Seven guiding 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.
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
School-wide, we 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 school-wide rules are posted prominently, displays emphasize student work, and all school spaces are welcoming, clean, and orderly
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