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Thoughts about Responsive Classroom

April 25, 2016

Tomorrow, I am interviewing at a school where the Responsive Classroom approach is the cornerstone of their academic program.  I’ve worked in schools with Responsive Classrooms, and I thought I would spend a little time reviewing the RCA’s website to learn more about the program that I have heard so many accolades about in the past.

Here’s what I learned/was reminded about:

The approach is based on the premise that “how children learn is just as, or perhaps more, important as what they learn, and that academic success is inextricably tied to building social-emotional competencies.”  It’s really about creating an environment that leads to solid learning and good teaching.  As one teacher put it, “I know the Responsive Classroom works because I know that anybody performs to the fullest of their potential when they are in a supportive, engaging environment where they matter.

The research claims that the implementation of the Responsive Classroom approach will give students the social skills so that:

  1. Learning will improve in both reading and math; students will be more engaged in all subjects
  2. The climate of the school will improve by decreasing poor student behavior
    1. Improve students’ work ethics
    2. Decrease acting out due to academic frustration
  3. Lead teachers to improve the quality of their instruction and strengthen relationships between teachers and students   

Key Practices

  1. Daily Morning Meeting
    1. A time to prep for the day ahead
    2. Connect as a community
      1. Build relationships
    3. Begin day on a positive note
    4. Cultivate and strengthen students’ interpersonal skills
      1. It’s proactive in nature
  2. Proactive approach to discipline
    1. Based on calm, safe school environment
    2. Reduces time spent on discipline and increases time on task
      1. Six weeks of instruction to get the year off right
    3. Rules are created by the students themselves with logical consequences
    4. Punishment is not reactive
      1. Proactive behavior by teachers and students
  3. Positive teacher language
    1. “It’s all about our language” and focuses on positive vision
    2. Common language between homeroom and specials
  4. Interactive instruction through student choice
    1. Multimodal instruction
    2. Empowers students by letting them make their own choices

“What Responsive Classroom does is gives kids the grounding to be a productive and successful member of a classroom community so that they can more successfully engage academically.”  The goal here is to provide a foundation for good learning and teaching.

The Responsive Classroom is more than an approach to discipline for the classroom.  It benefits students outside of the classroom as well.  Since they feel better about themselves, they have more empathy and treat others more respectfully.  Students know that teachers know and trust them, and, as a result, students feel respected.

Some key words:

  • Community
  • Respect
  • Skill-based
  • Student-centered
  • Safe

While I have never had any formal RC training, so much of what I do as a educator is based upon the tenets of the program.  For me, it is all about building positive and respectful relationships with and between students to move closer to the ultimate goal of having 100% of the students learning 100% of the material.  Setting the tone with a morning meeting has been something I have practiced since my student days at Oak Grove-Coburn School because I know personally how important it is for students to get off to a good start.  My goal of having students feel known is a major part of this program largely because respect is reciprocal; when students feel respected, they tend to respect other students, teachers, and themselves more.  Perhaps most importantly, student choice is a central component of the program, and I believe it’s vital because it allows for students to use their strengths to learn the material.  When there is only one way of doing something in the classroom, there are students who miss out by not being able to use their strongest learning modalities.

I’m really looking forward to seeing RA in action tomorrow, yet I’m wondering what you all think of the Responsive Classroom approach.  If you’ve used it in your classroom, how has it helped you become a better teacher and improved the experience for your students?




From → Great Ideas, Pedagogy

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