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New Program Launches Aragon Elementary in a Transformative New Direction

 

Last updated 2/27/2019 at 3:01pm

Christy McGee

In this Morning Meeting activity, Ms. Busovsky's fourth grade class prepares to practice making eye contact across the circle. After that step in the activity, they come to the middle and greet their partner.

Each school day, all students at Aragon Elementary begin their day with a Morning Meeting. This practice is just one of the Elementary Classroom Practices outlined in the newly-implemented Responsive Classroom program. Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmental awareness.

The Responsive Classroom approach to teaching is comprised of a set of well-designed practices intended to create safe, joyful, and engaging classroom and school communities. The emphasis is on helping students develop their academic, social, and emotional skills in a learning environment that is developmentally responsive to their strengths and needs.

In the summer of 2018, a set of Aragon Elementary teachers along with the school administration team, attended a four-day training on Responsive Classroom. They brought back the lessons they learned and trained their colleagues when staff returned to buildings in August. Responsive Classroom was implemented beginning on the first day of school!

Morning Meetings have four parts: a greeting, sharing, activity, and message. Each of these pieces can, and often do, have some academic integration, but they don't have to. They are adjustable to where a class or group of students is at any given point in time, and according to age or skill level of the class. For example, a Morning Meeting will look different in a kindergarten class than a fifth grade class. The constant is that Responsive Classroom and Morning Meeting is purposeful in what is set up every morning, every day, for every student.

The Morning Meeting forces students have face-to-face interactions and learn how to work and communicate with their peers. It has built environments in Aragon classrooms where students want to stay in class and feel part of the group. As an extension of that, Aragon Elementary has seen office referrals for discipline drastically decline over this time last school year.

Christy McGee

Aragon Elementary first grader Kayden Smith runs around a circle getting greetings from her classmates in Ms. Katlyn Smith's class Morning Meeting activity.

Kari Wilkinson, second grade teacher at Aragon, is just one teacher who has had a transformative experience with Responsive Classroom already this fall. When she attended the training in the summer initially, she thought it looked like programs and practices she had already seen. She was skeptical about how it would truly impact her students or the culture at Aragon Elementary. However, after her initial six weeks' worth of lessons provided by Responsive Classroom, she saw the change. Morning Meeting didn't start off well, but it became a powerful tool to build community among her class. She recognized "the academics couldn't be taught the way they needed to be until I could get my community in place." One example of that positive change is that after a long Winter Break, all of her students came back excited and ready to really interact with the classroom; learning soared immediately with a credit to this program. "I'm excited to see how they feel they can enhance their learning moving forward," Kari says.

Morning Meeting is the central, most apparent, piece of Responsive Classroom that Aragon has implemented, but it's not the only practice they have undertaken. A few classrooms have a Closing Circle as well as Quiet Time. Overall, Responsive Classroom has helped to positively transform the culture at Aragon Elementary and improve discipline and behaviors among students. "This is our launching point for success for our students," Aragon Principal Tracey Landrum says.

 

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