Thursday, October 13, 2016

So, what is Responsive Classroom?

There is nothing better than watching your kids do something.  It can be anything: competing in a game, playing an instrument, calculating a math problem, making a new friend, or even just watching them fast asleep, lost in a dream.  So, it’s only natural that you’d be curious, maybe even a little anxious about what is happening during their day at school, when you can’t watch them. Let me try to help you understand some of what goes on during our student’s day.
While each teacher has a different style, and each kid has a different experience based on grade and personal strengths, there is one common denominator.  At St. Francis, each classroom practices the philosophical principles of a program called Responsive Classroom.
So, what is Responsive Classroom?  There are four main ideas that make up Responsive Classroom. They are:

engaging academics

positive community

effective management

developmental awareness 

Very simply, teachers believe in creating a safe, nurturing environment where students have ownership, feel confident to take academic risks, and are able to focus on learning that is developmentally appropriate, challenging, and connected to student’s interests.
It sounds great, right?!  But how do classrooms actually put this philosophy into practice?  Every morning, students from PreK-8 begin their day with a morning meeting.  Morning meeting involves a note from the teacher to the students about the day.  The note might be funny, it might include information about something special happening that day, or it may simply welcome students to the classroom.  

Following the message, students participate in a morning greeting.  Sometimes the greeting is in the form of a handshake, a high five, or a peace sign, but regardless, each student is greeted every morning by a peer.  There is a chance for sharing, and finally a fun group activity.  It’s a chance to feel they belong to a group and to prepare for the tasks ahead.

Let me offer a concrete example from our class.  We call it CPR – Circle of Power and Respect.  Every student comes to the circle as an equal with the power to say what’s on his or her mind and is given the respect that each of us deserves.  We acknowledge our successes and take time to discuss challenges and concerns.  We have a share schedule where each student gets a chance to share what’s going on in their life.  We often have rousing activities that, at the very least, put a smile on every one of our faces!  It’s a pretty great way to spend the first 20-30 minutes of the day!

So, when you pick your student up from school today ask some pointed questions: what was your class greeting today, what did your teacher write about for morning message, or even, what are some of the class rules you helped create?   You may be pleasantly surprised by the conversation that ensues, and the picture in your head that is painted of their day.  

This blog, of course, only offers a snapshot of what Responsive Classroom is.  I encourage you to check out the link below that I referenced for this post.  It offers a much more in depth look at the philosophy, helping you to understand what is happening in our classrooms.

Middle School Teacher

Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character
Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!

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