Response chaining is quickly becoming a regularly used technique in my classroom…now that I know what it is! When I first began researching how to use questioning to increase response rates, many of the techniques were ones I already used with my students. These included wait time, calling on students randomly, and last’s week’s topic of paired response. However, response chaining was a new one for me. The great thing about response chaining is that it’s not difficult to learn and requires very little prep time for the teacher. Who wouldn’t love that?
Response chaining gets its name based on how student answers are linked – or chained – together in a series. This increases engagement because students must pay attention to the discussion to participate in the chain successfully. Here’s how it works:
- The teacher asks a question – this can be a question with a direct answer or one requiring an open-ended response.
- The teacher calls on one student to respond to the question.
- Following that response, the teacher calls on another student to respond to the first answer.
The Wow Factor
Okay, I admit, at first, this may leave you feeling a little underwhelmed. Response chaining gets its “wow factor” during step #3. If the question you asked requires a straightforward answer, then a student is asked to respond to the first student’s response in one of three ways – the answer was either correct, incorrect, or partially correct. If the answer is correct, ask the student to explain why it is correct. If the answer is incorrect, the student provides the correct answer and again explains why. And if the student responds that the answer is partially correct? You guessed it – they explain their reasoning. In the few weeks I’ve been using it with my 4th graders, I can tell the difference in the level of engagement during these response chaining sessions. Students must be 100% engaged in the lesson to respond. It’s also an excellent way for me to gauge their understanding of the content.
A Sample Conversation
Here’s what response chaining sounds like when I use it in my classroom…
Teacher: Is 15 a prime or composite number…Robert?
Robert: It’s a prime number.
Teacher: Is his answer correct, Ashley?
Teacher: Ashley, please explain why Robert’s answer is not correct.
Ashley: 15 has 1, 3, 5, and 15 as its factors. Prime numbers only have one and the number itself as their factors. 15 is a composite number.
Response chaining can also be used with more open-ended types of questions. It does require a slight variation on the wording of your questions, however. First, have students paraphrase the initial response and include it in their response. Then, instead of stating whether an answer is correct/incorrect/partial, students would say whether they agree, disagree, or partially agree with the answer as well as their reasons.
One benefit to response chaining that I wasn’t expecting was how it allowed me to understand better the misconceptions my students had about a topic. For example, I once had a student explain that there could only be two factors in an equation in her response. Therefore, when I asked her to identify the factors in 3 x 5 x 2, she was stumped. It never occurred to me that students would make this erroneous conclusion before this lesson! I was quickly able to clear up any confusion and correct her thinking.