Responsive Classroom

girl reading in front of class

WT's Lower School embraces the Responsive Classroom® approach, which was developed by the Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc. to foster safe, challenging, and joyful classrooms. Since its inception in 1981, thousands of classroom teachers in hundreds of schools have used the innovative approach to help create learning environments where children thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

Our skilled private elementary school teachers let the Responsive Classroom® philosophy guide not only their instruction of our lower school students, but also their interactions with children and their parents/guardians, and their overall approach as educators.

Seven Basic Principles
The Responsive Classroom® approach is formed by seven basic principles:

  1. Social learning: Social learning is as important as academic learning.
  2. Process: How children learn is as important as what they learn.
  3. Social interaction: The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. C.A.R.E.S.: In order to achieve academic and social success, children must learn cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  5. Teacher-student relationships: Teachers' knowledge of the children they teach - individually, culturally, and developmentally - is as important as their knowledge of content.
  6. Teacher-family relationships: Teachers' partnerships with the parents/guardians of their students is essential to those students' education.
  7. Faculty and staff relationships: How a school's adults work with each other is as important as individual competence, and lasting change begins with the adult community.

Six Teaching Techniques

  • Morning Meeting: A daily routine that builds community, creates a positive climate for learning, and reinforces academic and social skills.
  • Rules and Logical Consequences: A clear and consistent approach to discipline that fosters responsibility and self-control.
  • Guided Discovery: A format for introducing materials that encourages inquiry, heightens interest, and teaches care of the school environment.
  • Academic Choice: An approach to giving children choices in their learning that helps them become invested, self-motivated learners.
  • Classroom Organization: Strategies for arranging materials, furniture, and displays to encourage independence, promote caring, and maximize learning.
  • Working with Families: Ideas for involving families as true partners in their children's education.

Academic and Social Success
In 2001, researchers at the University of Virginia began a three-year longitudinal study on how the Responsive Classroom® approach affects students' academic and social success. After looking at six urban schools in the Northeast (three that used the approach and three that did not), they found that the Responsive Classroom® approach is correlated with better academic and social outcomes for elementary school students.

By 2004, researchers identified six key findings about the students and teachers using the Responsive Classroom® approach:

  • Students showed:
    • Improved reading and math test scores.
    • Improved social skills and assertiveness.
    • A greater enjoyment of school, their peers, and their teachers.
  • Teachers demonstrated:
    • Greater empowerment; teachers felt more effective in teaching discipline, influencing school policies, and creating a positive educational environment.
    • Ability to offer more emotional and instructional support for learning.
    • More formal collaboration and a greater value placed on collaboration.

The Responsive Classroom® is not simply a set of behaviors and rules. It is an embodiment of WT's education philosophy and its mission since 1887 -- to actively engage each student in a challenging and inspiring learning process that develops the mind, motivates the passion to achieve, and cultivates the character to serve.

Learn more about the Responsive Classroom® approach.