Topic Progress:

NON-VERBAL RESPONSES. A non-verbal response system has all of the benefits of choral responding in that every student is actively answering or responding to each question or problem posed by the teacher. Most common non-verbal low-tech response systems involve white boards and written responses by students or prepared response cards. And more recently, schools are using technology to increase student response rates with “clickers” or other electronic student response systems.

White boards. Students have personal white boards to write answers to teacher’s question with an erasable pen (Heward, 2006). Students can write letters, words, numbers, draw symbols or solve problems, and then, when cued, hold up their boards to display their answers. Students use an eraser, sponge, or cloth to erase their answer and await the next question.

Response Cards. Another non-verbal format is response cards. These are pre-printed cards, often on cardstock and laminated, that have choice words on each side such as Yes/No, True/False, Odd/Even.
They might also include a set of a few options such as noun, pronoun, verb, and adverb. If using multiple responses, be sure that they are few enough to avoid confusion and can be identified quickly for response.

Just as with choral responding, students must be taught the expected behaviors when using white boards or response cards (Heward & Gardner, 1996). Teachers should:

  • Prepare questions to carefully match your response options; if students are writing on white boards, minimal writing is best.
  • Provide clear instructions for use of cards or white board including when to select their card or write their response, when to share, and when to clean boards or reposition cards for next question. (e.g., “Write your answer now.”, or “Look and select your answer.”, then, “Show your answer now.”, “Cards down, eyes up here, ready for the next question.”)
  • Assess student responses and provide clear, specific feedback. (“That’s right! The answer is 86!”)
  • Provide the correct answer and a brief explanation if a significant number of students did not respond accurately, and then present the question again.

Student Response Systems. Technology is a big part of our lives, and many schools are finding the value of using it to engage and motivate learners. When using student response systems which are commonly called “clickers”, the process has three steps: 1) during class discussion, the teacher displays or asks a question, 2) all students key in their answers using their wireless hand-held keypad or other web-based device, and 3) responses are received and displayed on the teacher’s computer monitor as well as on an overhead projector screen.

Each device is numbered so individual responses can be downloaded for recordkeeping or further analysis after the session has ended. Student engagement and motivation or student satisfaction seems to be enhanced as the devices allow for all to respond anonymously, using a familiar game approach (Reiser & Dempsey, 2007).

An additional benefit of clickers is the ability for teachers to see immediately how students answer, and adjust their teaching based on the formative data. Teachers may find the ability to automate data collection the most obvious benefit over other non-verbal response approaches.

Other technology-based resources are being developed and should also be investigated. Some examples of tools teachers can explore include having students collaborate on working documents in Google Docs or Google Sheets, using Google forms to create surveys, assessments, and digital breakouts, using Plickers (, developing their own or using existing Kahoot games (, and many other options.  Check with the instructional designer or specialist in your school or district for more information about what might be available in your school.

Signaling or Movement Activities. In addition to these non-verbal response strategies, other signaling or movement activities might be used (e.g., thumbs up, thumbs down; stand up, sit down; move to four corners; or other creative signals). Teaching response procedures is very critical when using movement activities.  Movement activities may be most meaningful when the movement is linked to the concept being taught. For example, divide the classroom into 4 corners – 1,2,3,4, label them with the content categories – for example the types of sentences – and have students move to the corner matching their answer.

Guided Notes. Another non-verbal strategy for increasing student engagement is guided notes. Guided notes are teacher prepared handouts that lead students through a presentation or lecture with visual cues or prepared blank spaces to fill in key facts or concepts. Guided notes not only help to increase student attention and engagement, but also provide them with a standard set of notes and helps with outlining skills.

When developing guided notes: 1) examine your current lecture outlines, 2) identify key facts, concepts or relationships that could be left blank and filled in by students, 3) consider inserting concept maps or a chart, diagram or graph to help with understanding, and 4) provide the students with formatting clues such as blank lines, numbers, bullets, etc. Be careful not to require too much writing. The content of the guided notes can be adjusted to match the specific needs of students (e.g., motor deficits–more information and less writing; developmental delays–simplified terms, etc.)