Meet the Makers of Our New Middle School Program—Part 2 of 2

Matt Pearsall, Program Developer

implementation - Second Step Middle School Program

Part 2: Flexible Implementation

In our last blog post, we talked about how we designed the lessons in the new Second Step Middle School Program to be flexible enough to work in a wide variety of classrooms and with a wide variety of students. None of that matters though, if you can’t find a way to incorporate the Second Step Program into your school day. The structure of middle schools varies tremendously, and while we would love it if every school in the country changed their schedules to accommodate the Second Step Program, we realize that school structures are complex and shaped by many requirements beyond social-emotional learning (SEL). If we want this program to be able to reach as many kids as possible, we need to make something that can fit into any school.

Teaching the Second Step Program in Advisory

One common place SEL gets taught is in advisory programs. Advisories are short periods set aside in a school’s schedule when students work with a staff advisor. The advisor helps students build positive personal connections and work on non-academic skills. Advisories are a natural fit for the new Second Step Middle School Program, which is why we designed the lessons specifically to work in a shorter, advisory period.

We also know that advisory programs are difficult to implement, and schools often abandon them after a few years. For the Second Step Middle School Program to succeed in an advisory, the advisory program around it needs to succeed, too. Therefore, we have developed an entire advisory program to accompany the Second Step program.

Research shows that successful advisory programs are customized to meet the unique needs of a school. Building a custom program from scratch is a huge lift, though, and is often what causes advisory programs to fail. We designed the Second Step Middle School program to be used in advisory to bridge the gap between what schools want to do and what they have the time and resources to do. Our program includes 176 activities—including discussions, challenges, service-learning projects, and academic check-ins—ranging from short icebreakers to extended class projects. These activities can be mixed and matched however you want. They can serve as the building blocks of a successful advisory program.

Teaching the Second Step Program in a Regular Class Period

While advisories are the most common place to use our program, they are by no means the only place. Health classes, physical education classes, core academic classes: schools teach the Second Step Middle School Program in all these places. You can use advisory activities to expand the core 25-minute Second Step lessons into full 45- to 60-minute lessons. Each lesson has a suggested activity to use, or teachers can pick their own activity to best suit their own classroom.

Making a program that works anywhere, anytime, for any teacher, and for any student is important to us because we want to reach as many students as possible with these critical SEL skills and concepts. With the new Second Step Middle School Program, we feel we’ve created something that will work for you, your coworker teaching across town, and your fellow educator teaching 3,000 miles away.

Did you miss part one? Click here to view it now.