Social Emotional Learning: Responsive Classroom

Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching and discipline that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmental awareness. Our professional development, books and resources help elementary and middle school educators to create safe, joyful, and engaging classrooms and school communities where students develop strong social and academic skills and every student can thrive.


The Responsive Classroom approach to teaching is comprised of a set of well-designed practices intended to create safe, joyful, and engaging classrooms 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.

Core Belief

In order to be successful in and out of school, students need to learn a set of social and emotional competencies — cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control — and a set of academic competencies — academic mindset, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors.

Guiding Principles

The Responsive Classroom approach is informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers. Six principles guide this approach:

  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. How we work together as adults to create a safe, joyful, and inclusive school environment is as important as our individual contribution or competence.
  5. What we know and believe about our students — individually, culturally, developmentally — informs our expectations, reactions, and attitudes about those students.
  6. Partnering with families — knowing them and valuing their contributions — is as important as knowing the children we teach.

Classroom Practices and Strategies

Responsive Classroom is an approach to teaching based on the belief that integrating academic and social-emotional skills creates an environment where students can do their best learning. The Responsive Classroom approach consists of a set of practices and strategies that build academic and social-emotional competencies.

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