How to Set Up a Responsive Classroom

  • Classroom Tips
  • Social Emotional
Amy Dempster


Excerpted from our newsletter: Carroll Connection, Winter 2017. In this edition, we highlighted 4 key belief statements that came from our all-staff meeting held prior to the 2016-17 school year. Read the full edition.

BELIEF STATEMENT #1: We believe that our commitment to a child’s healthy social and emotional well-being goes hand-in-hand with academic success. We strive to create an environment where students feel safe, valued, connected, and secure, empowering them to take risks and become confident independent members of our community. Read our belief statements.

Lower School teachers are buzzing about Responsive Classroom this year. Maybe you’ve heard? Now in its fourth year at Carroll, Responsive Classroom (RC, for short) is an approach to teaching children that employs the idea that healthy, happy, and socially- and emotionally-secure students are stronger academic learners.

The foundational belief of RC is that all children can learn if they feel connected and significant, feel like they belong, and are having fun. Like Orton-Gillingham, the guiding principles of RC align with Carroll’s approach to teaching:

  • The social and emotional curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
  • How children learn is as important as what they learn.
  • Cognitive growth occurs through positive social interaction.
  • To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn a set of social and emotional skills: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  • Knowing the students - individually, culturally, and developmentally - is as important as knowing the curriculum.
  • Likewise, knowing the students’ families is essential.
  • Working together as teachers is as important as individual competence.

Where can you see Responsive Classroom in action at in the Lower School? Just about everywhere.

Starting with the morning meeting, teachers facilitate a morning message, a greeting, and an activity that provides a “warm up” for the day ahead and also reinforces work happening in the classrooms. Using a positive tone, the aim is social and academic preparedness.

In each classroom, teachers set realistic and age-appropriate expectations guided by the Responsive Classroom approach. To do this, teachers first help students articulate their hopes and dreams for the school year by sharing their personal goals. Those goals are turned into 3-5 specific rules that help class members to achieve their hopes and dreams. Unlike typical “don’t do this” rules, Responsive Classroom rules use positive language.

Throughout each lesson, you can find RC spilling from teachers’ lips in their carefully-chosen language that emphasizes and names positive behavior - encouraging students’ choices rather than praising them. You’ll also see interactive modeling and reflection to help guide students towards self-control strategies, such as taking breaks when needed, deep breathing, and positive self-talk.

So how is it going? Let’s go right to the source and hear from the students:

“I love doing morning meeting in our room because we get to know each other and play together.” - Andrew

“I like doing the greeting because we get to say hi to each other every day.” - Eliza

  • Classroom Tips
  • Curriculum
  • Social Emotional



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