Published: | By: Kim Gulbrandson Topics: Curriculum, Middle School, Social-Emotional Learning 5 Reasons Why the New Second Step Middle School Curriculum is Magnificent I must admit that since Committee for Children made the announcement that a new Second Step Middle School curriculum will be coming out in August of 2017, I’ve been feeling a bit impatient and restless. I’m ready to dig in, so I have to keep reminding myself of what some of the Second Step elementary lessons teach: use strategies to wait patiently. But that is so hard to do! Knowing all the time and energy that has gone into the program’s development, from gathering others’ feedback and reviewing the research to pilot trials of lessons, I just know it is going to be good. I did take advantage of Committee for Children’s opportunity to preview a few lessons, review the lesson scope and sequence, and look at the research. Then I talked to friends to find out what they like best about it after they had done the same. These are five of our favorite things about the new curriculum from what we know so far: Lessons are Engaging The lessons are only 25 minutes long. Plus, no two lessons are exactly the same, which keeps things exciting. The varying lesson elements include surveys, class discussions, videos, activities, think-turn-tell and think-share components, writing, and more. Some lessons have one video while others have more than one. All the videos are short. The variety in activities and format fosters student engagement because no single element takes more than 10 minutes. The graphics are also captivating. “Real Voices” of Middle School Students are Represented For the new curriculum, 250 students from 10 different locations were asked about life in middle school. They provided feedback in a video kiosk that included a mounted tablet system with a camera. The kiosks were in private locations so students could talk openly about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences using their own words. Information from the Real Voices experiences was used to create videos for the curriculum. This means students hear about the real experiences of other middle school students, helping them to know they are not alone. Students Have Regular Opportunities to Personally Connect with Learnings Students have many opportunities for self-reflection, which fosters self-awareness, one of the Big 5 social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies. They are asked to think about how to apply the skills in their own lives. For example, within the Starting Middle School lesson, students are asked to share one thing that makes them nervous about starting middle school, and then to identify one person at school they could go to for help if they are feeling nervous or having a problem. In the Grow Your Brain lesson, students are asked to list all the things they do to make their brains stronger. These opportunities for making a personal connection to the lessons are fostered in many ways, including thinking, sharing, writing, or discussing. There are Ongoing Opportunities for Giving Feedback About the Lessons Adults who teach the lessons can provide Committee for Children with feedback about each lesson, including what they liked best and how the lesson could be improved. The feedback option is at the end of each lesson and is optional. There are only two questions, so the process is quick and easy. It is nice to know that Committee for Children values feedback from those of us who are out in the field, implementing the lessons. No More Need for Paper Copies of Handouts This may be especially exciting for those of you on a limited copying budget. Because the curriculum is digital, handout examples are provided on the screen, so although printed handouts remain an option, they are not needed. Everything can be shown on a screen for the students and teacher to engage in and interact with together, at one time. There will be much more to share about the new Second Step Middle School curriculum as things continue to unfold, so keep following my posts to hear more about it.