Like She-ra’s sword, Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, Chuck Norris’s roundhouse… YOU have a secret weapon for efficient classrooms!

Every Student Response (ESR) is a way of posing a question so that — you guessed it — each student responds simultaneously.

It serves two main purposes:

1) Allows you to check for each students’ understanding within seconds.

2) Makes the students pay attention!

It’s super easy: think of a way to pose a question and the way the students will non-orally respond.

People Giving Thumbs-up

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The simplest is to pose a statement and ask students to put “thumbs up” if they agree and “thumbs down” if they disagree.

Try posing incorrect statements. Quick examples:

Pre-K- Point to the letter W and ask, “Is this a V?” Thumbs up for yes, thumbs down for no.

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Elementary- “I can’t remember, is a bird a mammal?” Thumbs up for yes, thumbs down for no.

Middle- “The character in the poem is dressed in a velvet jacket and a lace collar. Do you think he is poor?” Thumbs up, yes or thumbs down, no.

You get the picture! This is the most basic. Read on for creative response ideas.

I learned this strategy from the greatest teacher trainer I ever saw, Catherine McCall. McCall

She trains teachers at the University of Maryland. Here’s what she has to say about ESR.

“When I observe teachers I draw a seating chart and put a tally mark each time a student participates orally. The teachers often think they had a rich class discussion, but when they look at the tallies they realize that they had a rich discussion with a very small number of students while the rest of the students sat there. What were all of those students thinking?

Every Student Response (ESR) strategies transform a classroom. Oftentimes, a teacher will ask a question and a couple students raise their hand or call out. Or the teacher randomly calls on someone and hopes the student will say something. Imagine a teacher asking, “What kind of leader was Julius Caesar?” How will that be different if, instead, the teacher says, “Agree or Disagree: Caesar was an outstanding leader” and uses an ESR strategy to have every student indicate whether they agree or disagree with that statement? Every student has something to react to, every student will have to think about Caesar’s leadership, and now any student can be called on to explain why they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

The week after I teach about ESRs the class is abuzz with teachers sharing which ESR strategy their students really responded to – this year the big winner was Oven Dial: each student’s arm is like a huge oven dial – one side of the room is COLD (strongly disagree) and the other side of the room is HOT (strongly agree) and there are a full range of ‘temperatures’ in between. These novice teachers were amazed by what a big difference ESRs made in their classrooms. Not only do they have all students participating in the ESR, but many more students are participating in the whole class discussions that follow. And they have eliminated the deadening effect that occurs in a classroom when a teacher asks a question and no one raises their hand or the student who is randomly called on has nothing to say.

I think Every Student Response strategies don’t get a fair shake among teachers of older students because teachers have tried, “thumbs up if you understand” or “thumbs up if you like…” But students have deemed thumbs up / thumbs down to be uncool or too childish. When the response feels different to students, or maybe even seems cooler (like Oven Dial, apparently), students are willing to do it and the energy of the classroom changes drastically.”

Download more examples of ESR strategies here.


By the power of Grayskull…. you’ve become a SUPER TEACHER!

Happy Weekend!

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