Implementing Responsive Classroom Within the First Six Weeks of School


"Responsive Classroom is a research- and evidence-based approach to education that is associated with greater teacher effectivness, higher student achievement, and improved school climate."

The First Six Weeks of School
Expectations and routines are established, rules generated, and goals articulated. The foundation is laid for a productive and cooperative year of learning.

Goals for the first six weeks: 

-Create a climate and tone of warmth and safety

  • Focusing on group-building activities during these weeks helps create the trust and safety essential for active, collaborative thinking. Trust is built on reasonable limits and boundaries for behavior and that their teacher will enforce them.

-Teach the schedule and routines of the school day and your expectations for behavior in each of them.

  • Having a sense of predictability in the daily school life is important.

-Introduce students to the physical envrionment and materials of the classroom and the school, and teach students how to use and care for them

  • Using a technique of guided discoveries, we extend children's ideas about the creative use of space and materials, develop guidelines about sharing particular resources, and teach children how to care for them.

-Establish expectations about ways you will learn together in the year.

Example Weekly Goals:

Week One: 
- Students and teachers will know each others names

- Students will know basic expectations for and will successfully perform routines ex. (arrival, transitions, etc.)

Week Two:

- Class will work together to formulate and agree upon a set of classroom rules

- Children will work in small groups as well as whole group, and individually

Week Three: 

- Students will be thinking critically about ways to follow class rules (role playing, and/or modeling)

- Children will participate in curriculum in each major subject area

Weeks Four to Six

- Most students work independently while the teacher focuses on individuals or small groups

- All children experience logical consequences for misbehaviors

- Students show an understanding of the role of logical consequences by contributing ideas for their use during class meetings, independent conflict resolution, and apology of action

Guiding Principles 

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 curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum

2. How children learn is as important as what children learn

3. The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction 

4. Children need a set of social skills in order to be successful academically and socially. 

5. Knowing the children we teach is as important as knowing the content we teach.

6. Knowing the parents of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children.

7. Teachers and administrators must model the social and academic skills which they wish to teach their students.


Morning Meeting: Consists of greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message. 

Guided discovery: Introduce materials, areas, and activities. It's used to teach or reinforce guidelines for working cooperatively.

Academic Choice: Important that everyone has a voice and say in the construction of what it means to be safe, caring and a respectful community. 

Modeling:Teaching a specific behavior---demonstrate appropriate actions

Role-Playing: Help children "see" and think about social situations and appropriate ways of behaving within these situations.

Logical Consequences: Respond to misbehavior that is respectful of children and helps them take responsibility for their actions. Apology of Action


The first six weeks of school are a time of introductions. Students are introduced to the people of the classroom and school community. Students are also introduced to the classroom, school environment, and the expectations for learning. Teachers also introduce and establish expectations for student behavior. Classroom routines are also introduced during the first six weeks. The structure of the first six weeks is done so that students will participate actively in all of these introductions.  

Apology of Action                                                                                              

Apology of action is Responsive Classrooms way of saying sorry. Using aplogy of action is going above and beyond just saying sorry when feelings have been hurt. It requires the students to take the steps to restore trust in the classroom. It is the students responsibility to think about what they have done to upset someone and then develop a plan to fix it. 




Teacher Role in Responsive classroom:

  • Ongoing encouragement/positive language
  • Facilitating self-monitoring
  • Accept students as they are
  • Create a safe place where students know they can make mistakes and build self-confidence
  • Allow students to define their own limits
  • Positive feedback is used vs. praise
  • Look at the behavior or action instead of generalizing the child 

Research found that Responsive Classroom: 

1. Improved Student Achievement

  • Academic Choice: reading and math achievement outcomes.
  • Socio-economics: The associations between Responsive Classroom practices and achievement were equally strong for children eligible for free/reduced price lunch and those not eligible.
  • Greater effect on low-achieving students: The association between teachers' use of Responsive Classroom practices and math achievement appears to be stronger for students who are initially low achieving than for others.

2. Improved Teacher-Student Interactions
-related to classrooms that are more emotionally supportive and organized. Specifically:

  • Morning Meeting: Teachers' use of Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting was related to improved emotional support for students and improved classroom organization.
  • Academic Choice:related to improved emotional support during math instruction.

3. Higher Quality Instruction in Mathematics
associated with more skillful standards-based mathematics instruction. For example, teachers demonstrated the following:

  • Higher levels of mathematical discourse
  • Better use of and translation among mathematical representations
  • Lessons with greater cognitive depth
  • Lessons with greater coherence and accuracy 

Teacher supports: teachers reported that a supportive setting is important to their implementation of Responsive Classroom practices. Specifically, teachers were more likely to use these practices when:

  • Their principals support for the Responsive Classroom approach.
  • They received coaching while implementing new Responsive Classroom practices.
  • Their school climate offers validation and social support for trying the Responsive Classroom approach and allowed them to adopt the approach at their own pace.
  • Teachers collaborated with each other more.

Resources & Suggested Reading:

Denton, P., & Kriete, R. (2000). The first six weeks of school. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.






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