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At Lawrence, student needs and experiences drive the educational process. We employ Responsive Classroom to shift the mindset from teacher-centric instruction to student-centric instruction. This approach strengthens social and emotional competencies, including: responsibility, cooperation, empathy, self-control, and assertiveness.

Responsive Classroom has been proven to show significant improvement in students’ learning and behavior. Research shows students who experience this approach achieve higher scores on math and reading tests, feel more positive about school and their teachers, and develop better social skills, including listening, respectively disagreeing, taking turns, and more.

What is Responsive Classroom?

Responsive Classroom is a student-centered, research-backed approach to teaching and discipline. The approach is built on the core belief that students must build social and emotional skills at the same time as academic competencies.

A Responsive Classroom is built on the following foundations:

  • Engaging academics – Lessons should be participation-based, appropriately challenging, relevant, and fun.
  • Positive community – School is a safe, predictable, and inclusive environment where all students have a sense of belonging.
  • Effective management – Learning environments are calm and orderly to promote autonomy, responsibility, and engagement.
  • Developmentally responsive teaching – All teaching and discipline decisions are based on research and understanding of a student’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

These core beliefs were used to develop a set of practical strategies that engage our students and ensure all Lawrence School classrooms are safe, structured, and welcoming.

What does Responsive Classroom look like at Lawrence?

Responsive Classroom techniques are implemented at Lawrence in grades K–8. Our entire middle school faculty and leadership were trained extensively by the Center for Responsive Schools to ensure we meet the unique developmental needs of adolescents. As a school, we are fully committed to the core beliefs of Responsive Classroom. A few examples of what this looks like on campus:

Interactive Modeling
In a traditional school, students are likely to be told how to complete a certain task, for example, walking quietly to assembly and finding an appropriate seat. At Lawrence, Interactive Modeling requires us to do better. Instead of explaining what to do, we practice without words. Following the above example, we would silently have students walk through the process of leaving the classroom, walking quietly in the hallway, entering the theatre, and sitting in the correct seat. A quick debrief allows students to ask questions and clarify steps in the process. 

Traditionally, teachers stand at the front of the room and dispense information to students verbally, while some students tune out, lose focus, or simply nod off. Not at Lawrence - in the Responsive Classroom model, students are given brief information or instructions from the teacher and then time to think, pair, and share. Students spend time independently thinking about the topic at hand. Then, they pair with a partner and share their thoughts. Once the TPS is complete, the pairs report to the class on what they have learned, with a particular focus on what one partner taught the other in the course of the discussion. In this model, teachers talk less, social skills and respect for others increase, and thinking is deeper and more comprehensive among students than the standard call-and-response process.

Brain Breaks
We know that young adolescent minds were not designed with the typical structure of a school day in mind. So, at Lawrence, we change up the routine throughout class. After a particularly intense Think-Pair-Share, or after a challenging assignment is completed, students and teachers engage in a brain break. These are simple, quick, and fun activities that energize and refocus participants on the next activity. All activities involve large motor movement, quick thinking, and a good dose of excitement. You can see the mood shift following a brain break—everyone, including the teacher, is ready and focused on what comes next.

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