How to Get Students Ready for Learning

Teachers at Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor, Maine, use proven Responsive Classroom techniques -- such as relationship-building morning meetings and engaging student-led activities -- to get students focused and ready to learn.

Teachers at Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor, Maine, use proven Responsive Classroom techniques -- such as relationship-building morning meetings and engaging student-led activities -- to get students focused and ready to learn.

Release Date: 4/4/13

More Info

Sample Resources from Mount Desert Elementary School

Rebecca Heniser, a third-grade teacher at Mount Desert Elementary School, shared some resources that can help you get started.

Rebecca Heniser's Class Schedule PDF - See how Mount Desert teachers make time for SEL programs, such as morning meetings.

Collaborative Teaching Form PDF - See how counselor Pam Parvin and teacher Rebecca Heniser work together to teach social and emotional well-being to the third grade. This particular document focuses on how to structure class -- and the topics to discuss -- to improve student self-confidence.

Responsive Classroom ThemesPDF - Get a list of the topics teachers focus on when incorporating the Responsive Classroom approach.

Ideas for Transitions PDF - See a list of student-created transitions used in Heniser's class throughout the day. These transitions keep the kids engaged and focused as they move between classes, and while walking to lunch and recess.

Cleanup Transitions PDF - More activities that Heniser's students created to help keep the classroom focused.

Ms. Heniser also recommends these books:

Dig Deeper

see more see less

Get Video

Embed Video

Cut and paste the text below to embed this video on your website:

<iframe width="480" height="270" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Visit our embeddable player instructions page for more information about embedding Edutopia videos.

Download from iTunes U

This video is available as a free download from iTunes U.

If you do not have iTunes on your computer, download iTunes here.

See all Edutopia videos available on iTunes.

Videos from iTunes U are optimized for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and are most appropriate for personal or small group viewing. If you would like to request a high-quality video file for presentation purposes, please contact


How to Get Students Ready for Learning (Transcript)

Scott McFarland: Hi guys.

Scott: I was a student that probably could have fallen through the cracks pretty easily and I always vowed that if I was ever into education I was going to create a school in which all kids counted and that we did everything in our power for kids.

Scott: How are you?

Mom: Good how are you? Come on, kids!

Scott: Look at you go, Girl!

Mom: I know, we're workin' it!

Scott: There is no stopping you!

Scott: I just really believe that more than ever before we need to teach kids the skills of self-regulating their emotions. We know that they're going to benefit from dealing with social-emotional components. They're going to perform academically and they're going to perform very strongly.

Rebecca Heniser: The social-emotional learning allows me to be a teacher. The students are motivated to learn and to have that leadership role within the classroom to have that sense of community and a sense of family.

Rebecca: I would like someone to choose how we're going to transition from our desks to the rug. Emeris?

Emeris: Thumb walk.

Rebecca: Thumb walk? And can you tell the class your expectations?

Emeris: Quiet and don't talk.

Rebecca: One of the things that's crucial with a Responsive Classroom is allowing the kids to take the leadership role. They made a list of how they would like to transition from one activity to the next. Doing a thumb walk where they walk slowly and basically twiddle their thumbs.

Julian: The transitions make me feel relaxed and they help me calm down.

Rebecca: We are going to start morning meeting with what we did this weekend. I know a lot of you had some great stories to share so we will start with Jacob.

Jacob: I saw the ice boats just fly and that was really, really cool.

Elizabeth: When people share things I always get a little picture in my mind of what they're doing.

Rebecca: This is our family time. We come together as a family and from here we talk about any successes, accomplishments students have had, and it just sets us up for the day.

Rebecca: We are going to do yoga this morning and we are going to transition from the rug down to the forum. When you're ready you may start your stretch walk.

Rebecca: Usually every day try to do some type of yoga, whether it's just a couple of minutes a day or twice a week I do a full blown 40-minute yoga class.

Elizabeth: The yoga and the transitions, it's helping me also when I'm at home I'm also calming down more too.

Rebecca: This is something that I can't start my day without. Oftentimes with kids they don't realize that their body will tell them how they are feeling before their brain does. With yoga we get that out of them and it's a way for them to release all their energy, get them ripe for learning.

Rebecca: How do you think that doing yoga in the morning especially before writing is helping us?

Jacob: I feel much more relaxed and more focused.

Student: All the yoga that we do helps us do more writing time in the small amount of time we have.

Rebecca: The advice that I would give to a teacher about wanting to implement social-emotional learning into their classroom is that it's easy. It's easy and it's something that comes natural to all teachers. It's incorporating the movement, incorporating a voice for our students, incorporating that community, that sense of family.

Scott: Once you have a culture where staff are committed to kids, it spreads like wildfire. All of the things that we do have been teacher-initiated. I'm smart enough to know as the leader of my school is I'm not the expert. My teachers are the experts. A key mindset I think is for leaders of schools to feel empowered to give their teachers a license to do these types of things.


  • Director: Alyssa Fedele
  • Editor: Daniel Jarvis
  • Associate Producer: Douglas Keely
  • Camera: Mario Furloni
  • Sound: Douglas Keely
  • Graphic Design: Jenny Kolcun
  • Web Producer: Lora Ma Fukuda
  • Senior Manager of Video: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: David Markus

© 2013 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (2)

Comment RSS
co-founder I am Bullyproof Music

Doesn't it all boil down to

Was this helpful?

Doesn't it all boil down to respect? Respect for each other, respect for learning, respect for our bodies, our own inner compasses?

Somehow we seem to have lost a bit of all that respect in this brave new world. This video illustrates how easily we can bring that focus back a bit. YAY! What great news :-)

4th grade teacher

I have found that supporting

Was this helpful?

I have found that supporting the autonomy of my students helps them to develop intrinsic motivation towards self monitoring their behavior. I have always done this rather instinctually, but after some research, I want to try to use it to have them promote their own academic progress. This video demonstrates what I would consider a whole child approach. You've presented a door to me and I'm going to pursue further research in bringing these techniques into my classroom.

see more see less