Core Practices

Students learn best when school meets them where they are developmentally, and when they have regular opportunities to know each other, practice important social skills, and stay engaged in their learning. Developmental Designs teaching practices are designed with exactly these factors in mind. Developmental Designs practices build skills and engagement in three key areas of school life: 1) Social-Emotional 2) Relationship and Community 3) Academic

Self-management and Other Social-emotional Skill Building

Students thrive in an environment that embeds knowledge of self, self-control, self-assessment, and appreciation for others within their daily school responsibilities. Here are sample Developmental Designs structures that give teachers the tools they need to steadily build student self-management and peer and teacher relationship skills.


Goal setting takes several forms in the Developmental Designs approach. Students set long-term and daily academic and social goals for themselves, and periodically assess how well they have met those goals, as well as goals set by the teacher.


The Social Contract process brings staff and students together to create a set of behavioral guidelines that they use to tend to the health of the community throughout the year.


Modeling and practicing allows teachers and students to work together to create and become adept at specific protocols for classroom and school-wide routines.


Pathways to Self-control give teachers and students clear responsibilities for responding to and changing misbehavior, and help students get back on track as quickly as possible.

Relationship and Community Building

Students respect others and learn better in community when they get to know each other and practice listening and contributing to each other. Here are some Developmental Designs practices that create and maintain healthy relationships in the context of advisory and class hours.


Circle of Power and Respect advisory meetings bring students together in a fun, lively, safe, and respectful meeting format that includes a greeting, sharing,  an activity, and daily news message.


Activity Plus advisory meetings allow for more activity time and flexibility while preserving a sense of community during advisory.


Power of Play emphasizes group games that provide inclusive fun. Teachers build a repertoire of activities that can be used during advisory and all day long to bring movement, teamwork, friendly competition, and enjoyment into students’ scholarly lives.

Academic Skill Building

Teachers learn practical approaches to help students be more motivated, focused, and hard-working. They pay particular attention to five research-based assets that can be built into daily academic lessons to increase student motivation: STARS. STARS Assests for Optimal Instruction: Self-determination Task orientation Active construction Relevance Social Interaction In both the social and academic realms, Developmental Designs practices utilize these assets. (Consider the self-determination involved When a student plays a role in setting the rules and defining them in their specific daily routines.) Here are two practices that when applied to the academic realm specifically, bring these assets to daily lessons.


Student motivation increases when students determine some aspects of their learning: assessing their own growth, choosing a topic to research, how to study for a test, how to present their work to the class, what game the group will play in advisory. A structure to support effective self-determination pays off in student empowerment and school connectedness.


Teachers can take advantage of the two prime learning times — the beginning and the end of the class hour. Using them for content introduction and reflection, respectively, leverages learning. The time in between is energized for learning when it is designed to be active and interactive, sometimes even lightened with playful moments.

One thought on “Core Practices

  1. jen thompson (grade k Stella Durdiyevs' gramma)

    Hello Mr. Jit, I thouroughly enjoyed Feb. 4’s meeting. We are fairly new to the New City School community and the meeting surpassed alll my expectations. What a great bunch of parents/staff/students!!!!!!
    I look forward to a long involvement with the school. I would like to contact whoever is in charge of the garden, meals and volunteering in any other area of need.
    I thank you for your genuine love and dedication to the students/parents/staff. Jen

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