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Responsive Classroom Initiative

by Chris Clapper, Elementary Principal
Most of us can name a few teachers who were especially talented at connecting with students, keeping the classroom fun yet orderly, or making each lesson interesting enough that we actually paid attention.  Can the magic of those special teachers be captured and shared across an entire school?  Increasingly, educational researchers have found the keys to unlocking the secrets of these outstanding teachers, making their techniques available for all to use.  One tangible example of this science-based approach is our new Responsive Classroom program.
Responsive Classroom is a set of simple yet powerful techniques developed especially for elementary schools.  When used properly, it can encourage greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement and improved school climate.  The Responsive Classroom consists of a set of practices that build academic and social-emotional competencies.  These practices focus on four domains:  engaging academics, effective management, positive community and developmentally responsive teaching.  It has been recognized by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) as “one of the most well-designed, evidence-based social and emotional learning programs” (Adapted from the Responsive Classroom Course Resource Book and hand-outs, ©CRS2015)
Responsive Classroom’s Seven Guiding Principles
¨ For young children, the social and emotional curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
¨ How children learn is as important as what they learn.
¨ Even in the classroom, most cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
¨ To be successful academically and socially, children need to build social and emotional skills that include cooperation, assertiveness, 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 is as important as knowing the children we teach.
¨ How we, the adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence.  Lasting change begins with the adult community. (Responsive Classroom Course Resource Book page 2, ©2014)
Responsive Classroom is a general approach to education that incorporates both academics and socio-emotional skills.  Throughout each day, students and faculty at Emily Howland will experience interactions within the classroom that help to fortify those competencies.  Many of the Responsive Classroom practices are quite familiar to our Emily Howland school and might even remind you of your own time as a student:  Of course, many of our teachers already use some of or all of these techniques.  By employing them more constantly, we expect to see their successes multiply.  All Emily Howland faculty members will participate in a four-day training program designed to certify members in Responsive Classroom techniques.
Morning Meeting - gathering as a whole class each morning to greet one another, share news and warm up for the day ahead
Democratic 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
Academic Choice - increasing student learning by allowing students teacher-structured choices in their work
Interactive Learning Structures - strategies to facilitate “active” and “interactive” learning to engage learners
Energizers - short active and interactive activities, songs and chants to get children moving throughout the day and help them focus more clearly on their learning
Quiet Time - A simple transition time between active middle-of-day activities, like recess and lunch, and the afternoon learning day
Use of auditory and non-verbal signals - Responsive Classroom teachers and schools use quiet signals and others that are taught and practiced to assist in the effective management and climate of a school
Closing Circle - spending a few moments at the end of the day to reflect on lessons helps lock-in learning
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Patrick Jensen, Superintendent
2384 State Route 34B
Aurora, NY 13026