4 Ways to Use Open Response

Open response is when you ask a student a question that does not have a simple yes or no answer. Open response questions can be used in any classroom setting and are beneficial for multiple reasons.

Because open response questions don’t have one set answer, a child’s response can vary greatly. This is what makes this strategy so fun and engaging!

Asking students open ended, or open response, questions also helps them to approach, plan, carry out and extend upon their own ideas. It helps to expand and enrich a students cognitive, creative and language development too. So many benefits in one simple strategy.

Here are 4 ways to do this in your special education classroom.

4 Ways to Use Open Response in the Classroom

1. To Collect Data

As special education teachers, we are always collecting data on IEP goals and for baseline. Open response is a great way to gauge a student’s knowledge on a topic, while still guiding them and providing supports.

You can also pair open response questions with sentence stems as needed.

2. To Practice Communication + Social Skills

Open response is a great way to practice social skills, communicating, and those functional life skills. You can provide the student with a scenario and then ask:

What would you do if…
What would happen when…
How would you…
What if…
Why do you think…
How do you know…
What can you do about…

3. Asking Questions About Prior Knowledge OR to Keep Students Engaged

If you’re unsure of what a student knows about a topic, ask!

Or if you notice that a student may not be paying attention, ask an open response question as a quick re-engagement strategy. Asking questions throughout the learning process allows students to express their ideas and opinions and share their reasoning and thought process.

4. Challenge a Student’s Thinking

Questioning is natural, or it should be. That’s how we learn more about the world around us. Which makes open response a great way to challenge a student’s thinking (in a non-biased way). You can ask questions to:

  • Assess feelings
  • Solve problems
  • Consider consequences
  • Determine preferences
  • Evaluate situations
  • Discover other perspectives

How to Use Open Response in a Special Ed Classroom

As a special education teacher, you are aware how differing one student is to the next, not just in levels of supports, but also levels of need, instruction, and ability. So how can you use this strategy in the classroom, and adapt it to fit the needs of all of your students? Here are a few ideas:

  • Allow students to respond in a variety of ways. Technology may be your best friend here. Instead of writing on a piece of paper, students can verbally respond, type out a response, use an AAC device or core board, draw a response, highlight a response… so many options!
  • Give the student time to respond.

Have you ever used open response in your classroom? Tell us in the comments below!


I'm a special education teacher, presenter, curriculum writer, and educational blogger behind Mrs. D's Corner.