This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a Responsive Classroom Course for Elementary Educators. I was introduced to Responsive Classroom in college as part of my elementary educator training, but it was wonderful (as always) to engage with other teachers and have some valuable review and even more important reminders.
Some things I took away and am still thinking about are:
Yardsticks (Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4-14) by Chip Wood: I love this resource! We give out the 3rd grade related pamphlets to families at back to school night, and the book is a great gift for new parents (of 4 year olds and up). Asking what is developmentally appropriate for a specific age is always a good question and a great place to start. This information is so valuable for so many reasons. If something in your class isn’t going well or your students aren’t responding favorably to something, it may be due to where they are developmentally.
I love Quiet Time! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Responsive Classroom, Quiet Time is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a serene 10-15 minutes in the middle of the day (often after lunch or recess) to give students time to transition back into the classroom calmly. I’m thinking about how to incorporate this into my classroom. There’s never enough time, but that is true for everything. I brainstormed with some other 3rd grade teachers about some additional ways to have student choice in my instruction and thought about how Morning Work (what students work on after they arrive while we are waiting for everyone else to arrive) is always a difficult balance for me. It’s hard to find something meaningful that won’t take too long (since many students only have a few minutes to work on it), but that isn’t too meaningful since many students arrive right before we move on (or are late) and won’t be able to do the Morning Work! I wonder if having Quiet Time instead of Morning Work is feasible (and okay with my new co-teacher), and could be a useful re-framing. The transition to school can also be tumultuous for students. Stay tuned.. hopefully I will be able to try this out this school year!
I really appreciated the reminders about proactive versus reactive discipline. It also goes along with the fact that if students don’t have their needs for belonging, significance, and fun met then they’ll seek to fill these needs in other ways (often by acting out). Also, educators cannot be reminded enough: social interaction leads to cognitive growth! An essential function of school is socialization which entails learning important life skills. I’m so glad I’m starting the 2018-19 school year with the reminder to (always) let my students talk to each other and learn through interaction.
The Responsive Classroom approach is researched based. Hopefully, you will never feel as if you have to justify the time you spend on teaching kids vital social skills (and making sure they feel safe and accepted!). However, if you do (and I have been in that position in the past), remember there is research behind these important practices that show how crucial they are to student success and well-being.
Here’s to giving students the structure, support, and validation they need in the new school year!
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