What is the Responsive Classroom approach?
It is a way of teaching that creates a safe, challenging, and joyful classroom and schoolwide
climate for all children. Teachers who use the Responsive Classroom approach understand
that all of children’s needs—academic, social, emotional, and physical—are important.
The teacher creates an environment that responds to all of those needs so that your child
can do his or her best learning.
Children learn best when they have strong academic and social-emotional skills. That’s why
teachers using the Responsive Classroom approach focus on teaching all the skills needed for
academic excellence. They teach children reading, writing, and math skills and also teach
them how to take turns, listen respectfully, and work effectively with a partner or group.
Teachers also think carefully about everything from classroom setup to how they speak
to their students. All these things put together determine how well children learn.
How might the Responsive Classroom approach
look and sound in my child’s classroom?
The Responsive Classroom approach offers practical strategies for teaching, rather than formulas
telling teachers what they must do in the classroom. Teachers adapt the strategies as needed
to address their students’ needs, so things may look a bit different in each classroom. But
you’ll usually see and hear teachers:
- Leading daily Morning Meetings. Sitting together in a circle so that everyone can see
and be seen by everyone else, teachers and children greet one another; share news about
themselves; do a quick, fun activity together; and read a message written by the teacher.
This daily 20- to 30-minute routine sets a positive tone for the day and builds a sense of belonging while giving students practice in key academic and social skills.
- Teaching children the specific skills they need to participate successfully, from how
to respond to a signal for quiet to how to respectfully disagree with a classmate.
- Treating mistakes in a positive way. Teachers see mistakes (in academics and in behav-
ior) as important steps in learning. They encourage children to learn from their mistakes
and “try again.” They offer support and reteach as needed. At the same time, teachers
provide clear expectations for behavior and stop misbehavior quickly so that students
can focus on learning.
- Using positive language. Teachers choose words and tone that encourage children to
work hard and enjoy learning.
- Teaching in ways that build excitement about learning. Teachers give children some
choices in their learning (“You may paint or write to show what you’ve learned about
insects”). They also plan some active lessons (ones that get children up and moving) and interactive lessons (ones that encourage children to share their information, ideas,
- Giving children opportunities to reflect on their learning. Teachers ask children to
think about what they’ve learned, both individually and as a group, because doing so
helps children learn more and builds community.
- Reaching out to parents. Teachers communicate often with parents and welcome them
as partners in their child’s education.