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Responsive Classroom

Sayre Lower School is the first school in Kentucky to be officially trained by the Northeast foundation for children, Inc. in Responsive Classroom techniques.   Our faculty has received extensive training and coaching in Responsive Classroom approaches and we continue to hone our skills through self-study and reflection. Adopting Responsive Classroom as an entire school has allowed us to provide a consistent foundation across all of our Lower School programs in how we think about children, their development, their behavior and their education.

About the Responsive Classroom Approach*


Teaching practices are based upon:

  • Our best knowledge of how children learn developmentally, culturally, and individually
  • Awareness that social and academic learning go hand in hand
  • The belief that all children want to learn and can learn

Guiding Principles

  • The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum
  • How children learn is as important as what they learn: Process and content go hand in hand
  • The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction
  • To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn and practice specific social skills. Five particularly important skills are cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control (often referred to in the Responsive Classroom approach with the acronym CARES)
  • Knowing the children we teach- individually, culturally, and developmentally- is as important as knowing the content we teach
  • Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach.
  • How we, as adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.

Teaching Practices

  • Morning Meeting: Teachers lead students in a daily gathering that uses a consistent format for friendly greetings, sharing of news, having fun together and warming up for the day of learning ahead.
  • Creating Rules: Teachers collaborate with students to develop classroom rules that support everyone’s learning.
  • Interactive Modeling: Teachers actively involve children in purposefully demonstrating and analyzing key behaviors that support both the social and academic curricula.
  • Teacher Language: Teachers consciously use words as a professional tool to promote learning, community, and self-discipline.
  • Logical Consequences: Teachers respond to misbehavior with consequences that are respectful of the children and supportive of their efforts to learn how to fix their mistakes.
  • Guided Discovery: Teachers introduce students to classroom materials in a way that encourages the children to use the materials independently, creatively and responsibly.
  • Academic Choice: Teachers use children’s interests and the powerful learning cycle of planning, working, and reflecting to maximize students’ academic growth.
  • Classroom Organization: Teachers organize materials, furniture, and displays in ways that encourage students’ independence, cooperation, productiveness, and positive behaviors.
  • Working with Families: Teachers design avenues for respectful, two-way communication and collaboration with students’ families.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: Teachers use structured approaches for working together with students to solve academic and social problems and teach them skills for solving problems with increasing independence.


  • Increases social skills and academic engagement
  • Establishes positive classroom climate
  • Increases learner investment and independence
  • Decreases disruptive behaviors

*From the 2007, Northeast Foundation for Children publication:

NEFC, (2007). Responsive Classroom Level I Resource Book. Turner Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc, pp. 3-5.