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Spotlight On: Aragon Elementary School's Cultural Shift and Responsive Classroom Implementation

Tuesday, February 19, 2019  
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Spotlight On: Aragon Elementary School's Cultural Shift and Responsive Classroom Implementation

Communication Matters Newsletter — February 1, 2019

Aragon Elementary School in Fountain Fort Carson is a pretty different school today than it was even just a year ago—it isn’t just that behavior issues are down; students are coming in more engaged and ready to be a part of their community than ever before. And Principal Tracey Landrum credits Responsive Classroom, a teaching model she implemented this year, with a lot of the positive atmosphere she’s seeing so far.

 

“Responsive Classroom is every good training I’ve been to wrapped up in one bow,” she said.

 

Landrum, who’s been at Aragon Elementary for nine years—seven as principal—was first introduced to Responsive Classroom 12 years ago, when she taught in District 49. She wanted to introduce it at Aragon to try and keep students engaged and to reduce necessary disciplinary measures in the building.

 

 

“Last year, we hit a cap of behavior [issues] and interruptions. Students were not really buying into the idea of being in their classrooms,” she said. “The building has a great community with the adults but kids just weren’t digging it. So, I asked my boss if my assistant principal and I could go to the Responsive Classroom training two years ago, the summer of 2017, and we did a four-day course.”

 

The Responsive Classroom Course for Elementary Educators is taught by The Center for Responsive Schools. The program focuses on greater teacher effectiveness, improved school climate, engaging academics and developmentally responsive teaching. Those goals are catalyzed every morning, with each classroom running a Morning Meeting, comprised of four parts.

 

They start off with a greeting. Students sit in a circle, and through some sort of game, they greet one another. One classroom, for example, played a game where everybody looked at the floor, and on the count of three, tried to make eye contact with somebody else in the circle. If they were successful, those who made eye contact run to the middle of the circle, high five, and the game starts over again.

 

Next, every kid shares something with their peers. It could be something they learned the previous day in school, or something they’re looking forward to. Maybe one day they share what they ate for breakfast, or their favorite movies.

 

 

“It’s part of building that community and learning about each other,” Landrum said. “Kids are starting to feel more comfortable, plus, we’re learning things about families that might need more support.”

 

After sharing, they’ll partake in some sort of game or activity. It could be tied to academics, and whatever they’re learning at the moment, or it could be a game—either way, Landrum said, the goal is to keep it interactive and fun, but also build perseverance among students.

 

The final component is a morning message from the teacher. Written on chart paper, the morning message will set a sort of mission for the day, and helps tie academics and community together, trying to proactively address any discipline problems. They’ll shout out birthdays, make any schedule changes clear to the group, and challenge students to think about whatever they’re currently learning in new and different ways.

 

Morning meetings and Responsive Classroom methods aren’t just for the students. Landrum said she runs her staff meetings now according to Responsive Classroom guidelines, so her staff can experience that process just like their students.

 

“We’re a Title I school with 80 percent free and reduced lunch. Our behavior support calls last year, we were probably at 300-plus in the first quarter. We’re down to less than 100 per quarter now because kids are wanting to stay in their classrooms, or we’re able to respond faster and help process faster to get them back in class,” she said. “We really believe in it, and the culture change for students has been a 180.”

 


Are you interested in being featured in one of our Spotlight stories? Is your school or district doing something worthy of a shout-out? Be it a district-wide project, a school-specific milestone or even a staff member who goes above and beyond, we want to know! Email CASE Communications Specialist Elisa Wiseman with your story or shout-out for a chance to be featured on our website, and in a future Communication Matters newsletter. Get in touch with her at ewiseman@co-case.org.

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