32: Flexible Classroom Elements for Effective Responsive Teaching





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How to Change Several Classroom Elements as Part of Good Responsive Teaching
  • Negotiate extra time on tasks for students who work diligently, yet slowly
  • Compact or exempt advanced students on work related to topics they’ve already demonstrated mastery
  • Use stations, homework contracts, and learning centers to help students work on deficits on precursor skills
  • Create a quiet zone in room where noise and visual stimuli are minimal
  • Post and use several seating arrangement charts so that students can rearrange room quickly
  • Collect textbooks at different lexile levels
  • Bookmark websites at different lexile levels and languages
  • Use audio and video clips to teach
Student Grouping
  • Use prearranged groups and established work areas so students know where to sit during group work time
  • Plan to use multiple group styles: homogenous, heterogenous, interest, and learning profile groups
Teaching Strategies
  • Teach with both part-to-whole and whole-to-part emphasis
  • Intersperse lecture with small group discussions.  See Writing breaks and Classroom Conversations articles.
  • Make connections between key ideas/skills and students’ cultures and interests.
Learning Strategies
  • Provide practical, analytical, and creative options for student work.  See differentiated curriculum charts article.
  • Provide tiered assignments and assessments
  • Encourage students to work alone or with a peer
  • Use expert (jigsaw) groups to teach key ideas
Teaching Partnerships
  • Have students perform all classroom functions that are not imperative for a teacher to perform
  • Survey parents for insights into students’ interests, learning preferences and needs
  • Work with other teachers, especially those who are good with Differentiated Instruction


While “varying” instruction for responsive teaching, it’s good to know or be reminded of how many elements can be readily changed to meet students’ needs.  Also it’s important to know and experiment with how changing classroom logistics (use of space and time) can impact student learning.


Preparation Steps
  • Recruit thought partners
  • Gather websites and textbooks at varied lexile levels and formats for upcoming projects
  • Decide what seating configurations work for different workshop types and activity types
  • Experiment early in the year with seating configurations before creating diagrams
  • Train students to switch classroom seating between seating configuration types
  • Label group work areas and other key work spaces
  • Set up and communicate a flexible due date policy
  • Pre-assess students to see who qualifies for compacting and exemptions
  • Set up student groups – heterogeneous for product groups and homogeneous for learning groups
  • Design menu of learning activities that will serve students in different learning groups
  • Develop good questioning sequences for facilitating workshops and for reflection prompts
  • Elect and train classroom officers who lead students in key classroom functions
  • Survey parents to learn about student interests, learning needs, and challenges
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use student team roles to make sure team members in heterogenous groups all have meaningful group tasks
  • Lead small group workshops to align to specific learning groups needs
  • Observe students to determine who qualifies for compacting, exemptions, and delayed dead lines
  • Use interest groups and learning groups to deliver workshops that match students’ needs & wants
  • Use stamping method (or similar tracking system) to give lots of formative feedback and to track that students are moving towards mastery in key topics
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Consult students on strategies that can be implemented in the future to improve bridge between content and student needs and interests
  • Teach students how to effectively track their progress and select good next steps to meet academic and project goals

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