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The Responsive Classroom by Annette Hernandez, Ph.D.

By August 18, 2015Blog

responsive-classroomThis post diverges from some of my earlier posts in that it focuses on school-based content as opposed to clinical content. This shift flows from a recent change in my career from working in mostly hospital-based settings to working as a school psychologist. Over the past year I have learned a lot about a research-based educational approach called The Responsive Classroom. The Responsive Classroom has grown in popularity over the past several years and is a common approach used in many private schools throughout the country. More public schools in the New York area and beyond are also adopting the responsive classroom approach as it has been associated with higher teacher effectiveness, enhanced student engagement, and improved overall school climate. The following will highlight the most salient aspects of the Responsive Classroom approach.

What is a Responsive Classroom

Responsive Classroom is based on the following progressive principles:

  • Teaching social and emotional lessons are as important standard academic teachings.
  • How children learn (through active, engaging, and interactive methods) is as important as what they learn. A departure from the rote or teach to test methods of learning.
  • Successful academic growth occurs when children learn social skills including cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  • Teachers (in order to be truly effective) have a responsibility to know their students individually, culturally, and developmentally.
  • How the school community functions is as important as one s individual competence: Lasting change begins with a cohesive community.

What Would I See and Observe in a Responsive Classroom

  • Teachers guiding students in setting high expectations for themselves by helping students develop and establish the class norms and rules.
  • Each day starting with a playful morning meeting that sets a positive tone for the day s learning. This also helps to build a sense of community and shared purpose among students.
  • Teachers using positive, clear, and effective language that communicates faith and belief in the students capacity to meet expectations.
  • Teachers encouraging engagement, autonomy, and independence by allowing students to make meaningful choices for themselves and the class as a whole. For example, throughout the year students are asked to generate and evaluate their hopes and dreams for the school year and the future.
  • Teachers supporting students to meet expectations through the use of interactive modeling. When learning new skills, students are given opportunities to show/model what the skills look like. Teachers and fellow students help to shape modeling lessons until the end result meets expectations. Students are reminded frequently to demonstrate behaviors that meet the designated expectations throughout the year.
  • Students learning essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
  • Discipline being taught through the implementation of logical consequences. The Responsive Classroom focuses on non-punitive implementation of consequences that are Respectful, Related, and Realistic (3 R s) . These typically involve making reparations for both literal and figurative messes , losing a privilege for a brief or extended period, or taking a positive time-out (referred to as taking a break ) to regain self-control and reflect on one s behavior.

The Responsive Classroom approach is generally intended for use in regular education settings and has been effective in managing most behavioral issues that arise in an everyday typical school setting. For more information about the Responsive Classroom approach, including videos of a classroom in action, please go to the Responsive Classroom website at http://

Annette is a licensed clinical psychologist. She has a private practice in Park Slope and works with children with developmental delays and treats children/adolescents suffering from traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and related disorders. She incorporates cognitive-behavioral interventions with diverse clinical populations. She offers individual psychotherapy that focuses on building a child s existing strengths and developing new ways of coping with difficult situations. She can be reached at: [email protected] or by phone at 917-519-3082.

Craig Selinger

Author Craig Selinger

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