Over the past 4 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 5: Knowing the children we teach is as important as knowing the content we teach.
In the Responsive Classroom we feel that children learn better when we know them individually, culturally, social-emotionally and developmentally. According to the training guide for Responsive Classroom the NEFC says, “The scientific and academic discipline of the teaching profession is child development. To teach successfully, we must begin by learning who our children are-their strengths, interests, experiences, learning styles, and developmental characteristics. In any teaching situation, we always begin with ‘What do the children know?’ and ‘Who are the children?’ We make no assumptions. When we begin with this knowledge, we convey a respect for our learners and can best understand where and how to begin our teaching.”
This principle strikes me with the alignment with NYS Teaching Standard 1.
Standard I: Knowledge of Students and Student Learning
Teachers acquire knowledge of each student, and demonstrate knowledge of student development and learning to promote achievement for all students.”
The Responsive Classroom’s teaching practices such as Morning Meeting, Guided Discovery, Interactive Modeling, Academic Choice, wearing name tags during the first six weeks of school, developing Hopes and Dreams, collaborative rule creation and collaborative problem-solving are ways to talk and observe children more to build relationship and community with them. Responsive Classroom encourages teachers to be better observers of children so they can use Reinforcing, Reminding and Redirecting language to coach and provide children with growth producing feedback to improve on skills, behaviors and interactions with others.
Co-Founder Chip Wood’s book YARDSTICKS is used by many Responsive Classroom teacher to understand more clearly where their children are developmentally and further understand that growth is uneven. Chronological age doesn’t always match developmental age. Chip often is heard saying that teachers need to be better observers of children. Observation is part of our job.
Knowing children makes it easier for us to differentiate our instruction and connect with children at a deeper level. It helps know what we might need to scaffold and/or what learning styles we might want to add to our academic lesson. The guru of The Writing Process, Donald Graves, offers an activity for teachers to think about their class more deeply. He encourages teachers to make a 3 column chart. In the first column write the names of your students. In the second column write things you know about the student above and beyond school. In the third column place a star next to the names for the children who know you know that thing about. They know you know this thing about them because you have had a conversation with them about it. This is a very powerful exercise for teachers. It provides data as to who they need to get to know more. Give it a try with your students you are teaching now. Even though it is the spring and you feel you know a lot about your students, you may glean some very interesting data by trying Donald Graves’ suggestion and it may even give you some great feedback as to how well you are doing on NYS Teaching Standard #1.
Please response to this blog and share ways get to know your children at deeper levels.
Next month’s RC BLOG will focus on Principle #6.
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)