students.

What about reading?

So, how do we utilize OTR with reading instruction specifically? OTR is crucial to excellent reading instruction. OTR can be used to reach the instructional goals of successful engagement and achieve an increased pace of the lesson. Note that we said successful engagement and increased pace. We want lessons that have great tempo. However, speed for speed’s sake can be counterproductive. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect, not practice alone. We could in fact be practicing it wrong. Fast but wrong is still wrong. Instructionally speaking, we can’t outrun wrong.

Anita Archer offers us some procedures that specifically relate to reading instruction that will help us reach our goal of successful engagement and increased lesson pace.

Echo Reading

This is great for low achieving readers who have trouble with fluency. The teacher will read a sentence or phrase and then let the class read the same thing.

Choral Reading

The teacher and class read the material at the same time. Allow the students to read the passage first so that they will be comfortable with it. This allows the entire class to be engaged while at the same time the teacher models correct reading rate and expression.

Cloze Reading

The teacher reads the text and pauses at certain words. The class reads the words where the teacher pauses. This helps keep the students attention. This is also helpful in calling attention to certain words. This can be useful in reading math word problems.

Augmented Silent Reading

There will be times when you need the students to read silently. The problem with this is the potential for students to fake it or engage in something other than reading. There are also problems with students who finish early. Archer recommends posing a question before and after reading, giving directives for early finishers, and using “whisper reads”. A whisper read is when the students read at a whisper so that the teacher can use proximity to determine if the student is in fact reading the passage.

Partner Reading

Partner reading should be used after one of the other types of reading has taken place. This provides an opportunity for many students to read and can be easily monitored by the teacher.

Things to consider:

Who will be partners?

How long will the partner read before switching?

What work product will be created at each stop? (graphic organizer, etc.)

How will a partner correct errors?

  • Ask, then tell

What do you do if one partner cannot read the material?

  • Partners read together
  • One partner reads and then the second partner reads the same material
  • The partner can choose a Me or We, Me if the want to read it by themselves to the partner, We if they want to read with the partner

What if you have excellent lesson delivery and the responses are incorrect?

Anita Archer gives us two additional methods to try.

  • Clarity

Make sure that the question and the desired answer are CLEAR

  • Pre-corrections

If you know some common mistakes that will occur, use reminders and prompts to minimize the likely mistakes.

Let me know what you think about Opportunities to Respond. I would love to hear your comments.

Generic Outro

Information in this blog post comes from Explicit Instruction by Anita Archer. Click here to check it out at Amazon.

Click here to check out Anita Archer’s website.