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Is Responsive Classroom effective for Children with Special Needs?

Are you set for the first day of school?  Or are you still on the process of finishing up your back to school checklist?

The “first day of school” may be the most anticipated time of the year for educators, parents, and students.  Because once again it’s the “beginning” of another 9-month long journey for everyone.   It is our heart’s desire to give the most memorable adventure for kids while of course seeing them reach their full learning potentials.  While we can prepare the classrooms, schedules, lessons, paperwork and perhaps ourselves for that perfect day.  No one can actually tell how students would react or behave from the first day to the rest of the school year.

Frameworks or programs being implemented vary from school to school.  And we know that each day it all started in a classroom.  Educators have developed different methods for keeping classrooms under control.  Harry K. Wong, the author of “The First Days of School,” proposed a classroom management program that is believed to be one of the most effective today.   The focus of Wong’s program is on creating orderly classroom routines that help children understand what is expected of them each day. It is a highly effective method, one that works well in both special and general education classrooms.

“Routines take time to be taught, but eventually, they become second-nature, and students no longer need to be reminded what to do.  The best time to establish routines is at the beginning of the school year. The First Six Weeks of School, a book by educators Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete, lays out six weeks’ of activities that teach routines and create meaningful ways for students to interact and create community in the classroom. This approach is now trademarked as “The Responsive Classroom.”

(For the importance of routines, creating routines, and rules visit “How to Create Classroom Management Routines“)

Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching elementary and middle school students. Responsive Classroom stresses the importance of fusing social-emotional learning with academic learning to create the optimal environment for success.

Research finds that the Responsive Classroom approach is associated with higher math and reading achievement, an improved school climate, and higher-quality instruction. Responsive Classroom is described as one of the most well-designed evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

What are the Guiding Principles of Responsive Classroom?

The Responsive Classroom approach is influenced by the work of educational theorists and experienced, exemplary classroom teachers. According to the Responsive Classroom Website, six principles guide the approach. These include:

  1. Teaching social and emotional skills is as important as teaching academic content.
  2. How we teach is as important as what we teach.
  3. Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. What we know and believe about our students individually, culturally, and developmentally guides our expectations, reactions, and attitudes about those students.
  5. How we work together as adults to create a safe, joyful, and inclusive school environment is as important as our individual contribution or competence.
  6. Partnering with families ”knowing them and valuing their contributions” is as important as knowing the children we teach.

(Visit “Responsive Classroom: Evidenced-Based Approach Improves Academics & Behavior” for more info)

Here are some of the inspiring stories how “Responsive Classroom” helped children with special needs:

Other Responsive Classroom Stories and Resources:


We are not affiliated with any organization or bloggers mentioned in this article.  But we thought that this would be a great resource for you and your students for a successful start of the 2018-2019 school year.  Just like you, we hope to see the kids begin a great journey while reaching their full learning potentials.