Sunday, July 4, 2010

Time Out in a Responsive Classroom

The Responsive Classroom is an approach to elementary teaching that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community. The goal is to enable optimal student learning. Created by classroom teachers and backed by evidence from independent research, the Responsive Classroom approach is based on the premise that children learn best when they have both academic and social-emotional skills. The approach therefore consists of classroom and schoolwide practices for deliberately helping children build academic and social-emotional competencies.

Guiding Principles

Seven principles, informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of practicing classroom teachers, guide the Responsive Classroom approach: 

  • The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
  • How children learn is as important as what they learn: Process and content go hand in hand.
  • The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  • To be successful academically and socially, children need a set of social skills: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  • Knowing the children we teach-individually, culturally, and developmentally-is as important as knowing the content we teach.
  • Knowing the families of the children we teach and working with them as partners is essential to children's education.
  • How the adults at school work together is as important as their individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.
Since 1981, thousands of classroom teachers and hundreds of schools and school districts have used the Responsive Classroom approach to help create learning environments where children thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. In urban, rural, and suburban settings nationwide, educators using Responsive Classroom practices report increases in student learning, motivation, and responsibility, and decreases in problem behaviors.
Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, is the developer of the Responsive Classroom approach and offers professional development services and publications for educators.

Classroom Practices

At the heart of the Responsive Classroom approach are ten classroom practices:
Morning Meeting - gathering as a whole class each morning to greet one another, share news, and warm up for the day ahead
Rule Creation - helping students create classroom rules to ensure an environment that allows all class members to meet their learning goals
Interactive Modeling - teaching children to notice and internalize expected behaviors through a unique modeling technique
Positive Teacher Language - using words and tone as a tool to promote children's active learning, sense of community, and self-discipline
Logical Consequences - responding to misbehavior in a way that allows children to fix and learn from their mistakes while preserving their dignity
Guided Discovery - introducing classroom materials using a format that encourages independence, creativity, and responsibility
Academic Choice - increasing student learning by allowing students teacher-structured choices in their work
Classroom Organization - setting up the physical room in ways that encourage students' independence, cooperation, and productivity
Working with Families - creating avenues for hearing parents' insights and helping them understand the school's teaching approaches
Collaborative Problem Solving - using conferencing, role playing, and other strategies to resolve problems with students
"The Responsive Classroom approach provides prime evidence that social and emotional teaching strategies, when well constructed, lead to improved classroom behavior and academic growth."
Roger Weissberg, President, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and Professor of Psychology and Education, University of Illinois at Chicago

Schoolwide Practices

Schools implementing the Responsive Classroom approach schoolwide typically adopt the following practices:
Aligning policies and procedures with Responsive Classroom philosophy - making sure everything from the lunch routine to the discipline policy enhances the self-management skills that children are learning through the Responsive Classroom approach
Allocating resources to support Responsive Classroom implementation - using time, money, space, and personnel to support staff in learning and using the Responsive Classroom approach
Planning all-school activities to build a sense of community - giving all of the school's children and staff opportunities to learn about and from each other through activities such as all-school meetings, cross-age recess or lunch, buddy classrooms, and cross-age book clubs
Welcoming families and the community as partners - involving family and community members in the children's education by maintaining two-way communication, inviting parents and others to visit and volunteer, and offering family activities
Organizing the physical environment to set a tone of learning - making sure, for example, that schoolwide rules are posted prominently, displays emphasize student work, and all school spaces are welcoming, clean, and orderly

Want to know more? Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page, check out our online bookstore, or go to the Professional Development area to learn more about our services for elementary educators.


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