University of Pittsburgh School of Education

The Responsive Classroom

Can the social context of today's classrooms have an impact on academic learning? The proponents of The Responsive Classroom approach believe it does. What do you think?

By Dr. Gregory Morris (University of Pittsburgh)

Reports abound that "children are coming to school with fewer well-developed social, cultural, and intellectual strengths. Often, they do not know each other's names or how to:
  • Greet each other or how to say 'Good morning!'
  • Introduce one person to another.
  • Say 'please' or 'thank you.'
  • Share or solve a dispute over a snack, crayon, or book.
  • Work cooperatively on a project.
  • Ask a polite or interesting question, or make a respectful comment.
  • Evaluate their own or another's work for quality.
  • Show interest in, explore or make use of a range of social and academic opportunities.
  • Do a favor.
A clear social curriculum can help build a classroom or school into a learning community where high social and academic goals are both attained. The approach, known as The Responsive Classroom®, is built around six central components that integrate teaching, learning, and caring in the daily program.


  1. Classroom organization that provides active interest areas for students, space for student-created displays of work, and an appropriate mix of whole class, group, and individual instruction.
  2. Morning Meeting format that provides children with the daily opportunity to practice greetings, conversation, sharing, and problem solving, and motivates them to meet the academic challenges of the day ahead.
  3. Rules and Logical Consequences that are generated, modeled, and role-played with the children and that become the cornerstone of classroom life.
  4. Academic Choice for all children each day in which they must take control of their own learning in some meaningful way, both individually and cooperatively.
  5. Guided discovery of learning materials, areas of the room, curriculum content and ways of behaving that moves children through a deliberate and careful introduction to each new experience. There is no assumption that children already know how to do something before they begin.
  6. Assessment and Reporting to parents that is an evolving process of mutual communication and understanding.

Any of these six components can be implemented independently and enhance the social and academic curriculum of any classroom or school. For more information, visit The Responsive Classroom ® online at


Charney, Ruth Sidney, Marlynn K. Clayton and Chip Wood. Introduction To The Responsive Classroom. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children, 1995, reprinted 1999.


  • Morning Meetings have really built a classroom community in my room.
  • It teaches them respect.
  • My kids are asking for the chants and songs EVERY DAY.
Dr. Gregory Morris, LEADERS Project Co-Director

Resource Texts

There are two book series which are very popular relating to the Responsive Classroom which are both published by the Northeastern Foundation for Children:

The Responsive Classroom Series Strategies for Teachers Series
Volume 1
Off to a Good Start: Launching the School Year 
Volume 1
Roxann Kriete and Lynn Bechtel
The Morning Meeting Book 
Volume 2
Libby Woodfin
Familiar Ground: Traditions that Build School Community
Volume 2
Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete
The First Six Weeks of School
Volume 3
Carol Otis Hurst, Rebecca Otis
Friends and Relations: Using Literature with Social Themes, Grades K-2
Volume 3
Marlynn K. Clayton, Mary Beth Forton, Jay Lord, and Linsey Doolittle
Classroom Spaces that Work
Volume 4
Carol Otis Hurst, Rebecca Otis
Friends and Relations: Using Literature with Social Themes, Grades 3-5
Volume 4
Mary Beth Forton, Deborah Porter, Chip Wood, and Kathryn Brady
Rules in School