OCM-RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM BLOG: Use the summer to plan your first six weeks

I feel the best gift you can give yourself is to use some time over the summer to either plan on your own or get together with your grade level colleagues to plan out your first six weeks of school. This old favorite has been majorly revised to fit today’s busy classrooms. Beautiful and in full color! There are ideas K-2, 3-4, and 5-6 for the first day of school. Sample schedules to help your plan to make that first day a smooth transition into the school year. Then learn how to apply all you learned during your Responsive Classroom training to the first six weeks. This is the perfect resource to help your apply all you learned.

Watch children’s learning blossom all year long when you lay the groundwork with the help of this classic, comprehensive guidebook for K–6 teachers. Day by day and week by Continue reading

OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: “Surviving the Late-Spring Jitters” – A reprise

I have been a Responsive Classroom® trainer since 2003. Back when I first started training, participants received the “Responsive Classroom Guidelines” (©96,97 by Northeast Foundation for Children – 8th printing April 2001). Since that time, the Responsive Classroom training has been revised and training materials changed. The Northeast Foundation for Children has also changed their name to The Center for Responsive Schools since the time of when we used the “Responsive Classroom Guidelines”.

Each year, I find myself thinking about a memorable article that was included in the old training materials called “Surviving the Late-Spring Jitters”. This article is out of print and no longer available online anywhere that I can find. I feel there were many helpful tips that teachers may find useful, especially now, as they put closer to their school year.

In the late spring many teachers will report to me that they are seeing more children beginning to test behavioral limits almost like they did the first few weeks of school. Teachers may feel a sense of frustration but the article encourages teachers,

“don’t despair and, most importantly, don’t give up! This is a phenomenon that occurs every year, in every classroom to some degree, without fail. It’s called “end-of-the-year-anxiety” or “the late-spring jitters.” Continue reading

OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: Administrators Can Use Responsive Classroom Practices School-Wide

My work this year has given me the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time in the East Syracuse-Minoa School district. Recently, I was spending my day at Park Hill Pre-K where I had the honor to be part of the Principal, Carol Feldmeier’s Whole-School morning meeting. Mrs. Feldmeier had recently attended the 4-day Responsive Classroom Course that was offered here at OCM BOCES and was already applying all she learned throughout her building as an administrator. We encourage everyone from a school, especially principals, to come to the RCC (the Responsive Classroom Course) training. There is always time given to participants to reflect how they could use the Responsive Classroom practices they are learning about in their role or setting.

A beautiful crafted morning message, written by Mrs. Feldmeier greeted her students as they filed in and followed the school rules for entering the gymnasium. There was a murmur of excitement as these adorable 4 and 5 year olds entered. A school-wide quiet signal was used to gain attention and I watched as they reminded each other what to do when they hear and see the signal.

Mrs. Feldmeier greeted her children with a warm smile and encouraged them to take a moment to say good morning to the friends on each side of them. Mrs. Feldmeier uses her whole-school meeting as a way to focus on the teaching of social-emotional skills that are important to create a safe, challenging and fun school like Park Hill.

Today’s focus was teaching children voice levels to use in the classroom and throughout the school. The teachers from Park Hill took part in the teaching. Mrs. Feldmeier discussed the differences of the 4 levels of voice and gave purpose as to when they should be used. For example a level “0” voice is used when there is no talking such as during fire drills or during quiet reading time. A level 4 voice would be the voice we use on the playground or maybe when we are asked a question in a large room like the gym.  She used the interactive modeling practice of Responsive Classroom to model for the children what each sounded like and invited them to offer “what they noticed” about each model. She gave them an opportunity to practice the levels with their elbow partners.

Once modeling, practice and discussion was completed, a few fun songs were sung as a whole school focused on a themed letter they were all learning about. As I sat there I was struck by how much joy and laughter was happening in this room. There was energy of warmth and welcoming to all. Everyone felt noticed and valued. I thought how I wish every principal would take the opportunity to spend this time at least once a week or even once a month with all the students in their building. It truly builds such a feeling of true community.

Later, I sat with the teacher at lunch in the teachers’ room and noticed that Mrs. Feldmeier also had morning messages to her teachers hanging around the room. She discovered during her RCC training the importance the morning message is to not only greet and welcome the children in her school, but also her teachers and the adult community in the school.

Often, there is a misunderstanding that the Responsive Classroom practices are only for classroom teachers, but we learn that these practices are just as important to build the adult community and can be used by the school principal.

In a July 2014 Center for Responsive Schools Newsletter, Suzie Cook offers “11 Tips for Successful School-Wide Gatherings”( Click to read whole article )

Tips for Great School Gatherings

  1. Assemble a Planning Team
  1. Choose a Reasonable Gathering Size
  1. Decide on a Schedule
  1. Establish Traditions
  1. Focus on Clear Connections to Academics
  1. Use a Familiar, Simple Format
  1. Balance Familiar and New
  1. Provide Ample Time to Prepare
  1. Prepare Students Through Modeling and Practice
  1. Provide Procedures for Entering and Leaving the Gathering Space
  1. Follow Up with Reflection

Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
OCM BOCES – Staff Development Specialist
Certified Responsive Classroom® Trainer by the Center for Responsive Schools (Developers of the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching and learning)

OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: Homework: Changing the Paradigm of a Loved and Hated Practice

Homework has been a practice used by educators since the beginning of time. There has been a growing debate on whether is it an effective practice or just a struggle for power and control. As a teacher, I was told by my students that their parents requested me to be their teacher because I was known through the parent vine as the teacher who gave “homework” only to surprise my students that I didn’t. Once I met with parents I would explicitly tell them that my expectation was for their children not to work more than 30 minutes on their homework during the week and I would not give homework on weekends. I encouraged them to have their child close up the books and send me a note if they found they were spending more time than that. This would give me such good information as to who was having trouble with the concept they were practicing. I also always let children get started in class on their, what I called “At-Home Extended Learning”, so that if there were any questions, they could touch base with me before leaving for the day. I always wanted to make sure if I was going to ask kids to work at home on school work they were capable of being successful and always made sure that it was meaningful and purposeful and not just busy work. Continue reading

OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: August! A Time to Plan

The First Six Weeks of School“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things…”

This is the beginning paragraph of Continue reading

The Responsive Classroom® Continues to Evolve and Change

“If you do not change, you can become extinct” is a quote from Spencer Johnson’s 1998 bestselling book Who Moved My Cheese?. In this book, Johnson uses a metaphor of four mice in a maze and how they all respond differently to the moving of the predictable placement of their cheese. This book helps readers learn what Johnson calls “The Handwriting on the Wall” regarding “change” in life, work and family:
Continue reading

OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: Happy New Year! A Great Time to do a “Mini” First Six Weeks of School

For many of the Central NY schools district, the Christmas Recess will be over two weeks long. I have been encouraging teachers to think about how they will proactively reinforce, re-teach, re-visit and remind children of the skills and routines they have been taught and practiced prior to the long holiday vacation. Teachers will need to help children as they transition back to the classroom and re-learn how to “do school” again. It is so important for teachers to think proactively prior to returning to school as to what the needs will be for the children they teach. Continue reading