How to use the “response chaining” exercise to increase student engagement. Part one of a two-part article.
Flipping channels one rainy Saturday afternoon, I happened on the scene in the movie Legally Blonde where Elle (Reese Witherspoon) is in her first law school class. The professor poses an elaborate interrogation question and calls on Elle, who is clearly unprepared to answer. The professor next calls on Elle’s nemesis, asking whether Elle has answered the question correctly and why her response was correct or incorrect. As the scene unfolded, I sat up in my chair and thought, there’s a great example of response chaining!
This Socratic-style questioning technique is highly effective at managing student response rates (strategy 26 on the Marzano Learning Map) and engaging students in class discussions (Design Question 5: What will I do to engage my students?) Students never know when they will be called on to answer or evaluate another student’s answer.
The strategy works like this:
1. Begin by posing an inferential or elaborative interrogation question, pause for approximately 10 seconds and then call on a student to answer.
2. After answering the question, call on another student to tell if he/she thinks the answer is:
• Correct. Student must tell why it is correct.
• Partially correct. Student must tell which part is correct and what content needs to be added to make the answer correct.
• Incorrect. Student must give the correct answer.
3. If the second student corrected the answer of the first student, call on a third student to comment on the answer given by the second student.
4. If the first student was correct, pose another question, and repeat the answer/evaluation process.
Remind your students that they do not have to raise their hands, as you will be strategically calling on all students throughout the lesson. To do this, you can pull a Popsicle stick or use a seating chart to keep track of who has answered or evaluated a question.
Be sure to keep a lively pace as you move from student to student to ask, answer, and evaluate questions and answers. When posing an initial question in the chain, pause to provide all students time to consider their responses. You can also have students pair/share or do a quick write before you ask a student to answer orally. This pre-activity will provide an avenue for getting more students engaged in answering and evaluating questions.
So that most students answer or evaluate questions, ask at least one question for every two to three students. You can write out questions on index cards before the lesson so you have a pool of higher-level questions related to your lesson content.
Think about how to adapt or modify the response chaining strategy for specific students. You can, for example, ask a two-part question: Start with a recall or understanding-level question, and then move to an inferential-level question.
Response chaining allows students to describe their thinking about the specific questions you pose. It can be a lot of fun if you keep the discussion lively and celebrate the successful answers and evaluations.
Share your expertise: What questioning strategies do you use to foster student engagement?