Guiding Principle #4 of the Responsive Classroom®

Math ClassOver the past 3 OCM BOCES’ Responsive Classroom blogs, I have been sharing the guiding principles behind the approach and its 10 teaching practices. This blog entry will focus on Principle 4: There is a specific set of social skills that children need to learn and practice in order to be successful academically and socially. 

These social skills can be remembered by the acronym CARES.  They are:

  • Cooperation
  • Assertion
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy
  • Self-control

This acronym was developed by a professor from the University of Wisconsin, Stephen Elliot.  He developed this Social Skills Rating System used by the American Guidance Services and also used in many Responsive Classroom schools to research children’s growth academically and socially.

Responsive Classroom teachers do not assume that these social skills are known by their students and explicitly “teach” them using multiple paths. Many teachers use literacy or a read aloud as a jumping off point into what it means to work cooperatively  or be positively assertiveResponsive Classroom teachers take the time to teach children to take responsibility for their work and actions, to be kind, caring and empathetic to other people and to have self-control.  Research on the Responsive Classroom approach suggests that children in Responsive Classrooms have better social skills.
(Research Sara Rimm-Kaufmann – University of Virginia – Social Development Labs )
(Responsive Classroom referenced research: )

One good book that comes to mind is Hey Little Ant by P & H Hoose.  This could be a great picture book to start the conversation about feelings and empathy towards others.  Google one of the CARES words and the words “picture books”, and you will be amazed at all the books out there to assist in this social skills teaching.  The NEFC has a couple of  small books devoted to literacy and social skills learning. Friends and Relations: Using Literature with Social Themes K-2 & 3-5

I remember observing a 4th grade teacher, Paige Sedlak Mallen from Lyncourt School during the first week of school.  She worked each day with her students on each of the social skills of CARES.  She would introduce the word such as “cooperation” maybe by reading a story or just having a conversation in morning meeting.  The class would work on a working definition for the word and then work on a “looks like” / “sounds like” T-chart to articulate exactly what “cooperation” looks like and sounds like in the classroom.  The students were then asked to watch their classmates closely to see them living that social skill throughout the day.  The students were asked to document their observations on stickie notes and to post them on the T-Chart.  The closing circle at the end of the day was used to give classmates compliments for living that word that day.  I found this activity to be great to foster children to think through what is means to be cooperative, assertive, responsible, empathetic, and to have self-control not only in the classroom but throughout the school community.

Please response to this blog and share ways you “teach” the social skills of CARES or share a good picture book you use to start the conversation with your students.

Next month’s RC BLOG will focus on Principle #5.

Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
Certified Responsive Classroom® trainer through the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of the Responsive Classroom
Staff Development Specialist – OCM BOCES – Syracuse, NY
(OCM BOCES is a licensed agency for Responsive Classroom training by the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of the Responsive Classroom)

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