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Pros: Comprehensive units are based on up-to-date research and are split up into age-appropriate lessons that engage and inform both students and staff.
Cons: The program is costly, and some students who would benefit from these lessons may be at a disadvantage if there's a shortage of funding in their school.
Bottom Line: Students and teachers develop proficiency in vital social and emotional learning skills through well-designed, interactive learning modules.
How Can I Teach with This Tool?
Schools have long been a place where kids receive support in developing social and emotional skills, but many teachers may feel the need is more prevalent now than ever given the current social and political environment in the United States. With the rise in mental health issues affecting the population as a whole, teaching kids how to regulate emotions, center themselves, recognize, report, and respond to bullying, and handle stress are arguably just as important as teaching educational content. The two can't be separated: Kids who feel safe and secure learn and perform better. The Second Step program gives teachers concrete guidance and ready-to-teach lessons that are relevant, encourage students to self-reflect, and help build community and a sense of belonging.
The site is comprehensive, containing both scope and sequence materials, overviews of the modules, access to the research used to develop them, and a variety of teacher, student, and family resources. Teachers can learn a lot about best practices just from reviewing these materials, and understanding the justification for teaching SEL skills may encourage teachers to be more deliberate about incorporating them into lessons. The materials are digital but also incorporate some offline elements (kits). The digital lessons often have videos, sometimes with kids/teens speaking about the topic, or drag-and-drop elements. There are also full lesson plans, handouts, and plenty of resources to send home.
If schools do not have the funding for a subscription, there are several excellent lesson samples that teachers can use for inspiration or to engage students in discussion and self-reflection on topics such as bullying, emotional regulation, active listening, and more. And, there are some free resources on the site. Regardless of whether you choose to teach some or all of the topics, each one has the capacity to affect kids in a positive way by helping them develop lifelong skills to form and improve relationships with themselves and others.