Creating classroom environments that give all students the opportunity to thrive is at the heart of both Responsive Classroom and Fly Five’s mission. Responsive Classroom and Fly Five work together to successfully create an environment where students feel comfortable and secure and have the necessary guidance they need to develop SEL skills. 

In order to address the need for social and emotional learning in the classroom, Center for Responsive Schools created two programs to guide educators in developing optimal learning environments: Responsive Classroom and Fly Five. The core belief of Responsive Classroom and the SEL standards of the Fly Five curriculum are both informed by the C.A.R.E.S. competencies and used to support the social, emotional, and academic success of students. 

How Do Responsive Classroom and Fly Five Connect?

Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching and discipline that centers on four key domains: engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmentally responsive teaching. Through professional development books and resources, Responsive Classroom strives to support elementary and middle school educators in creating safe, joyful, and engaging classrooms and school communities that foster SEL and academic growth. The Fly Five curriculum aligns with the Responsive Classroom approach by intentionally supporting each of the four domains through lesson plans and instructional materials in order to make implementation of these ideas in the classroom easy and achievable. Ultimately, the Responsive Classroom approach creates the conditions necessary for students to develop their social-emotional competence, while Fly Five provides the guidance and instruction necessary for teachers to foster grade-specific SEL skills. 


SEL Competencies and Academic Competencies

The core belief of Responsive Classroom is that in order to be successful in and out of school, students need to learn a set of social-emotional and academic competencies. Consider the different components of both sets of competencies below:

Supported by research, Fly Five’s flexible and actionable curriculum is centered around the five C.A.R.E.S. social and emotional competencies. Each of these competencies is connected to its own set of standards. For example, the competency of cooperation is made up of the following standards:

    1. Able to make and keep friends

    2. Works with others towards a common goal

    3. Resolves differences quickly

    4. Exhibits helpfulness

With these standards, Fly Five strives to make Responsive Classroom’s core belief attainable for all students by ensuring that educators have the guidance they need to foster these competencies in their classrooms. Each of these standards is also aligned with a set of developmentally appropriate skills that progress from kindergarten through eighth grade to support and build upon students’ social-emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development. Building on the C.A.R.E.S. competencies also paves the way for academic growth, as SEL progress and academic progress go hand-in-hand. 

Supporting the Four Domains

As previously mentioned, the Responsive Classroom approach centers on four distinct domains. These domains drive the responsive teaching approach that paves the way for SEL and academic learning to successfully take place. Let’s take a closer look at each of the key domains of Responsive Classroom and how the Fly Five curriculum supports them. 

  • Engaging academics: Learner-centered lessons that are participatory, appropriately challenging, fun, relevant, and promote curiosity, wonder, and interest
    • There are many ways the Fly Five curriculum utilizes engaging academics. For example, Fly Five provides interactive learning structures (ILS) in lessons that allow for students to engage with content in ways that are hands-on and social. 
    • Fly Five also gives students choices in lessons by providing them with options for how they would like to respond to prompts or complete an independent practice. 
  • Positive community: A safe, predictable, joyful, and inclusive environment where all students have a sense of belonging and significance
    • With the Responsive Classroom approach, Morning Meeting and Responsive Advisory Meetings are a way to ground students. They provide an opportunity for students and educators to come together and illuminate how their classroom communities (and outside worlds) are interconnected. During these daily meetings, teachers and students can discuss how they’re feeling as they approach the day or potential applications of Fly Five lessons and social-emotional skills. 
    • Additionally, Fly Five has lessons that support the development of the SEL skills necessary to combat bullying. These lessons are identified with a bullyproof symbol. 
  • Effective management: A calm and orderly learning environment that promotes autonomy, responsibility, and high engagement in learning
    • Fly Five is designed in a way that allows teachers to integrate the lessons seamlessly into their schedule at any time—without disrupting the organization or flow of the classroom. 
    • Fly Five also provides teachers with the opportunity to facilitate consistent routines and procedures that reduce student anxiety and prepare them for learning throughout their day.
  • Developmentally responsive teaching: Basing all decisions for instruction and discipline upon research and knowledge of students’ social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development
    • In each grade level, the Fly Five standards include a teacher objective and an age-appropriate student objective to ensure that students can understand and build upon SEL skills at a level that suits their development. 


With these four domains as a guide, educators and school leaders are more likely to cultivate classroom communities that are inclusive, comfortable, and welcoming for everyone. When students feel safe and secure in their learning environment, they are able to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Together, Responsive Classroom’s teaching approach and Fly Five’s SEL curriculum create a comprehensive educational environment that not only gives students the explicit guidance that they need to develop their SEL skills but also ensures that they are adequately prepared to give this learning their all.