123: Alternate Question Response Formats





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  1. Choral Responses
    • What – Class answers at once in unison
    • Why – Check for understanding, review, reinforce knowledge, drill & practice
    • How – Develop routine cue to signal time of response
  2. Signaled Answers
    • What – All students answer with a hand signal
    • Why – Check for understanding, review, reinforce knowledge, drill & practice
    • How – Develop routine for types of signaled answers (ex: thumbs up, thumbs down)
  3. Numbered Heads Together
    • What  – Students in numbered teams think together and provide response when number is called
    • Why – Peer teaching, Holding students accountable to cooperative learning styles (ex: jigsaw), review concepts prior to learning new ones, activate prior knowledge
    • How – Form heterogenous teams where each member has a different number (1, 2, 3 or 4).  Pose question.  Give teams time to compose responses.  Call out a number and all students with that number raise their hands.  Call on a couple students with their hands raised.
  4. Think-Pair-Share
    • What – Students process responses individually, in pairs, and with the whole group.
    • Why – Review, activate prior knowledge, give students processing time prior to discussions
    • How – Pose question.  Give students time to compose responses quietly and individually.  Give students time to share responses with a partner.  Then pairs share responses with whole group.
  5. Peoplegraph
    • What – Students stand on a continuum line to express their opinion
    • Why – engage students in active thinking prior to a discussion or written assignment, give students time to consider core concepts
    • How – Setup way to communicate meaning of high and low values on the continuum, pose question, ask students to stand on the line according to their opinion, provide time for students in close and far proximity to share why they chose their position on the line
  6. Data on Display
    • What – Creating collective visual displays of students’ opinions
    • Why – Examine assumptions.  Practice hypothesizing, making predictions and analyzing data.
    • How – Students given a set of questions on a workshops; each response is a percentage from 0 to 100%.  Poster bar charts for each question are set up around classroom – horizontal axis is divided into 10% bins.  Students use post-its to place their responses on the poster charts.  Once all votes are posted, students examine each poster, notice and discuss trends.
  7. Synectics
    • What – Students use metaphors to make connections to ideas and solutions
    • Why – Develop deeper insights into topics by viewing them from different perspectives.  Promote divergent thinking and diverse points of view.
    • How:
      • Simple – Pick 2 opposite objectives (ex: ice cream or spaghetti)  Ask students to think individually whether they think a topic is more like 1 metaphor or the other.  Then group students and have them discuss their associations and come to a group response.  Then each group shares responses.
      • 4 corner – Pick 4 metaphors and label 4 corner of room (ex: football, tennis, basketball, golf).  Place a poster post-it at each corner.  Present a topic.  Students decide which metaphor goes best with the topic.  They work in teams with students who share their opinion to list the reasons why the topic goes with the selected metaphor (5 minutes).  All 4 groups share their lists with the whole group.  Then students continue discussing topics or do a related writing assignment.
  8. Interview Design
    • What – Students collect answers to interview questions in round robin style.
    • Why – Encourage students to respect and become aware of different points of view.  Promote active listening and note taking.  Provide structure for every student to answer every question.  Practice in summarizing.
    • How – Divide class into 1 of 2 concentric circles.  Each student gets one sheet with copy of a single interview question.  Students sit in concentric circles.  Time is allotted for inside person to ask outside circle person their interview question and listen and take notes (1 min).  Then time is allotted for the outside person to interview the inside circle person and take notes (1 min).  Then the outside person rotates 1 spot in the clockwise direction.   Time is allotted for each pair of interviews.  Then the outer circle rotates again until all students have had the opportunity to answer all interview questions.  Then groups are assembled of students who had the same interview question.  Each group looks for major themes in the responses (5-6 min) and then each group reports these to the class
  9. Fishbowl Discussion
    • What – Students discuss topics while other students take notes and analyze them for major themes
    • Why – Practice note taking and active listening.  Practice discussion skills and receive feedback in a safe environment.
    • How – Arrange students in 2 concentric circles.  Seat enough students in the inner circle to leave 1-2 seats empty.  Go over discussion norms: examples: invite all people to speak. use appropriate wait time. Pose a question.  Students in the inside circle discuss question while outside circle students take notes.  After discussion facilitate a debrief discussion in which outer circle students share major themes and to what extend the discussion was effective
  10. Say-It-In-A-Word
    • What – Students respond to a question with a single word
    • Why – Practice decision making and active listening.  Level playing field by insure that every student has same opportunity for initial response.
    • How – Class sits in a circle.  Teacher poses a questions.  Gives students processing time.  Students take turns responding to question with one word.  Teacher asks following up choices that ask students to explain their word choices.


Knowing alternate response formats can help teachers facilitate classroom conversations that are more varied and that require and value participation from all students.  Varying the format can keep conversations fresh and high energy.  For best effect, it helps to select a response format that matches an instructional goal.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards and develop aligned learning targets.
  • Use characteristics of quality questions to brainstorm variety of questions that relate to learning target.
  • Decide which response formats go best with key questions.
  • Develop resources that go with selected response formats
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use selected response formats to encourage active participation of all students.
  • Have students reflect on how response formats are affecting their participation and attitude toward classroom conversations.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Poll students to find out which response formats they prefer for specific instructional formats.  Use their preferences to identify response formats that can be built into classroom routines.



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