Responsive Classroom

Elementary SELect Program

Program Design and Implementation Support

Responsive Classroom® is a student-centered, social-and-emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline. It is comprised of a set of research- and evidence-based practices designed to create safe, joyful, and engaging classroom and school communities for both students and teachers. Schools and teachers who adopt the Responsive Classroom approach focus on (1) creating optimal learning conditions for students to develop the academic, social, and emotional skills needed for success in and out of school and (2) building a positive school and classroom community where students learn, behave, hope, and set and achieve goals. The Responsive Classroom approach offers a set of practical strategies, including Morning Meetings, rule creation, Interactive Modeling, positive teacher language, logical consequences, Guided Discovery, Academic Choice, classroom organization, collaborative problem-solving, and guidelines for working with families, that create classrooms with four defining characteristics:

  • Positive community: A safe, predictable, joyful, and inclusive environment where all students have a sense of belonging and significance. Discipline is taught through a set of positive discipline strategies aimed at preserving the dignity of the student and the group and at helping students develop self-control.
  • Effective management: A calm and orderly learning environment that promotes autonomy, responsibility, and high engagement in learning.
  • Engaging academics: Learner-centered lessons that are participatory, appropriately challenging, fun, relevant, and which promote curiosity, wonder, and interest.
  • Developmentally responsive: Basing all decisions for teaching and discipline upon research and knowledge of students’ social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

Teachers using the approach are encouraged to connect with parents individually on a regular basis in order to share updates and expectations about the child’s development or to collaboratively address any difficulties the child may be experiencing. The Responsive Classroom approach also incorporates many nonverbal signals (e.g., a chime or raised hand) and visual cues throughout the day to support individual learning needs. Extensive suggestions and strategies for including English Language Learners (ELLs) in Morning Meetings, as well as recommendations for Morning Meeting activities that are especially conducive for ELLs, are provided. Pamphlets on child development are available in Spanish, and the overview video has Spanish subtitles.

Training for the Responsive Classroom approach is conducted over two parts: Core Course and Advanced Course. Each part consists of four engaging and interactive days aimed at teachers developing a clear understanding of how to apply the Responsive Classroom approach to their unique classroom settings. Recent additions to Responsive Classroom’s training include sessions on teacher leadership styles, envisioning classroom language, role-play, student grouping, sustaining student learning, connecting with families, and teacher empathy. The coursework also provides an emphasis on the ways the approach addresses systemic issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Training is required, and a rigorous teacher and presenter certification program to support school and district sustainability efforts is offered.

In addition to the Responsive Classroom Course for Elementary Educators reviewed for this guide, the organization also offers additional courses (listed below). These courses aim for teachers and school staff to either continue developing their skills, focus more on a particular aspect of the classroom, or apply the Responsive Classroom approach in a middle school context:

  • Responding to Misbehavior
  • Connecting Morning Meeting to Academics
  • Improving Teacher and Student Language
  • Sustaining the Responsive Classroom Momentum
  • Special Area Teachers
  • Support Staff Working Together
  • Middle School Course
  • Middle School Challenges

Evidence of Effectiveness

Responsive Classroom has been evaluated in a large (n=1,408) quasi-experimental study. The project followed students over a three-year period.

Brock, L. L., Nishida, K. K., Chiong, C., Grimm, K. J., & Rimm-Kaurman, S. E. (2008). Children’s perceptions of the social environment and social and academic performance: A longitudinal analysis of the Responsive Classroom approach. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 129-149.
Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Chiu, Y. I. (2007). Promoting social and academic competence in the classroom: An intervention study examining the contribution of the Responsive Classroom approach. Psychology in the Schools, 44, 397-413.
Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Fan, X., Chiu, Y. I., & You, W. (2007). The contribution of the Responsive Classroom approach on children’s academic achievement: Results of a three-year
longitudinal study. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 401-421.
Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Sawyer, B. E. (2004). Primary grade teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs, attitudes toward teaching, and discipline and teaching practice priorities in relation to the “Responsive Classroom” approach. The Elementary School Journal, 104, 321-341.
Sawyer, L. B. E. & Rimm-Kauffman, S. E. (2007). Teacher collaboration in the context of the Responsive Classroom approach. Teachersand Teaching: theory and practice, 13, 211-245