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Responsive Classroom in a Multilingual Environment

Elodie Resurreccion & Emily Kaltenbach
“Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching and learning for kindergarten through eighth grade that focuses on the strong link between academic success and social-emotional skills. The Center for Responsive Schools believes that a high-quality education for every student is built on the foundation of a safe, strong, and joyful school community. The Responsive Classroom approach is grounded in a core belief and six guiding principles, which form the foundation for a wide range of practices that help students develop the academic and social-emotional skills they need for success. These practices become a part of everyday classroom life and help educators integrate the four domains of the approach: positive community, engaging academics, effective management, and developmentally responsive teaching.”1
1. What is it?

Independent research has found that the Responsive Classroom approach is associated with higher academic achievement in math and reading, improved school climate, and higher-quality instruction. For more information about this research, please visit www.responsiveclassroom.org/about/research/.

2. Why does EB use it?

At EB, we agree with the core belief of Responsive Classroom: “In order to be successful in and out of school, students need to learn a set of social and emotional competencies - cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control - and a set of academic competencies-  academic mindset, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors.“

We also believe in Responsive Classroom’s Guiding Principles:
  1. Teaching social and emotional skills is as important as teaching academic content.
  2. How we teach is as important as what we teach.
  3. Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. How we work together as adults to create a safe, joyful, and inclusive school environment is as important as our individual contribution or competence.
  5. What we know and believe about our students - individually, culturally, and developmentally - informs our expectations, reactions, and attitudes about those students.
  6. Partnering with families - knowing them and valuing their contributions - is as important as knowing the children we teach.2

3. How EB Integrates Responsive Classroom

The Responsive Classroom consists of a set of practices that builds academic and social-emotional competencies that align with our approach at EB. Since 2008, we have been using a bilingual program from TPS to 5th grade called Vers le Pacifique. Through this program, our students learn life skills such as empathy, responsibility, cooperation, self-control, and self-esteem. However, we also believe that academic skills like an academic mindset, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behavior are important for the success of our children. EB uses the French National and Common Core State Standards as academic guideposts for our curriculum.

Teachers and educators at EB value other educational concepts and methods, such as Non-Violent Communication (Marshall Rosenberg), Positive Discipline (Jane Nelsen), and Universal Design for Learning (CAST). These programs combine the importance of educating the whole child so everyone has the means to succeed. Responsive Classroom uses these important principles within a common structure. 

This harmonization allows students to go confidently from one teacher to another because the routines remain the same. For example, when students start their day, they can always expect a Morning Meeting regardless of which teacher (French or English) they might have that morning. These routines and rituals provide stability and predictability, allowing a stress-free moment for children, especially our youngest students. 

This structure also allows children to comfortably transfer from one grade to the next because they are already familiar with the routine and expectations. The environment might differ as they age, but the general classroom norms, teaching practices, and discipline framework stay the same.

With Responsive Classroom, we focus on the proactive side of behavior instead of reacting to inappropriate behaviors. This form of Positive Discipline helps students reflect on why some behaviors are necessary for our learning community and how their actions affect others.

4. Ongoing Implementation in the Classroom

Responsive Classroom is a pedagogical methodology our teachers utilize and refine daily. Many practices involve familiar techniques, such as circle time or class meetings. Before this implementation, teachers were already doing morning circle times in conjunction with methods from Restorative Justice (SEEDS). 

Morning Meetings are a powerful way for children to start each day on a positive note and have four sequential components: greeting, sharing, group activity, and Morning Message. First, everyone gathers in a circle for 20 to 30 minutes. Children and adults greet each other, share news, do an academic activity together, and read a message from the teacher. Sharing individual stories and personal interests during this time helps everyone get to know each other on a deeper level. In turn, the class develops a feeling of belonging and care for each other. Creating a sense of community is the foundation that will allow them to build strong academics and self-esteem. Morning Meetings give a consistent time and place every day to explore and practice social skills by merging social, emotional, and academic learning.

Here are some examples of the Morning Meetings happening in classrooms from TPS to G8: 

  • In TPS, students sit in a circle with Kathryn, their English teacher. They have pictures of themselves on the carpet to help them remember where to sit. It is a routine that the French and English teachers consistently follow so that students always know where to be when they meet with their teacher.

  • In Kindergarten, Karine (French teacher), Andrea (English teacher), Jessica (teacher assistant), and their students put one of their shoes in the middle of the circle. One at a time, they come up to pick one shoe from the middle and give it back to its owner, saying, “Good morning/ Bonjour [student name].” Then the student who received their missing shoe is the one who takes the next shoe from the middle, and so on.

    Some Morning Meetings occur during co-teaching time, so the teachers write a bilingual Morning Message in French and English together.

  • In G2, Emma and her students say good morning to one other during their Morning Meeting / le rendez-vous du matin. One student will greet the neighbor on their left and say hello in a world language of their choice. The class has learned many ways to say hello since the beginning of the school year. The student responds and continues greeting the next neighbor until the whole circle is complete. Then, students share what they plan to do during Fall Break by using the sentence starter: “During the vacation, I will … / I think that …” Circle time ends after singing a song called “The Witch’s Soup” and reading the Morning Message.

  • In G5 English and French, Luc and Marion use their Morning Meeting to discuss the upcoming speeches to become class representatives. They are taking time to discuss the appropriate behavior as a listener as they select their classmates for this role.

    Each teacher’s Morning Message is written on the board for each child to read as they arrive and get ready to listen in the circle.

  • At the Middle School, Advisory is a dedicated weekly time to build community, address any school wide climate issues, practice or review academics, or even work on a service project. Responsive Classroom’s Advisory Meeting consists of four components:

    Welcome - Announcements - Acknowledgments - Activity

    During the first month of school, Advisory focused mainly on the concept of Citizenship and associated skills. Moving forward, it cycles between themes on Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Justice (DEIJ), as well as time for academic support.

    One recent activity in Advisory highlighted the value of effective communication and how to be a contributor towards solutions. In small groups, only one student was allowed to see a model Lego sculpture. They needed to communicate important details to their group on how to assemble it. The other group members asked prompting questions to ensure they built it correctly. 
Morning Meetings are just one core practice among many. Some practices are used at both elementary and middle school levels including teacher language, interactive modeling, logical consequences, community building, and interactive learning structures. 

We can see that the Responsive Classroom approach has a wide variety of applications. Training through the Center for Responsive Schools is offered to teachers on a cyclical basis each year, in addition to internal professional development. Based on their needs, they can either participate in initial foundational training or advanced courses to strengthen their practice. Gifts to the Annual Fund help fund teacher training and professional development to ensure our teachers are confident in utilizing the Responsive Classroom approach and can provide the best experience for our students.

1 Center for Responsive Classroom Schools, Inc. Resource Book
2 Center for Responsive Classroom Schools, Inc. Resource Book

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