MEDWAY -- Superintendent Armand Pires is pleased to announce that the Medway Public School District's Responsive Classroom initiative has been a success so far this school year at the town's two elementary schools and the District will be taking steps to further enhance the use of the program.
Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to supporting the development of social-emotional skills. This approach empowers students through engagement and positive interactions with one another, their teachers and school staff throughout the day.
Activities such as Morning Meeting, Quiet Time and Energizers give students a chance to interact and practice pro-social skills, develop autonomy and independence and utilize time by themselves to reset and recharge during the school day.
The Center for Responsive Schools, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was started by a group of teachers in Massachusetts who created the Responsive Classroom approach. The approach is now used in classrooms across the country.
Responsive Classroom was implemented in Medway at the beginning of the school year after faculty and staff from Francis J. Burke Memorial Elementary School and John D. McGovern Elementary School took part in extensive training over the summer.
"This program has been really beneficial to the overall attitude and culture at our elementary schools," Superintendent Pires said. "Kids really look forward to coming to school and taking part in the many social-emotional learning experiences our teachers provide them throughout the day. This approach to social-emotional learning is interactive and supports our desire to help students learn how to interact positively with one another face-to-face."
One of the first techniques that was added into the school day was the Morning Meeting. Both schools have prioritized time at the beginning of the school day for Morning Meeting, which includes students greeting each other and engaging in a group activity to start their day.
"Students are greeted by the teachers and each other in a different way each morning," Burke Memorial Elementary School Principal Amanda Luizzi said. "Teachers start the day with a positive written message and then select a group activity for the children to greet one another. For example, teachers have used high five greetings, tossing a ball back and forth, and saying, ‘good morning,’ in different languages."
Morning Meeting provides a clear structure to support students in making eye contact and using other students’ names, which as part of their morning greeting, helps each student feel like a special member of his/her classroom community.
"The whiteboard might say, 'Good morning second graders. I've changed something in the classroom. Can you guess what it is?' and then the children can look around the room to see if they can find what has changed from the day before," Principal Luizzi said.
After the greeting there is an opportunity to share something with one another to make everyone feel included. They could be asked to find a partner and share with their partner something silly they did over the weekend. Or talk about their favorite thing to do in their free time.
"Morning Meeting gets kids talking, listening, using eye contact and building communication skills," said Amy McDonald, McGovern Elementary School Principal. "The joy that it brings to the start of the day makes kids want to come to school and be on time to start their day. It lets them know that we value that they're a part of our community, we value them as a person and appreciate our commonalities and differences."
Other Responsive Classroom techniques and methods utilized at the schools include:
·Energizers - A quick break for students within the school day. If energy is low, teachers can have students move around the room, stand up and sit down, sing a song, take movement breaks and get them back to focusing on class. Sometimes Energizers are planned and other times the teacher can decide if the students are in need of a quick boost.
·Quiet Time – After students come back from recess and lunch, Quiet Time helps them to reset the day. Children can put their heads down, do a drawing, catch up on work, read or work on a project by themselves.
·Chill Zone - The Chill Zone is a positive timeout which provides students with an opportunity to self-reflect when they need a break. This can be initiated by a teacher or student.
·Closing Circle - The students gather together at the end of the day to reflect upon what they have learned and end the day on a positive note.
·Signage - Colorful signs were put up throughout the schools with positive messages that reinforce the core values taught by the Responsive Classroom method.
"All of these activities are meant to keep the students focused and eager to participate and learn while also regularly interacting with each other in a positive way," Superintendent Pires said. "The faculty and staff have really taken to the Responsive Classroom approach and it has created a whole new atmosphere and environment at our elementary schools that was not there prior, and I credit Principal Luizzi and Principal McDonald for doing such a great job with their implementation of Responsive Classroom."
Prior to holiday break, an instructor from the Center for Responsive Schools came to evaluate each school and gave them feedback on areas they were doing well at and where they could improve and implement additional Responsive Classroom techniques.
The principals agree that students and staff have enjoyed the positivity and sense of community that the Responsive Classroom approach has brought to the Medway Public Schools. The two elementary schools look forward to expanding their Responsive Classroom practices in the future.