The Value of Responsive Classroom

Rob Schoen
The “greeting” takes no more than a few minutes to complete. All seem eager to contribute; the children know it’s an important first step in their day. Every member of the class – children and adults – is greeted by name, with a handshake and eye contact. And so it goes around the circle, connecting each to each. They share this daily experience not only to set a tone for respectful learning, but also to establish a climate of trust through the year.

While the greeting can be straightforward, variations allow for novelty. A passerby may see a student welcoming a friend by tossing a ball him or her. Or, in an effort to apply different traditions from around the world, IDS students might apply a Senegalese greeting of friendship and open-mindedness. This custom asks a child to raise another’s hand to his or her forehead and heart. Students giggle, but all find the courage to try something new. During a recent Morning Meeting, students remove one shoe, toss it into a small, central pile, and then retrieve another’s footwear. As children laugh about the rubber-soled trophy in their hands, they begin returning sneakers to their rightful owners with a greeting in-kind.

How many learning opportunities are embedded in these greetings? Certainly children learn each other’s names and set a positive tone in the classroom, but they also recognize their interdependence. Many academic and social-emotional skills can be added to this list. Consider the following. When children greet each other, they learn to:

  • Acknowledge the presence of themselves and others
  • Recognize first and last names
  • Be courteous, considerate, and caring
  • Become more comfortable in a social situation
  • Acknowledge different cultures
  • Gain a sense of community and belonging
  • Gain self-esteem
  • Imitate words and motions
  • Communicate clearly in an audible voice
  • Remember games and words
  • Wait their turn
  • Pay attention and focus on the speaker
  • Welcome classmates to the group
  • Help classmates feel valued, liked, and wanted
  • Practice self-control
  • Understand spoken information
  • Recall the sequence of sounds
  • Use new vocabulary
  • Use appropriate body language
  • Create new and different ways to greet each other
  • Show respect for themselves and others
  • Develop sequencing skills
The list is long, and the greeting – just a few minutes each day – is an important piece of our mornings at IDS. Here, we ask children to relax, to be themselves, and to open both heart and mind to the important work that is to be shared later during the day.