A school year is an exciting time. Filled with new experiences, new learning opportunities, and an abundance of new knowledge. At the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central School District this new school year also included the implementation of a new initiative called Responsive Classroom. Implemented in kindergarten through fourth grade at both Altmar and Parish Elementary Schools and also to grades five and six at the APW Middle School, Responsive Classroom is an approach to teaching and learning that fosters each student’s growth academically as well as socially and emotionally.
Responsive Classroom is a research-based approach that promotes a sense of community at the classroom level, at the school level, and with parents/guardians and is built on the following seven underlying principles: The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum; How children learn is as important as what they learn; The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction; To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn and practice cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control; Knowing each child – individually, culturally, and developmentally – is as important as knowing the content that is being taught; Knowing the families of the children and encouraging their participation is as important as knowing the children; and How teachers/administrators work together to accomplish a shared mission is as important as individual competence.
One new component implemented through the Responsive Classroom approach was the introduction of daily morning meetings in each classroom. Referred to as “sacred time” by Parish Elementary School Principal Michael McAuliff, the daily meetings give each teacher an opportunity to gather their entire class together to greet each other, share news, participate in a group activity, read a message and talk about what will be happening in their classroom that day. This daily activity allows students the opportunity to practice their listening and communication skills, develop language skills, and also strengthens their classroom community.
Additionally, the approach emphasizes the importance of a consistent language throughout the grade levels especially concerning academic and social expectations. According to McAuliff this component is especially important as the APW District plans for the consolidation of three schools into one unified elementary school for the start of next school year.
For additional information about the Responsive Classroom approach, visit the Altmar or Parish Elementary School pages on the APW website at www.apw.cnyric.org or contact the main office at each elementary school or at the APW Middle School.