Have you heard about the program called the First Six Weeks of School? It is part of an initiative called the Responsive Classroom that is aimed at increasing academic performance and social skills while reducing behavioral problems. The First Six Weeks of School is based upon the book by the same name.
Union Memorial School has embraced this approach school-wide, incorporating it into the curriculum in all classrooms and with all specialists. Many of the educators at UMS have taken week-long coursework in Responsive Classroom I and Responsive Classroom II in Morristown, Vermont, as well as in other locations. Some of them also received credit through Southern New Hampshire University. The coursework requires participants to incorporate various aspects of the course into their own classrooms and then report out to the professors via reflective essays or other documentation.
While there is a great deal of flexibility in the program, it has a basic structure from which all educators work. The day begins with a morning meeting for the purpose of providing a time for students and teachers to greet one another and interact socially. The morning meeting consists of four components—greeting, sharing, activities, and news and announcements—in order to help students develop important social skills like eye contact, self-control, and speaking and listening skills. In addition, educators typically embed curriculum into the meetings, such as literacy, math, or science skills training. And in addition to the morning meetings, UMS holds a school-wide meeting every other week, and different classrooms, students, or educators have an opportunity to lead parts of these meetings.
Along with the morning meeting are the “guided discoveries” and “academic choice” components. During guided discoveries, materials used in the classroom, including everything from crayons to pattern blocks, are introduced to the students, and the teachers help the students to discover safe and appropriate ways to use them. During academic choice, which fits well with the district’s differentiated instruction model, students may learn or demonstrate their learning using a method of this choice—and the ability to choose proves highly motivational for them.
This approach is helping teachers prepare students not only to be successful students but successful adults and community members! The Responsive Classroom approach truly teaches life skills.
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