Using the Responsive Classroom Approach to Support ALL Students

Using the Responsive Classroom Approach to Support ALL Students

Ensuring that all our students are academically engaged is our highest priority as educators. We want to teach our students the skills needed to creatively engage with content while becoming critical thinkers— to be effective communicators and problem-solvers while successfully collaborating with their peers. These are skills our students will need not only in school but throughout their lives.

Pause for just a second and visualize your students. Who do you see? For many of us, the picture is one of varied colors, ethnicities, religions, needs, and desires. Our students who come from varying cultural backgrounds need us to be culturally responsive teachers who see each individual student as just that, an individual.

Using the Responsive Classroom Approach to Support ALL Students

Responsive Classroom supports the practice of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) in many ways:

Belonging, Significance, and Fun

Responsive Classroom and CRT both emphasize belonging, significance, and fun as the foundation of positive relationships. Students who feel seen, heard, and appreciated work together to create a positive learning community. Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, calls such relationships the “on-ramp to the kind of cognitive high-level problem-solving and higher-order thinking we want students to do.” Ensuring positive relationships allows students to focus on their learning. Responsive Classroom strategies such as Morning Meeting, Responsive Advisory Meeting, energizers, brain breaks, interactive learning structures, and closing circle all support the development of relationships between students and adults.

Clear Communication

Teachers need to articulate expectations for all students. The first step is to create an environment where all students know that their teachers believe in them and see their potential. Students should be explicitly taught all expectations and given genuine feedback to guide their academics and behaviors. Responsive Classroom can support CRT through the use of Interactive Modeling, goal-setting, rule creation, and all forms of teacher language.

Student-Centered Learning

Take a look at the following table to compare the touchstones of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the characteristics of engaging academics as outlined by Responsive Classroom:

Culturally Responsive TeachingEngaging Academics Characteristics
  • The classroom should be a place where students learn from each other.

  • There should be a sense of shared responsibility for instruction.

  • Inquiry-based learning and student discovery should be the foundation for the curriculum.

  • Student engagement should come from creating autonomy.

  • Learning should be:
  • Active

  • Interactive

  • Appropriately challenging

  • Purposeful

  • Connected to children’s interest and strengths

  • At least partially autonomous/student-controlled
  • Working with Families and Caregivers

    Working with families and caregivers is a central tenet of CRT. It is also a foundation for our sixth guiding principle: Partnering with families—knowing them and valuing their contributions—is as important as knowing the children we teach. In order to include the caring adults in our students’ lives, we need to encourage conversation about expectations for students’ academic and social-emotional growth as well as how all adults can work together to support students.

    Responsive Classroom and Culturally Responsive Teaching are intertwined on many levels. These four connections illustrate how the Responsive Classroom approach can support every school, every teacher, every student, every day.


    Written by Nicole Doner, Responsive Classroom Consulting Teacher and Professional Development Designer
    Tags: Building Classroom Community, Empathy, Family Connections