Committee for Children Blog

What SEL and Academics Look Like Together

middle school program

Social-emotional skills are essential for academic success. For example, there are many connections between social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies and mathematics. To solve mathematical problems, students need skills such as perseverance and determination. They need to self-evaluate, communicate arguments, stay calm when facing challenging problems, recognize when they lack knowledge to solve a problem, and seek help from others in tough situations. Useful skills for any subject!

The Second Step Program provides students with many opportunities to practice successful approaches to academics that will also serve them in work settings and real-world problems. These opportunities are especially intentional within the new Second Step Middle School curriculum, available August 2017. These are three examples of how SEL skills and academics are taught and supported together in this new curriculum.

The Academic Success Program Theme Integrates SEL and Academics
There are key themes across all lessons, including Academic Success. This theme is addressed in two major ways throughout Grades, 6, 7 and 8: first, through the lessons themselves, and second, through optional advisory activities that are extensions of the lessons. Check out the examples below to see what the integration of Second Step skills and academics looks like within these lessons and activities.

  • Lesson Example: Grow Your Brain (Grade 6)
    How often have you seen students get discouraged about learning something new? Have students ever told you, “I tried that strategy and it doesn’t work” or “I give up”? In Grade 6 of the curriculum, students learn how they can grow their brains by failing and trying again, pushing themselves to try new strategies that work for them, and seeking help from others. These SEL skills are useful for any academic content area, because students who have a growth mindset about their intelligence persevere when work is hard and achieve more in school.
  • Advisory Activity Example: Getting Smarter (Grades 6, 7, or 8)
    Students consider a time when they tried to learn something difficult and remember how it felt to get smarter. They also discuss what they would tell a friend who is discouraged about trying something difficult. Students can apply the concepts learned in this advisory activity toward the many personal and academic challenges they will face throughout life.

Many Lessons Make Connections Between SEL and Academics
Second Step skills taught within lessons support academic growth even in lessons that are not part of the Academic Success program theme. For example, the Grade 6 lesson “Starting Middle School” helps students to identify one person they can go to for help when they are feeling nervous or having a problem—just one way the Second Step Program helps students develop strategies for facing challenges. Another Grade 6 lesson, “Setting Goals,” promotes good academic skills like setting a goal for getting all assignments done on time.

The Curriculum Provides Professional Learning on SEL in Academics
The curriculum also offers adults opportunities for professional learning, including resources that help educators intentionally weave SEL into academics throughout the day. Such an approach ensures that the Second Step skills will be reinforced regularly and integrated and practiced each day, rather than being seen as skills to be “checked off” after being taught once during a lesson. The Professional Learning resources within the curriculum demonstrate how Second Step skills can be incorporated into many different lesson plans, subject areas, academic concepts, activities, and discussions during the academic day. Takeaways include the following:

  • A lesson plan that shows how SEL practices can be incorporated within academic instruction
  • An example of how a teacher incorporates SEL skills into both teaching methods and the curriculum across many different subject areas
  • A sample rubric to help students and teachers see connections between what they learn in Second Step lessons and their classwork

To learn more about the new Second Step Middle School curriculum, check out Committee for Children’s discovery page and follow the meet the makers blog series.