Responsive Classroom; Library Edition

Due to technical difficulties, Allison’s blog couldn’t be posted on Wednesday.  Enjoy!

Responsive Classroom: Library Edition

Last week our Lower School faculty (classroom teachers and specialists) dove into four days of training on Responsive Classroom, an approach to education addressing the social, emotional, and academic growth of students. As a faculty, we are excited about the consistency it will bring to our classroom, hallways, recess fields, and the cafeteria.

There are many aspects of Responsive Classroom that I am excited about. With a public library background, I do not have as much classroom management experience as many of my colleagues and welcome new techniques that help my progress as an effective educator. For this blog post I selected four takeaways from Responsive Classroom. The descriptions I am giving are based on how we are integrating Responsive Classroom techniques immediately after the training. There will likely be many steps forward and back as we adapt to this new model in our lower school as a whole and in the library. Consider my blog a quick share-out from a neophyte practitioner. To read about Responsive Classroom from the experts, please refer to Responsive Classroom. The online resources and blog articles are very helpful and the contributors have many great ideas.
Four Takeaways

1. Hopes & Dreams and Rules
We created school rules: Be safe. Be kind. Be respectful. These rules will be used in all classes and in common areas. Each class may add rules (not too many) that reflect the needs of the particular space and community. In addition, in the first few weeks of school we will have the students think and write about their hopes and dreams for the school year. By connecting student hopes and dreams to the rules, we hope to increase accountability for student behavior. I have hopes and dreams about student hopes and dreams related to their time in the library.

2. Positive Teacher Language
We remind our students. We reinforce our reminders. We redirect behavior when it has gone off course. What I like most about Responsive Classroom’s recommended teacher language is that it emphasizes the positive. It assumes that the students know what they should be doing and just need a little reminder to get back on track. Instead of pointing out the negative things students have done, we remind students of the positive behaviors we want to see. The reminders allow the students to figure out what they should be doing.

“Remember our rules about being safe in the hallway.”
“Remember how we read quietly at the end of library to be respectful of our classmates.”
“Remind me how we stand in line for the pencil sharpener.”
“Remind me how we ask someone to be a partner.”

When behavior has gone far off course we use redirecting language that is direct and unapologetic. The intent of the language is to stop the inappropriate behavior immediately and steer the student on the correct path. Redirecting language sounds a bit on the bossy side because it excludes the words “please,” “thank you,” and “can you.”

“Stop. Walk.”
“Sit down.”

Although it doesn’t seem like redirecting language should feel foreign on the tongue, it does! I didn’t realize how often I soften requests for behavior change with polite words until I deliberately started using redirecting language. It’s different, and so far has been very effective with the students.

3. Morning Meeting
The morning meeting is a time for students and teachers to have a greeting, a group share or activity, and hear a morning meeting that introduces a lesson. This meeting sets the tone for the rest of the day so it is carefully planned by the teacher and very structured to keep things on task. Because we have classes in the library at many different times during the day, I am calling our beginning meeting the Circle Meeting and it will be quite a bit shorter than a homeroom meeting. I’m hoping that the Circle Meeting will create a new sense of community, order, and purpose at the start of each library lesson.

4. Interactive Modeling
Think about the variety of procedural skills students navigate over the course of the school year. Is modeling a good way to teach them? While there are things I’ve always modeled, such as using a shelf marker, there are many other procedures that might be better understood by students with a simple demonstration of expectations. For our first library lessons of the year we are modeling how to check out books at the circulation desk. We then ask the students to comment on what they notice about the interaction and then have volunteers model for the class. Showing instead of telling has been a very effective method for teaching so far.
We are in the first week of school and the first days of Responsive Classroom. It’s a challenge to change the way we talk with students. It’s been enjoyable to integrate Responsive Classroom techniques and practices into each 40-minute library lesson. I believe that the time invested now will pay off later in the year and I am looking forward to the adventures ahead. I feel fortunate to be working with a faculty dedicated to this effort, the wonderful resources listed HERE , and knowledgeable AISL colleagues to learn from.

Thanks to everyone who responded to my email on the list-serv last week. It was great to learn from librarians using Responsive Classroom techniques in the library setting. I’ll probably be in touch with you as we try out new things this year.

If you’d like to keep the conversation going, please respond below. There is so much to learn!

2 thoughts on “Responsive Classroom; Library Edition

  1. Hi Allison-
    I love this post! We are also implementing the Responsive Classroom at our school for the first time this year. The thoughts you had on Hopes and Dreams are inspiring to me and I think that the students will really identify with their own hopes when they see ours (as teachers) posted around the school.
    I also appreciated your insight on the classroom rules. We have only had a few training sessions, but we felt that all rules were essentially boiled down to the idea that students should respect themselves, others, and the environment. The rules of “Be safe. Be kind. Be respectful.” truly encapsulate the atmosphere I want to create in the Library. Thanks so much for sharing and I hope to see more posts on your experience as the school year continues!

    • Hi Faith–Thanks so much for your comments. We are now through 6 days of school and Responsive Classroom style teaching in the entire LS. At a faculty meeting yesterday afternoon we had a share-out about the first week. We are finding that students are responding to the consistency of 3 school rules, that our hallways are quieter and kinder and more respectful, and that students love the morning meetings. We all feel like first-year teachers speaking this new teacher language (and making plenty of mistakes in our practice), but the results of our efforts have been positive and we are enthusiastic about sticking with it. Please share more as your year and practice continues. In the meantime, I am planning an interactive modeling skit about what to do when you pulled out a book from the shelf and don’t remember where it goes. 🙂

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