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We employ Responsive Classroom techniques to ensure a student-first focus in our instruction. Simple, yet impactful, activities make a world of difference in how students with learning differences feel at school.

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

Responsive Classroom techniques have been proven to significantly improve learning and behavior. Research shows students who experience this learning model 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 a Responsive Classroom?

Responsive Classroom is an instructional 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 – 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?

Many members of our 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. Here’s just a couple examples of how this takes shape on campus:

Responsive Classroom: Think-Pair-Share
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 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.

Responsive Classroom: 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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