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September 8, 2010 Ready Responses for Class Discussions By Ruth Manna



    A teacher recently asked how to include all students in class discussions.

    One thing teachers can do to eliminate the deer caught in headlights phenomenon is offer students three ready responses. Responding verbally is preparation for the adult world in which it’s not okay to sit and stare when asked to contribute. Instead, they can say:

    • “Come back to me.” 
    • “I’m thinking.”
    • “I need more time.”

    These three simple sentences are ready responses for students. Sentences are printed on laminated 3" x 5" cards and taped to the corner of students’ desks as visual reminders. When a teacher calls on students who don’t know, they give one of these responses.

    If a student says, “Come back to me,” the teacher answers, “I’ll come back in a minute or two.” The student listens to other responses, and then his teacher asks him to repeat the correct answer. This is similar to Doug Lemov’s technique, “No Opt Out,” which he explains in his book Teach Like a Champion.

    If a student says, “I’m thinking,” or “I need more time,” the teacher increases the think time and then calls on that student again. This way, slow processors have more time to consider a question without feeling pressured to blurt out a response. Again, it’s the teacher’s job to come back to that student.

    I hope you'll share your strategies for inclusive class discussions.



    A teacher recently asked how to include all students in class discussions.

    One thing teachers can do to eliminate the deer caught in headlights phenomenon is offer students three ready responses. Responding verbally is preparation for the adult world in which it’s not okay to sit and stare when asked to contribute. Instead, they can say:

    • “Come back to me.” 
    • “I’m thinking.”
    • “I need more time.”

    These three simple sentences are ready responses for students. Sentences are printed on laminated 3" x 5" cards and taped to the corner of students’ desks as visual reminders. When a teacher calls on students who don’t know, they give one of these responses.

    If a student says, “Come back to me,” the teacher answers, “I’ll come back in a minute or two.” The student listens to other responses, and then his teacher asks him to repeat the correct answer. This is similar to Doug Lemov’s technique, “No Opt Out,” which he explains in his book Teach Like a Champion.

    If a student says, “I’m thinking,” or “I need more time,” the teacher increases the think time and then calls on that student again. This way, slow processors have more time to consider a question without feeling pressured to blurt out a response. Again, it’s the teacher’s job to come back to that student.

    I hope you'll share your strategies for inclusive class discussions.

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