Committee for Children Blog

5 Big Ideas for Back-to-School, Courtesy of the Second Step Program


Ready…Set…Go! It’s that time of year again. Pull those Second Step kits off the shelf and get ready to roll because the way you initially approach implementation sets the stage for continued success. Implementation is an ongoing process that needs to be considered up front and then planned for and supported regularly if it is to be sustained (Leadbeater, Gladstone, & Sukhawathanakul, 2015). Take a look at these ways to gear up and get your Second Step program implementation off to a good start.

Communicate the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) to your staff, families, and students. Share resources that remind them why SEL is important, such as this new video, Social-Emotional Learning: What It Is and Why it Matters. Post them on your web page, refer to them in your welcome messages to parents and families, and share them at your opening staff meeting. Dissemination is not sufficient in supporting implementation, so be sure to consider more of the ideas below.

Designate an implementation team that has dedicated time to meet regularly. School implementation teams have been shown to have a directly influential role in the sustainability of implementation (McIntosh et al., 2013), and when multiple stakeholders are involved it ensures that implementation is not compromised by factors such as staff turnover or lack of time. Read our Effective Implementation white paper for more.

Involve new staff. Bring in new staff to your Second Step implementation support team to gather fresh ideas and energy for implementation. Ensure they have Second Step training and are ready to implement in the first weeks of school. Provide them with consistent messaging about how SEL aligns with school improvement plans and fits with other initiatives.

Get out the data and use it. Review your data (e.g., classroom lesson implementation rates, student social skill pre-post data, student behavior, and other outcome data) to solidify your goals for the year. Regularly review the data to determine if changes in practices are needed. Staff is more likely to implement for the long term if they believe the program is making a difference (Leadbeater, Gladstone, & Sukhawathanakul, 2015) and if they perceive the effects on student outcomes to be directly related to their efforts (McIntosh et al., 2013). Need a refresher? Check out our Evaluation Guides for Early Learning, Elementary, and Middle School.

Plan continued efforts to energize the program. Ensure it becomes part of daily routines and “business as usual.” Set aside time throughout the year for:

  • Sharing ideas and discussions about what is and is not working with implementation
  • Review of Second Step follow-up activities
  • Exploration of books that support the lessons
  • Communication about new available resources

Dedicate Second Step time during regular staff meetings (the Principal Toolkit can help!) or budget for extra time before or after school. Build in consistent Second Step announcements by focusing on a skill of the week. Schedule a couple of school days specifically focused on the Second Step program and give these days a fun title, such as “Fantabulous Second Step Day!” Include fun activities to build up student and staff excitement about the Second Step program and to communicate that it’s here to stay.

Leadbeater, B.J., Gladstone, E.J., & Sukhawathanakul, P. (2015). Planning for sustainability of an evidence-based mental health promotion program in Canadian Elementary Schools. American Journal of Community Psychology, 56, 120–133.

McIntosh, K., Mercer, S.H., Hume, A.M., Frank, J., Turri, M., & Mathews, S. (2013). Factors related to sustained implementation of school wide positive behavior support. Council for Exceptional Children, 79(3), 293–311.