Good morning, class! Welcome to the Responsive Classroom!
The Responsive Classroom theory is a deliberate mixture of social and academic learning. Theorists believe that the curriculum should include social skills that are modeled and practiced by both the teacher and the students together “creating a caring classroom environment.” Strategies are used to transition the students from home into the social atmosphere of school that improves not only academics but also student behavior.
Elements that enhance learning in the RC start with a morning meeting, each student being greeted by the teacher and by peers. Here students unwind and become focused for learning. The meeting also includes a sharing time with question and answers, encouraging student conversation. News and announcements are also included in the meeting. The teacher could post on a board a prompt for the theme of the day’s lessons.
The beginning of the school year would involve students working with the teacher to establish rules and consequences. The teacher would ask what the individual student’s “hopes and dreams” are for the year and would evolve them into the group’s ideas deciding how to best accomplish them.
Teacher would have to focus more on encouraging the learning process of the student rather than praising the end product (“a shift in language”).
The RC teacher is guided by 7 principals, they are, “1) equal emphasis on the social and academic curriculum; 2) focus on how children learn as much as what they learn; 3) the view that social interaction facilitates cognitive growth; 4) emphasis on cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control as critical social skills for children to learn; 5) focus on knowing the children individually, culturally, and developmentally; 6) emphasis on knowing the families of children, and 7) viewing the working relationships among adults at the schools as critically important (Northeast Foundation for Children [NEFC], 2003).”
The Responsive Classroom web-site also includes a closing circle time, wrapping up the day and creating another smooth transition, from school to home.
Certain studies showed the RC effectiveness on proficiency of standardized test, in accordance with the NCLB act. Besides academic growth, studies further indicate improved relationships between teacher/student and student/student and positive behaviors in the learning environment.
As Bobby Riley points out (The Library Media Center and Responsive Classroom Practices), the RC can be brought into the library as a continuation of the classroom in several ways. The librarian should greet the children and join in a meeting circle of specified place – story corner for example, create an announcement board to get the students prepared for the lesson and create a “smooth transition” to the library.
Rules from the classroom should follow students to the library (Riley refers to these as “traveling rules”.) These should be discussed and students should understand that they are no different from the library rules.
Children’s hopes and dreams could also be incorporated. Riley suggests finding a way to foster these into the library discussion, focusing on how the library can help accomplish them.
In addition to benefitting the school library, the RC approach can work towards improving literacy in the classroom. McTigue and Rimm-Kaufman’s article, “The Responsive Classroom Approach and Its Implications for Improving Reading and Writing,” focuses on a three year study of the RC approach to learning. This study found “teachers’ use of RC practices contributed to better academic performance and social behavior as well as children’s positive perception of school” (2011). Findings concluded that the RC approach led to higher reading and math scores. This article also emphasizes the importance of the “Morning Meeting,” which helps prepare students for the day and provides them with a positive outlook, which can result in an efficient classroom. Sample lesson plans with RC activities are also included in this journal article.
Teachers working together in order to provide students with a constructive learning environment is the focus of the article “Teacher Collaboration in the Context of the Responsive Classroom Approach.” This study examined teacher collaboration amongst elementary school teachers in urban school districts. Findings showed the schools that focused on the RC approach tended to have more teacher collaboration occurring than the traditional setting. Network meetings, held three to four times a year, helped RC schools implement collaboration. “The underlying goal of these RC school-wide practices is for teachers to learn teaching is a collective, not an individualistic, enterprise” (2007).
The following video highlights the Responsive Classroom approach to student learning. This YouTube video, created by the Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc., interviews teachers about how they use the RC approach in their classrooms, along with the benefits to this style of learning. Setting a positive tone for the classroom can go a long way!
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