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Responsive Classroom: Modeling

What is Responsive Classroom?

Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmental awareness. --Responsive Classroom Website

Hundreds of districts have adopted this approach. It teaches skills, is positive rather than punitive, and builds community and a safe learning environment. I mentioned it in the Dialing it Back post and was first introduced to it when I worked in the Worcester Public Schools. The mindset of Responsive Classroom is completely compatible with Collaborative Problem Solving and the idea that: "Kids to well if they can."

Applying Responsive Classroom to Music

The Book We Are Using

In addition to full days before school begins and before major vacation breaks, our district has one half-day per month devoted to professional development (PD). Rather than have specialist teachers sit through literacy training or a new math competency training, my principal and the music department head have allowed us to be part of developing our own PD. In our building, the library, music, art, and sometimes PE teacher will be working through this book, "Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE, and Other Special Areas."

We decided to begin with chapter 3: Modeling.

Modeling behaviors is essential to the Responsive Classroom concept. Students adhere to procedures that they both understand and can do. If they don't understand the need for a behavior, they are less willing to do it in all circumstances. Likewise, if they are unaccustomed to doing the behavior, they will not automatically do it.

An Example

Have you ever been frustrated when children go wild when simply asked to line up?
It's a skill that you likely mastered in Kindergarten. Why can't they do it? What's with these kids today?
Rioting in Baltimore after a game win
Well, rather than lament a bygone era, let's teach the students how to do it. Remember, there are plenty of occasions when adults who know better, behave very badly. Full-grown people, with jobs and families and responsibilities, routinely lose their minds and set cars ablaze when their local sports team wins a big championship. Extreme emotions produce extreme behavior UNLESS WE PRACTICE DEALING WITH EXTREME EMOTIONS. Music class brings up lots of extreme emotions, most of them quite pleasant. These emotions need to be contained and vented properly to keep everyone safe, just like anger, frustration, and grief do.

Step 1: Classroom discussion on how to line up
Step 2: One child models
Step 3: Class reflects on what they saw
Step 4: A small group of children join the first
Step 5: Class reflects on what they just saw
Step 6: Procedure continues until the entire class is in line

The most crucial steps are 3 and 6, the time the class reflects on what they saw. These are also the steps the teacher is most likely to skip over. Make sure you allow student voices to be heard more than yours! It's their classroom too. Remember, we don't want kids to want to grow up just so they can dominate others. Adulthood isn't about domination. It's about responsibility, fun, self-expression, community, and love. 

Our School's Group of Specialists

We, the art, music, and library teachers, decided to try out a modeling procedure at least every day. We promised to revisit our work and reflect on our progress at next month's professional development half-day. That accountability really forced me to try out the methods the next day. I found myself reteaching lining up, standing up, getting in dance positions, hallway walking techniques, how to enter a room, and how to put folders away. This month, that modeling will come in very handy as we begin ukulele study. Getting the procedures down for getting the instruments and putting them away will make the class move much faster and be more fun for everyone. 


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