Committee for Children Blog

4 Smart Strategies for Effectively Implementing the New Second Step Middle School Program

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Middle School Program

Teachers and administrators throughout the country piloted the new Second Step Middle School Program and were interviewed after teaching the lessons. During these interviews, the teachers and administrators shared examples of strategies they found effective for implementing the program. I’ve summarized some of their examples below. Whether you are brand new to the Second Step Program or upgrading from the old program to the new, these strategies will give you additional things to consider as you support social-emotional learning (SEL) in your classrooms and schools.

Make the Second Step Program Part of “the Way We Do Business”

  • Set aside time for Second Step lessons at the beginning of each day, every morning.
  • Embed the Second Step Program into the school schedule.
  • Implement the Second Step Program schoolwide so everyone is learning and using the skills at the same time.
  • Have all classrooms teach Second Step lessons the same day and time of the week to ensure everyone uses the same vocabulary and teaches the same skills to all students.
  • Ensure that students learn about and have opportunities to practice the skills every day, every week.

Pair SEL with Academics

There is limited time in a school day, so it is important to implement SEL and academics efficiently. SEL and academics are integrally related, here is one idea we heard for how to connect the two:

“We have sheets of paper outside of each room with dates on them. They list the skill of the week. We have a skill of the week for literacy and another for math. We embed these academic skills in every new Second Step Middle School lesson. For example, in literacy, if our skill of the week is inferencing, we have students talk and turn in ‘Second Step’ and do some inferencing. If it’s main idea, then we have a turn-and-talk related to the main idea of the Second Step lesson we are working on. We embed everything into the skill of the week.”

Use Strategies for Student Engagement

The teachers and administrators who were interviewed spoke of how the new Second Step Middle School Program design captivates their students, with its digital format, varied activities, videos, and real life scenarios from actual middle school students. Given that curriculum is only one part of maintaining student interest, be prepared with additional, varied ways to engage them both before and during implementation. Try some of these teaching approaches:

  • Have a conversation with students before introducing Second Step lessons to discuss how the program teaches skills important for both school and life.
  • Share how the Second Step Program is going to benefit the school as a whole.
  • Include students in teaching the lessons.
    • Have students help facilitate the lessons.
    • Ask students to interact with the screen to open up the next question or start a video.
  • Pause the videos so students can talk and discuss, incorporate more questions like “Does this sound familiar? Does anyone have another story that can connect us to this?”
  • Ask administrators to teach lessons with the teachers.

Prepare a Few Things in Advance

One of the keys to student readiness is teacher readiness. Although there is little preparation time required with the new Second Step Middle School Program, there are ways to ensure you are setting yourself up for success. These are strategies teachers have used to ensure their lessons go smoothly.

  • “I make a copy of the lesson printout ahead of each lesson, in case I want to make notes about certain things I want to say or highlight certain things I want to be sure not to forget.”
  • “I review the lesson before I actually teach it.”
  • “I put the objectives on the board before the lesson starts, so students can always see them.”
  • “I print out a copy of the advisory activities so they are readily available when I have extra time.”

We hope these strategies will help you and your students enjoy using the new Second Step Middle School Program as much as this pilot teacher did: “I love it. I love it.”