At Clarion School, our teachers use a program called Responsive Classroom to build a positive classroom environment and a sense of community. Responsive Classroom is a program that helps teach children how to be part of a group. It gives them a sense of responsibility and belonging while also creating structure and consistency in their learning from day to day and year to year. Some of the main components of Responsive Classroom are easy to incorporate into your home life, too. Your children can become the teachers as they implement some of the activities into their daily lives.
Meeting is one of the main components of Responsive Classroom. During meeting, students greet one another and share something based on a specific topic. Sometimes they play games or do other fun activities. At home, you can practice doing different greetings each morning based on what your children have learned at school. Some examples that are easy to do at home are:
Activity is a favorite part of meeting. Children love learning new activities and choosing from them each morning. Often, these activities include songs and promote social interaction, memory and movement. Some examples are games that involve lists, like the Going on a Trip game where each person adds something to bring on the trip, making the list progressively harder, or songs with movement like Tony Chestnut. Have your child teach you some favorite activities and try them at home!
Some of the management tools from Responsive Classroom can also help at home. Rather than having rules, many families are adopting the concept of a family contract from these classroom communities. Rules that result in punishment can feel negative. Having a family contract of desired conduct, and then following up on bad behavior with logical consequences, is much more effective. In the classroom, all the children work personally on their hopes and dreams for the year. They then come together and discuss how they can best achieve these goals, and what type of classroom environment will help them. They come up with desired behaviors and group these into categories, which become the guidelines for classroom behavior. Some examples include “Take care of our belongings,” “Treat others as you want to be treated,” “Listen when others are speaking,” and “Put your best effort into your work.”
When these guidelines are broken, it can be easy to jump to punishment, but Responsive Classroom emphasizes logical consequences which are more effective and meaningful. They also give children a chance to make a positive difference and a better choice moving forward. If you ask your child about school, you may hear examples of these consequences. Here are a couple concrete examples:
Logical consequences are growth opportunities rather than punishments. At home, it means changing language from negative language such as “go to your room” to more positive language of “let’s see how we can fix this.” Children feel empowered and good about themselves where punishments can do the opposite.
While the classroom setting and home setting have clear differences, some of these strategies can build communication in your family and create a more cooperative home environment. They also help children understand empathy and foster resilience and independence. Lastly, children will love sharing the skills they learn in school with their family!