The typical American classroom has more or less been the same for decades. Also the same: persistent problems with behavior, discipline and learning. However, one innovative teaching method shows great promise in solving those problems.
The Responsive Classroom Method was built on the philosophy that “children do their best learning in a safe, challenging and joyful learning environment that’s designed to meet their developmental needs.” This approach takes into account how and why students learn. It is not just a disciplinary method. It is also a social and emotional learning program. There are four key practices involved in Responsive Classroom.
Daily Morning Meetings. In this meeting, students reset and ready themselves for school. In this way, students are more prepared to learn, no matter what is happening outside of school. Also, they connect with their classmates, which teaches them social skills. Therefore, they are prepared academically, mentally and emotionally to do their very best.
A Proactive Approach to Discipline. In the first weeks of school, the students create simple rules for the classroom. This gives them a sense of ownership of and responsibility for the rules. When a problem does arise, the teacher firmly but respectfully intervenes. The focus is not on punishment but on fixing the problem.
Positive Teacher Language. This involves letting the student know what they’re doing well without being manipulative. If the entire school has implemented Responsive Classroom, the language throughout the school is consistent. This way, no matter where they are, students hear the same language and expectations throughout the school.
Giving Students Choices in Their Learning. This doesn’t mean a choice between whether to learn or not but how they want to learn. One example is choosing between using insects, animals or buttons for learning how to count. Another is what resource the student wants to use to learn. For example, students can learn by drawing, using the Internet or making clay models. This caters to the individual student and the way they learn best.
But Does It Work?
One University of Virginia study found that using Responsive Classroom increased student engagement. It also improved their academic achievement and decreased discipline problems. Finally, it led to higher quality teaching.
Babs Freeman-Loftis, a consultant for Responsive Classroom, says that the method “reconnects teachers with why they went into teaching in the first place.” Other teachers and principals state that they are better able to teach and that they are more engaged with their students. Moreover, schools report that Responsive Classroom has decreased the incidents of disciplinary action from 12-15 per day to two or three.
By Jennie Tippett