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Responsive Classroom Strategies

Modeling Procedures

Modeling rules, as I said last week, involves demonstrating the specific behaviors and language patterns of an expectation in a way that grounds the rules in day-to-day experiences. As teachers, we act out the desired behaviors, showing what each looks and sounds like.

Below are the eight procedures for modeling and practicing expectations based on classroom rules.

The teacher names an expectation and discusses the purpose for that expectation.

Modeling Tips

* Monday is a good time to read and review the rules. It also is a good time to model another related expectation and think about a focus for the week. "Let's think about sitting next to a few new people or inviting a new person to play a game."
* Friday, in a morning meeting or closing circle, might be a good time to celebrate a success. "This week many of you had your books and pencils out and were ready to start math group right on time. Give yourselves a big pat on the back."
* With some groups, it might be necessary to model one behavior at a time. For example, I might first practice a complete stop when the quiet signal is given and when that is mastered, model and practice holding the stop and quiet to listen to a direction properly.
* It might help to model one situation at a time a skill that has many applications, such as spatial awareness and personal boundaries. For example, I model the proper distance when walking on a line and then at another time apply it to sitting in the circle or holding a conversation.
* Don't forget to use modeling to help teach more complex social skills. For example, we can model holding a conversation, asking good questions, managing frustration, waiting patiently or solving a problem.
* Most of the time, when teachers model, they demonstrate an acceptable response. It is also useful at times, when there is more than one appropriate way to do something, to ask for student input. "Here's one way to decide who will go first. Does anyone know another way?"

"We need to be able to move through our school in a way that is safe for everyone. That means that you are safe and that we don't disturb others. Why is it important that everyone is safe? Why is it important not to disturb other classes?"

"In this class we raise our hands to speak. When we raise hands, we give everyone thinking time, and also we really can hear what everyone has to say. Why else do you think it is important to raise hands? "

"In this class, when someone rings the chime, everyone has to stop and listen immediately. It is a quiet signal. Why do you think it is so important to have a signal?"

The teacher models specific behaviors and language. It is important to clearly show and name all the elements.

"I am going to line up; watch me." (Another student has been positioned first to help model appropriate spatial distance). The teacher dramatizes walking to the line, keeping quiet and standing about 6 inches away from the other person. She stays standing for almost a minute, waiting without talking or touching the person in front. "Tell me what you notice?"

"I am going to model raising my hand to give an answer to a question." (Teacher might invite a willing student to ask a simple question. "What is 3 + 8?" (student question). Teacher then models her still hand, and quiet voice and body. She is not jumping out of her seat or calling out. "Tell me what you noticed?"

"Monica (student enlisted for this event) is going to gently ring our chime. I am going to stop, look, and listen. Watch me." The teacher pretends to be busy writing. The chime rings. She carefully puts down her pen, looks up at Monica and waits while Monica gives her a "scripted" direction.

The teacher and children name the expected behaviors, telling what they notice with descriptions of precise behaviors and words.

"Who noticed what I did with my hands while waiting?"
"Who noticed how close I stood to the person in front me?
"Who noticed what I said while my hand was raised."

Students model the expectations.

"Now who else thinks they can get on line remembering their quiet voice, distance apart, eyes front.?" The number of children who model depends on age, time and need.

"Who else thinks they can demonstrate raising a hand to answer a question? Who has a question for Nicole?"

"Who else thinks they know what to do when they hear the signal?"

Students practice and the teacher -- immediately and throughout the day -- reinforces the positive efforts to follow the expectations.

"I notice many students remembering to not talk going down the stairs."

"I notice many people raising their hands and waiting for the teacher to call on them and not letting words pop out."

"I'm looking to see how many people respond to the signal before I can count to 12."


The teacher continues to use reminders and reinforce the expectations over time.

"Who can remind us what we need to do when you see the hand signal?"
"Who can show us what it means to be quiet on line?"
"Who can show us what it looks like to raise your hand and keep your good ideas inside your head?"

Modeling is planned -- or occurs spontaneously -- when students forget an appropriate behavior.

Fifth grade students are moving chairs into a circle. A number of them are dragging chairs making a lot of noise and not looking where they are going. It is an accident about to happen. Teacher rings chime and stops the activity. "Why do you think I stopped you?" she asks. "We were too noisy?" a student suggests. "Because?" the teacher continues. "We were dragging our chairs." "Okay, now who can show us how to move a chair in a safe and careful way?" After the student models, the teacher asks again
"What did you notice about the way Isaiah moved his chair?"
"What do you all need to do?"
"Thumbs up if you think you are ready to do it?" THEY ALL DO.

Model. Model. Model. As needed, the teacher models many of the following expectations.

  • How to move safely in the classroom.
  • Proper voice levels for different activities (playground volume, partner work volume, silent volume, and so on.
  • Quiet signals.
  • Circling up.
  • Active listening.
  • Sharpening a pencil. (how and when is the right time.)
  • Raising hands.
  • Organizing backpack to go home.
  • Reading the morning message and other morning routines.
  • Entering classroom if you are late.
  • Entering another classroom.
  • Holding the door as you walk down the hall.
  • Friendly greetings to classmates and visitors.


Teachers using the Responsive Classroom approach do not assume that children know or will carry over expectations from year to year. Modeling gives children, at every age and grade level, the opportunity to know what is expected and develop the competence and confidence to be successful -- at least most of the time.

One year, I noticed that many 7th and 8th graders had a very hard time waiting for the teacher's attention. They had learned, through much modeling, not to interrupt or barge in, but now, I realized, they would walk away after a few moments, often forgetting their vital question. I had to model ways to help them wait and hold onto their questions. One of my students came up with the idea of posting sticky notes on a designated part of the board. So we practiced the steps of waiting, writing, posting and getting a reply. In just that sequence.


For further information, see Rules in School by Brady, Forton, Porter, and Wood. NEFC 2003.