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The Power of Morning Meeting Creating a Responsive Classroom in Highland's Lower School

In an age where parents are increasingly concerned about the harmful effects of excessive screen time on their children, including social isolation and increased anxiety, the Responsive Classroom approach used in Highland’s Lower School provides an early antidote.

What is a Responsive Classroom?

Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based practice that places as much emphasis on social-emotional competencies as academic ones, asserting that great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction. In order to be successful academically and socially, students must learn to develop empathy, assertiveness (taking initiative), responsibility, self-control, and cooperation. The approach emphasizes the integration of academic and social-emotional skills as the best preparation for student success. Teachers have a deep understanding of where each child is developmentally, and see parents as partners in the learning process.

Third grade teacher Charity Duncan helps students engage with each other during their daily 'Morning Meeting.' From there, students can choose to work individually or in small groups to build social skills and self reliance.

On any given day, one can observe these practices in action at Highland. At morning meeting in their classrooms, students gather to welcome one another, making eye contact with each classmate.

How do teachers realize these objectives? The following core teaching practices comprise the Responsive Classroom approach:

Teacher Language | The intentional use of language to enable students to engage in their learning and develop the academic, social, and emotional skills they need to be successful in and out of school.

Logical Consequences | A non-punitive response to misbehavior that allows teachers to set clear limits and students to fix and learn from their mistakes while maintaining their dignity.

Interactive Learning Structures | Purposeful activities that give students opportunities to engage with content in active (hands-on) and interactive (social) ways.

Interactive Modeling | An explicit practice for teaching procedures and routines (such as those for entering and exiting the room), as well as academic and social skills (such as engaging with the text or giving and accepting feedback).

“Since students help create the environment, they buy in and hold themselves accountable for maintaining it," says third grade teacher Emily Dale '08. of the Responsive Classroom concept.

On any given day, one can observe these practices in action at Highland. At morning meeting in their classrooms, students gather to welcome one another, making eye contact with each classmate. They share ideas, practice their listening skills, and engage in a group activity that encourages cooperation. Morning meeting sets the tone for the day.

“It’s about building a really positive community. Teachers know their students and treat them with respect, as important participants in creating the social and academic climate."

Classroom rules are clear, positive, and generated collaboratively. Lessons are punctuated by group activities, and a guided discovery or project approach (link to magazine article on project approach) allows students to direct their learning around areas of interest.

“Chilton Chats” are conducted monthly by Lower School Director Lise Hicklin. Here, the entire division gathers to discuss character themes, reflect on a growth mindset, and make relevant links between subject material and real life.

Third grade teacher Emily Dale sums up what she finds most valuable about Responsive Classroom: “It’s about building a really positive community. Teachers know their students and treat them with respect, as important participants in creating the social and academic climate. Since students help create the environment, they buy in and hold themselves accountable for maintaining it.”

Lower School Director Lise Hicklin has been at Highland School since 1985. Over the past 33 years, Lise has worked tirelessly to shape an academic environment that reflects the needs of her students and teachers.

“Responsive Classroom creates a structure for being proactive about the community you want to create,” adds Hicklin. “The result is a joyful classroom.”

Interested in learning more about Lower School academic programs at Highland School? Click here to read more and watch our Lower School video.

Ready to learn more about the Responsive Classroom? Please visit www.responsiveclassroom.org.

Created By
Cathy Campbell
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