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Responsive Classroom ®  (An approach to Classroom Management)

Grade level: K – 5

Promising Approaches:

Student Participation in Governance

Special Features
Civic Learning Goals
Evaluation Studies
Required Resources
Available Resources
Professional Development Opportunities
Snapshots of Practice in Action
Contact Information


The Responsive Classroom ® approach was created by classroom teachers at the Northeast Foundation for Children (NEFC) as a way to bring together social and academic learning throughout the school day.  It provides teachers with strategies and resources to create a classroom environment where students can thrive emotionally, socially, and academically.

The 7 Guiding Principles of Responsive Classroom ® are:

  1. The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
  2. How children learn is as important as what they learn: process and content go hand in hand.
  3. The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. There is a set of social skills children need in order to be successful academically and socially: cooperation, assertion, 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 and working with them as partners is essential to children's education.
  7. How the adults at school worktogether is as important as individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.

Special Features

The Responsive Classroom ® approach includes six key features which are outlined below. 

Morning Meeting:  Daily meetings where children greet one another, have an opportunity to share something important in their lives, participate in an academic related activity, and read the News & Announcements together.  It fosters a sense of belonging and helps to set the tone for the day.

Rules & Logical Consequences:  The rules are created together as a class at the beginning of the year. There are consistent and clear and logical consequences that help to foster responsibility and self-control.  The three types of logical consequences are:  Abuse it, you lose it loss of privilege), Break it you fix it (includes feelings too which could mean an apology of action), and Time Out.

Guided Discovery:  A format for introducing materials where students create rules and expectations.  A guided discovery gives every student the opportunity to explore the material and it heightens their interest in it as well.

Academic Choice:  An approach to academics that gives students choice in their learning which creates student motivation, interest, and self-directed learning.

Classroom Organization:  There are specific strategies for organizing a classroom to create a learning environment that promotes independences and maximizes learning.  Many responsive classroom teachers do not have a “teacher desk” because they realize that they rarely sit down at it.  The space could better be used for something else. 

Working with FamiliesResponsive Classroom® offers many strategies to help promote parents as partners in their child’s education.

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved in the civic life of the community

Evaluation Studies

The few studies that have been done on the effectiveness of Responsive Classroom ® show those teachers who use Responsive Classroom® feel more effective in their approach to discipline and feel more positive about teaching than teachers who do not use this approach.  Other studies have found a correlation between improved social skills and students’ performance on standardized tests. 

These studies are discussed at

Required Resources

There is nothing that is required per se, but teachers need an overall knowledge of the guiding principles and the language of Responsive Classroom.  They can get that through books, observations, and workshops.

Available Resources

In order to begin implementing portions of Responsive Classroom, teachers should attend a one day workship at the minimum.  There are many published resources that discuss the elements of Responsive classroom that are essential as well.  “Teaching Children To  Care,” by Ruth Charney, is the core book. Many others  are offered at, such as:

The Morning Meeting Book; Classroom Spaces That Work; and Rules & Logical Consequences

Professional Development Opportunities

NEFC runs a variety of professional development opportunities. These include: one-day workshops, week-long institutes, on-site workshops and institutes, and teacher certification. More information is available at

Snapshot of the Practice in Action

Amber Gervais, 3rd Grade Teacher, Woodside Elementary: Since our school has embraced Responsive Classroom, particularly daily morning meetings, there has been a decrease in behavior referrals to the office.  Students are much more calm and able to handle problems that come their way.  Most classrooms, from K-5 practice a daily morning meeting in which students are greeted, feel welcomed, and feel safe in their environment.  As Responsive Classroom language continues to trickle throughout the school, the consistency is helping them to better understand it.  Students use phrases such as, "an apology of action," when their feelings were hurt and they want someone to fix them. Logical consequences are seen throughout the school. When a child breaks a rule that they clearly had been taught, they know that the consequence is going to fit. The process makes so much more sense to them. They are less apt to repeat the behavior.

Contact Information

Amber Gervais
Woodside Elementary
42 Barrows Dr
Topsham, ME  04086

Responsive Classroom
85 Avenue A, Suite 204
P.O. Box 718
Turners Falls, MA 01376-0718
Fax 877-206-3952

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