Committee for Children Blog

Students Share Three Big Lessons Learned from the New Second Step Middle School Curriculum

middle school curriculum

Sometimes curricula are provided for students without their input. Students are passive recipients of the learning material and their views have little influence over what and how that curriculum is taught. Those of you reading this post have probably seen this happen at one time or another, but know that students are an important part of their learning environment and that seeking their viewpoint is critical to ensure actively engaged learners in the classroom.

One of the great things about the newly released Second Step Middle School curriculum is that it is based on student feedback. The curriculum was piloted in classrooms throughout the country and student reactions were sought through interviews during implementation. Student feedback was actively considered during the revision process, which has led to an amazing curriculum that engages students. As these students have expressed: “I’ve been enjoying it,” “The challenges are super fun, too.”

This is the third of three posts highlighting what students said about the new Second Step Middle School curriculum after experiencing it. The first two posts shared what students liked about the curriculum and why they see it as important. This post highlights what students learned through their engagement with the curriculum.

1. The Importance of Thinking Before Reacting

Students participating in the new Second Step Middle School curriculum described learning that their words and actions affect other people. Students referred to thinking before reacting, and controlling their actions and words rather than just responding. For example, one student shared, “what you say can affect other people more than you think.”

Students talked a lot about this in the context of managing their emotions, sharing how they can calm themselves down by doing things such as taking deep breaths. One of the students explained, “You should not let your emotions just run over you.”

2. The Power of Positivity

Overall, students talked of learning to be more positive in their views and actions. One of the students interviewed asserted how the new Second Step Middle School curriculum taught her a lot of ‘stuff,’ such as how to stay positive. Another student talked of learning “not to be into negative stuff because it won’t get you anywhere.” Someone else said, “Even the littlest acts of kindness can do a whole bunch, even if its little things like giving someone a smile or just talking to them.”

During the interviews, students also gave specific examples of how they applied their learning about positivity. A student expressed how she now had “some good ideas for how to compromise with other people” and how she “[tried] to find similar interests, to make friends.” Yet another illustrated how she changed her thinking during a Second Step activity where they had to give a negative situation and then hear a positive thought from others about that situation. One of my favorite student examples of how positivity was learned and acted upon was this student scenario, which I paraphrased: There was a new kid that wasn’t doing very well and didn’t have good friends. One of my friends decided to be friends with the new kid. Now they’re really close and they hang out, and that’s really cool.

3. Students Can “Grow Their Brains”

Students seemed genuinely interested and excited about learning about their brains. A student conveyed what she learned about “how we can grow our own brains” and how we can get discouraged “if [we] don’t know how it works.” They talked of learning about the right and left sides of their brain, and how the new Second Step Middle School curriculum helped them understand more about adolescent brains: “I learned . . . our brains are still growing and I didn’t really know that.” Students also reported learning certain actions they could take to “grow their own brains.” One example of this came from a student who mentioned it was okay to make mistakes “because you can learn from them.”

These are some of the many examples students provided about their engagement and learning from the new Second Step Middle School curriculum. If you are still wondering what your students might think about it, be sure to read my other two posts on what students said about the curriculum after participating in the lessons.

About the Author

Kim Gulbrandson has worked in education for twenty-two years, supporting the social and emotional needs of youth in grades PreK-12 at the school, district, and state level. As a school psychologist, researcher and evaluator, her primary areas of focus have included social and emotional learning, bullying prevention, classroom management, and behavior management.