Encouraging Every Student To Respond

I come from a long line of storytellers and joke tellers. It wasn’t uncommon for my dad and his brothers to regale family gatherings for hours trying to outperform each other. One thing I found fascinating is that in those authentic storytelling moments, they could spin a yarn that had everyone laughing uncontrollably; however, if you saw them outside of the family performance and said, “Tell me something funny right now,” they often couldn’t produce. The direct request often stymied them to silence, which of course made me laugh!

I think the same type of thing – being unable to provide a response – happens when students are asked questions in the classrooms. As such, teachers need some tools to help encourage every student to prepare and present a response. In the book Questioning for Formative Feedback: Meaningful Dialogue to Improve Learning, author Jackie Acree Walsh shares the following process that may help get every student engaged in response (pp.141-144):

  1. Provide adequate time for all students to decode and form a silent response to questions. A five second (or longer) pause will let students process the new information and prepare a response. Questions that go deeper into content may require more than a five second pause. Observe your class and allow for adequate thought time. 
  2. Afford all students the opportunity to jot down or signal their responses before asking a student to publicly respond. A quick note or two on a page helps students process their thinking and prepares them to share with others. 
  3. Ask every student to share their responses. Having everyone provide an answer allows for examination of thinking throughout the classroom. Everyone can learn and adjust throughout this process. 
  4. Monitor and interpret students’ responses to decide what to do next. Use the classroom response time as an opportunity to determine if the class truly understands the content. If they understand the content, build on the responses by introducing new content. If they do not understand the content, revisit the material to further strengthen their understanding. 

As you prepare for next week, think of ways you might incorporate this response process into your classroom practice. You and your students will be glad you did!

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