TTAC Topics                                                                                                            January 2016
Upcoming Event

Access through AT, AIM and AAC

A face to face event!
April 12, 2016

TTAC Links
Directions to our office
Stay Connected
Using opportunities to respond to engage learners
Are you seeking ways to encourage students to be more engaged during instruction? If you answered "Yes," then consider using strategies that provide high rates and varied opportunities to respond. An opportunity to respond (OTR) is when a teacher provides an academic request or solicits a student to actively respond. By using different OTR, on-task behavior and correct responses will likely increase while disruptive behavior decreases. What do OTR look like in the classroom? Here are some examples:
Verbal response strategies
  • Ask the class a question, then draw students' names (written on strips of paper or popsicle sticks) from a container. Calling on students unpredictably can increase their attention and engagement.
  • Create student partners (i.e., "shoulder partners") and ask them respond to questions, problems, etc. together. For example, you might ask them to Think-Pair-Share or Think-Write-Pair-Share the solution for a math problem.
  • Use choral responses by having all students in the class respond in unison to a question. Use a signal (e.g., hand up and then drop it down) to indicate when you want the students to respond.
  • Use the four corners of your classroom. Students move to the corner that represents the answer to a question or a response to a statement (e.g., strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree). Students share aloud why they selected their corner. 
Nonverbal response strategies
  • Provide students with a small metal ring filled with preprinted response cards. Cards can be labeled individually with responses such as A, B, C, D, Yes, No, True, False, Agree, Disagree, Odd, Even, etc.  Include a few blank laminated cards to write other possible responses. Then, ask the question, have students choose a response from the ring, and show you (as a whole class) their responses.
  • Provide students with guided notes. Guided notes are teacher prepared handouts that lead students through the presentation of content. The notes have visual cues or prepared blank spaces for them to fill in key facts or concepts that are presented in class.
  • Have students use electronic response systems such as Padlet, Plickers, or Kahoot. Plickers and Kahoot provide the option of collecting student response data to plan instruction.   
Opportunities to respond can help students become more engaged during instruction. By increasing their engagement, students are more likely to be on-task and interested in learning! 

How do you know it's time to teach a learning strategy?
That's a tough question. You need to teach a learning strategy when it becomes clear that a student needs to learn a skill that either is assumed as mastered or is not explicitly taught in the general curriculum. A cue is when you find yourself repeating the same direction for a task and a student is not being successful (Berry et al., 2004). For instance, if you find yourself in math class repeating the steps to solve a problem over and over, strategy instruction on problem solving is appropriate.
The first step is to identify the specific skill that the student lacks. Once you know that, you can select a strategy to address that need. Strategy instruction can be considered an initial step in building skill acquisition for students. The goal of the problem solving strategy would be for a student to learn the steps and be able to use the strategy independently until the strategy becomes automatic and eventually internalized as a skill.
Strategy instruction takes time and energy. The payoff can be worth the effort though, since learning strategies provides struggling students with the ability to perform a task better. Schools often start small, with just one strategy, and then add to their collection of strategies as teachers become skilled at teaching them. 

Consider these resources to get started:
Berry, G., Hall, D., & Gildroy, P. (2004). Teaching learning strategies. In B. K. Lenz & D. D. Deschler (Eds.), Teaching content to all: Evidence-based inclusive practices in middle and secondary schools (pp. 258 - 278). Boston, MA: Pearson.

IRIS Center. (2015). SRSD: Using Learning Strategies To Enhance Student Learning

Reid, R. & Lienemann, T. O. (2006). Strategy instruction for students with learning disabilities. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

A Tool for your Toolbox to Motivate Tough Students
Do you have a student in your class, that no matter what you do to try to motivate him, apathy always wins? Do you have a class full of students that don't seem to care about grades or success at school? Maintaining perspective in these challenging situations can be difficult, especially when you've spent your entire school year trying new ways to enlist these students. Just as research tells us, we need to teach behavior the same way we teach academics, it tells us that we may need to help some students make the connection between how their effort effects their achievement (Pollock, Pickering, & Marzano, 2001; Colvin, 2009).

People generally attribute success to ability, effort, other people or luck. Of those factors, effort is the only one that empowers individuals in the long run. No matter how much ability you have, you eventually run into a task for which you are not prepared. There will be situations in which you will need to succeed on your own, so relying on other people is ineffective and luck runs out. Therefore, teaching students to focus on changing their beliefs about effort could empower them to see how increasing their effort positively impacts achievement.

Telling stories about famous people who overcame adversity through hard work and persistence will influence some of your students, but challenging students may not be swayed so easily. They need relevant data from their own lives to make that connection. To help seemingly apathetic students explore the relationship between their effort and achievement, teachers can integrate effort versus achievement charts into their classrooms. In order to make the largest difference, students must collect and track their own data. Then, teachers need to conference with students to provide individual feedback about the results. By providing individual feedback, teachers allow students to process how their effort affected their achievement.

To get started, do a Google search for examples to explore how to create an effort versus achievement chart to fit your students' needs. For additional information please visit:

Colvin, G. (2009). Managing noncompliance and defiance in the classroom: A road map for teachers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Hattie, J. (2009) Visible Learning A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pollock, J. E., Pickering, D. J., & Marzano, R. J. (2001). Classroom instruction that works research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.  

VDOE's Training and Technical Assistance Center at VCU
700 E Franklin Street, Suite 140
P.O. Box 843081
Richmond, VA 23284-3081