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Responsive Classroom Strategies

Using Language to
Encourage and
Empower Children
Part 3

In this four-part series, Ruth Sidney Charney discusses the language of the Responsive Classroom, explains the structures that support encouraging and empowering language, and provides practical examples of each.

The second structure teachers using the Responsive Classroom approach use to support encouraging and empowering language is to remind.


Using Language to Encourage and Empower Children

Part 1: Encouraging and Empowering Language
Part 2: Exploring the First "R": To Reinforce
Part 3: Exploring the Second "R": To Remind
Part 4: Exploring the Third "R": To Redirect

It is Monday and the class is conducting its usual morning greetings around the circle. The teacher notices that the greetings are flat, lacking a welcome or focus. She tells the class to stop and look up at her. "I'm noticing," she starts, "that we are forgetting how to give a friendly and welcoming greeting. Who can remind me of some of the things we do to greet one another? What's one thing? Who will show us what that looks like?" After a few quick reminders about eye contact, audible voices and names, they are ready to resume. This time there actually is some enthusiasm!

We often remind children before they are about to begin a task or when they appear to be getting slightly off task. We are calling back to mind the behaviors and expectations previously learned and practiced. If I say, for example, "Show me how you ask to use the marker in a friendly way, " I know that I have provided firm guidelines and practice with that skill. The phrase "show me" is a cue to recall the appropriate words and actions.

Even older students need frequent reminders. It is important for all children to visualize a necessary sequence as a way to contain impulsivity and immediate gratification. Hungry children on the way to lunch might be more than exuberant. What a difference it made, Miss J. found, when she did quick reminders before sending her 6th graders out the door to the lunchroom:
"I know you're hungry and eager, but remind us, how will you walk down the hall? Why is it important to go quietly and slowly? What will happen if I see folks running and jumping down steps?"
"We'll have to come back and sit down."
"Yeah, so if you have to come back to lose time and get even hungrier. Let's zip mouths and use brakes. Ready?"

Again the characteristics of good reminders include the following characteristics:

  • Simple and brief. (No lectures please.)
  • Elicit actions and verbal patterns.
  • Help children show and practice previously learned behaviors.
  • Frame the positive -- what we will do (not what we won't).

Examples of reminders include:
"Who can remind us what we do if we have a question or comment during our lesson?"

"Show us, what it looks like to raise your hand and wait in a respectful way." ?"

"What's the first thing you'll need to get ready for math class? What's the second?" ?"

"Remind us what three things happen when bell rings. Tell me one."

"Who will show us how to dip your brush carefully into the paint? Who remembers?"

"Before we try our movement activity, let's remember what we do to make it safe and fun for everyone." ?"

"This group is getting too noisy. Tell me how you can work together and keep quiet voices." ?"

Again, we use reminders to help children visualize and recall expectations. We also use reminders to help children recover their controls and follow the rules. It always is important to give children time to rehearse the required skills and appropriate behaviors. Some will take longer than others. Mona, for example, has a very hard time shifting gears. When the signal to stop occurs, she keeps on with whatever she is doing, seeming oblivious. "Mona," the teacher says gently, "come stand next to me and let's watch. Now who can show us what you do when you hear the signal." As if in a kind of pantomime, she rings the bell again and Mona and teacher observe. "What did you notice Mona?"

Of course, there are times when children do make a wrong choice and push the limits further. We now need to redirect their behavior.


Next: Exploring the Third "R": To Redirect