More Than Academics: The Responsive Classroom Approach

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend the responsive classroom training in New York and it truly challenged me as a teacher. It was a huge shift for me, and not to say I hadn’t been doing some of the things that they shared about, but it really gave me practical ways to implement what I believed as an educator. The principles of the responsive classroom approach really resonated with my core beliefs as an educator. These are beliefs that I’ve held onto as an educator, but at times, I didn’t have the strategies to put them into action.
Here are the guiding principles of the responsive classroom approach, taken from their webpage.

The Responsive Classroom approach is informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers. Seven principles guide this approach:

  1. The social and emotional curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
  2. How children learn is as important as what they learn.
  3. Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn a set of social and emotional skills: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  5. Knowing the children we teach—individually, culturally, and developmentally—is as important as knowing the content we teach.
  6. Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach.
  7. How we, the adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.

The importance of the social and emotional curriculum is something I believe in strongly, but at times, I was at a loss of how to integrate that successfully with all the demands of the academic curriculum. This year, I’ve been able to integrate more of the social and emotional curriculum through some of the key practices of the responsive classroom. It is still a struggle to have enough time, but despite our tight schedule I manage to fit in time for the different practices:

1. Morning meeting- 15 minutes daily

  • Greeting- Every morning we sit in a circle on our rug and we do a greeting.
  • Sharing and/or Group Activity (Usually it’s hard to do both because of our short time.)
  • Reading the morning message letter- I hand write this out on chart paper everyday. I usually try to preview content for the day or make curriculum connections. Two great resources for ideas are:

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2. Closing circle- 10 minutes daily

  • Reflection- I usually give a sentence starter like:
  • One new thing I learned today…
  • One thing that made me smile today…
  • Now I understand more about…
  • I want to learn more about…
  • My highlight of the day was…
  • One thing I’m looking forward to is…
  • Group Activity- We do an energizer like different cheers. If we have more time, we will play a quick group game like coseeki or concentration.

3. Establishing rules- First few weeks of school

I’ve created rules with my students in the beginning of the year before going to the responsive classroom training. However, the responsive classroom training approach really emphasizes explicit teaching and modeling of rules and giving logical consequences. All the time we spend during the first few weeks really does pay off.

4. Quiet time- 15 minutes daily

Quiet time is probably one of my favorite practices I’ve put into my daily routine. This is a quiet independent work time right after lunch/recess. It’s a way to transition into the afternoon and allow students to calm down after recess. The students LOVE this time and they do some pretty amazing things! I have a bunch of students that take this time to work on independent writing projects, where they collaborate with classmates and come up with their own story together. Students can work on different things during this time. It’s a great way to foster independence and responsibility.  As a teacher, I can meet with students independently and help students with extra help.

5. Energizers- This is one thing I was much better with in the beginning of the year. Usually after students come back from specials we would have energizers. They are quick songs, cheers, games, that allow students to be active and move around.

Another big way that the responsive classroom approach has changed my class has been getting rid of reward systems. This was something that I felt strongly about as an educator, that we shouldn’t be rewarding students for good behavior with points, stars, treats, etc…We should encourage students to behave well and do their best because of their intrinsic motivation. I kind of went back and forth in the classroom and at times went to having extrinsic rewards like table points for tables that got quiet or ready first. I did class dojo points for a year and didn’t find it very effective. And now, I’ve gotten rid of all of that and my class is still on task and well behaved.

Responsive classroom has given me the strategies and tools to help me realize that it’s possible to have a smooth running classroom without dangling a carrot on a stick  in front of my students. If you are interested in getting training for responsive classroom, it is totally worth it! It was seriously the best professional development I’ve had in a long time. They have trainings in the summer and throughout the year. Check it out here:  And no, I am not sponsored by responsive classroom in anyway… 🙂

Does anyone else use the responsive classroom approach in their classroom?

What are some of the successes/challenges you’ve had?



Last Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas!

As a teacher, Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. It’s true. I LOVE IT.

This year I had my Kindies cut out hearts (making the hearts from the heart shape in Word) and I asked them a simple question, “What is love?” I told them to write “Love is …” In the middle of their hearts and then color it. I tried very, very hard not to lead my students. We talked about the word love and the different kind of love you can feel. Love for your parents, your brother or sister, your classmates, your teacher, and so on and so forth. But I really didn’t want to give them examples because I wanted to see what they wrote.

Some of my favorites (though all of them were my favorites really):

“Love is my mom’s love.”

“Love is fish and cake.”

“Love is good.”

“Love is friends.”

“Love is hearts.”

And one student said, “Love is BCC [name of our school], KTX, and Frozen.” The KTX is our speed train here in Korea. You can go from Seoul down to Busan in three hours. I also think Love Is KTX. And another thing, Frozen is SO WILDLY POPULAR here in Korea. My students have seen it up to 6 times in the theater.

Here is a picture of our final board:

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Don’t make fun of the background and border of my bulletin board! You work with what you have when you don’t have a Teacher’s Center around the corner/around the nation.

Another idea I found that I am having the entire elementary class do this Valentine’s Day is a project called “Inchies” though I made my squares 2″ by 2″. I found the idea on That Artist Woman and I LOVE IT.  Check out the link.

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?



When I am more prepared.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

My students know what they are expected to do.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

My students are NOT as crazy, and my classroom management works SO much better.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

My students are given different ways to learn the same concepts and ideas.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

I am more patient with my students.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

I am a happier teacher, and therefore I have happier students.

Just a little post to remind myself, and all of us, to be prepared for each and every lesson. Teaching is my passion, and that often means putting in more hours than the eight to five allotted time slot. But if it means I do my job better… I am going to do it!

What do you do to help yourself be prepared? I remember Jee Young mentioning once that she tries to start her lesson planning for the next week by the Tuesday before. We know in elementary especially that our lesson plans need to be flexible, and can usually change as we are teaching them… so it’s hard to plan multiple weeks at a time, once lesson may take two lessons. Two lessons might be finished in one. What I am trying to say is that I need to make it a goal to try to start lesson planning by tomorrow or Wednesday for next week! I can do it.

Goals are good. Students have goals. Teachers need goals as well. What are some of your goals this year?


Does this photo have anything to do with this post? No. But I LOVE all the owl things I found at the Teacher Center store over the summer. I felt very clever when I designed my door this year. “Whoooooo’s in Kindergarten with Ms. Welton?” All the name tags for EVERYTHING are owls. Those owls are so wise.


Let Your Students Inspire You

Something new I am trying to do this semester is to not teach as much. Hmm. Does that sound bad? As a teacher it’s in my blood to correct every mistake, or tell them my knowledge about a certain subject. Obviously, students need to understand and know math concepts, and how to read and write, etc. But I feel like there are so many things I tell them, that are my truths. They could be real and all, but my students might find a better way to explain it or think about it.

I heard a story once (I have no idea from whom, or if it is even true, but it as stuck with me for years) that the man who invented the door to washing machines sat on his floor and thought forever about how a penguin would open a door, and that was how he came up with the handle.

Do I ever give my students the time to sit and think about how penguins open doors?

I am not sure if you have guessed by now, reading this blog by Jee Young and I— but everything we do is inspired by our faith in God. My church here in Seoul has a theme for every year. 2013 is the year of Inspiration. I am realizing this is seeping into my teaching life as well. I want to inspire my children, and I often realizing that they inspire me more. The ideas they think of, the solutions they come up with- they are usually pretty brilliant.

I am learning not to shut them down even if they don’t give what I think is the right answer. Instead of telling them the “right” thing, I am asking them how they came up with their ideas. I still correct them, and I correct them often, but this is a start.

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My students inspire me every day.

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