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The Student Response System as an Effective Verbal Strategy to Check for Student Understanding

by Model Teaching | April 12, 2022.

Varied methods to check for understanding is a critical component of your classroom teaching. Within any given lesson, you should plan for multiple methods to check students’ knowledge of content throughout your lesson to help you monitor students’ academic growth and inform you of their progress. There are three types of strategies a teacher can implement:

  • Verbal– that allows students to voice their responses to their peers or their whole class
  • Written– that allows students to reflect on a question and write their responses
  • Demonstration– that allows students to complete activities, give examples, create models, or use manipulates to represent their knowledge.
Student Response System

A simple verbal strategy to check for student understanding throughout your lesson is the Student Response System and is the focus of this article. This strategy presents questioning prompts in multiple-choice or true-false format for students to answer in real-time. Students will respond to the prompts using pre-made cards with A, B, C, D, True, False, or other information to indicate their selection of an answer choice displayed on the board. The student response system can be prepared easily by cutting out printed cards, laminating them, and making them available to each student in your classroom. If you have it available at your school, there are also electronic versions of this student response system, commonly known as Clickers. Physical devices may be available for use at your school, or you may have an app or website that you can access to employ an online student response system.

To implement a student response system in your classroom:

  1. Prepare a set of questions that align with the lesson content or the goal of the check for understanding activity.
  2. Explain to students they must answer the question immediately upon display.
  3. Flash the question on the projector screen or read the question aloud.
  4. Encourage 100% participation. If using response cards and not an electronic student response system, encourage swiftly answering with eyes forward to discourage students from copying each other’s answers.
  5. Tally up the responses.
  6. Review the correct and incorrect responses, and re-teach any content where students have not demonstrated mastery

Closed Responses

Closed responses are the typical response format for a student response system because students must respond with a pre-designed answer provided by the teacher in a multiple-choice or true-false format. Check for accuracy by asking questions with only one correct answer.

Example: A second-grade teacher has students choose the correct spelling of a word from four choices to review for a spelling test. Assessment: Students hold up the card or enter their selection that represents their answer choice, then the teacher quickly assesses which students have accurately answered the question. Some clicker programs track accuracy, otherwise, the teacher can use a data tracker to quickly mark if students miss an answer to determine their accuracy rate. While a student response system isn’t designed for open responses, teachers can follow up on this CFU model to incorporate an open response requirement.

Open Responses:

Open responses can be incorporated into a student response system by the teacher generating statements that students must agree (hold up card A) or disagree with (B). The teacher can then tally student responses and require students from each side of the argument to justify their responses with evidence or rules related to the content of the day.
Example: The teacher can display a statement such as “Sarah was the character who changed the most in the novel. Agree or disagree.” Assessment: After students submit their answers, the teacher can call on various students from each side to defend their answers. She decides to use a quick scoring system as follows: 0 = student cannot support their argument 1 = student provides some evidence to support their argument 2 = student provides specific text-based evidence to support their argument.

Best Used When: This strategy works well when the teacher has several questions he/she wants to assess student knowledge over, and the teacher has sufficient time to prepare before the lesson. It can serve as a good review tool before a graded assessment so might work best when used during a content lesson, just before administering the “after” the lesson CFU.


Using the provided response system downloadable resource, prepare a class set of student response cards and generate at least 5 questions to check for student understanding of an upcoming lesson concept. You can plan to check for understanding before your lesson to gauge prior knowledge, during the lesson to check for understanding of the concepts you are teaching, or after the lesson to judge the level of mastery of content.

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Student Response Cards

Print enough cards for each student in your class. Cut out each card, laminate them, hole punch each card, and attach to a ring. These cards can then be easily utilized throughout the year as a student response method to check for understanding.

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