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Responsive Classroom at the

Beginning of the School Year

At ACS, we follow the Responsive Classroom approach.  The teachers and staff spend time at the beginning of the year with our students learning the rules and routines and creating a respectful and kind classroom climate and culture to ensure that everyone can learn and that the classroom operates safely and efficiently.  If you would like to read an interview with Roxann Kriete, co-author of The First Six Weeks of School, explaining why we practice this approach, please click on the link.

Another important aspect of the Responsive Classroom approach is language.  What we say to students and each other and how we say it is one of the most powerful tools we can use. If we are careful in how we use language, we can support students, staff, and parents.  This is especially important for our students as they develop self-control, build their sense of community, and gain academic skills and knowledge. This is why we believe that all staff, students, and parents need to be respectful in how they speak to each other, even when they are frustrated.  Our students often model what they see and hear. If you would like to learn more about the importance of positive language, this interview with Ruth Sidney Charney, the author of Teaching Children to Care, is terrific.

During the first few weeks of school, students and staff discuss their hopes and dreams for the school year.  This helps our community of learners get excited about what we will learn and also makes a personal connection.  By inviting students (and staff) to name their hopes and dreams (learning goals) for the year, shows them that they are valued members of the classroom, that school is a safe place, and that we have a lot of fun and challenging learning to do this year. Creating a tone of trust and respect is one of the most important things we do at the beginning of the year.  Here are a couple of links explaining in more detail about Hopes and Dreams.  and

After we determine our hopes and dreams, the students and the teacher create the classroom rules.  These are the rules that need to be in place so that everyone can achieve their hopes and dreams. Rules and routines that are reasonable and fair give children a sense of security and belonging.  We know that children will break the rules (adults do too). Sometimes children forget, become unsure, and sometimes they want to test limits. Because we have spent weeks building a strong foundation for a caring learning community, we are able to follow up with effective strategies and most importantly, the use of logical consequences.  Logical consequences help the fix problems that result from children’s words and actions when they break or forget the rules. Logical consequences help children regain self-control, reflect on their mistakes, and make amends for them.  They should always be respectful of the child, relevant to the situation, and reasonable in scale. You can click on this link to read more about Rule Creation and Logical Consequences.

Below are some pictures from a Third Grade classroom showcasing student’s hopes and dreams and the process of creating their classroom rules.

3rd Grade Hopes and Dreams
3rd Grade Class Rules
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