Introduction to Second Step
We want your child to be successful in school and that means supporting and encouraging their whole development. While excelling in academic classes is important, students also need skills to take on learning challenges, make good decisions, handle strong emotions, and get along with others. Over the last few weeks, we have begun Second Step® Middle School, a research-based social-emotional learning program designed to improve students’ social-emotional skills, such as emotion management, impulse control, problem solving, and empathy. Second Step skills and concepts are designed to help students both in and out of school. These include:
- Mindsets and Goals: Students learn how to develop a growth mindset and apply research based goal-setting strategies to their social and academic lives.
- Recognizing Bullying and Harassment: Students learn how to recognize bullying and harassment, stand up safely to bullying, and respond appropriately to harassment.
- Thoughts, Emotions, and Decisions: Students learn how to recognize strong emotions and unhelpful thoughts, and apply strategies to manage their emotions and reduce stress.
- Managing Relationships and Social Conflict: Students learn strategies for developing and maintaining healthy relationships, perspective-taking, and dealing with conflict.
Weekly family communications for lessons 1–7
Lesson 1b: Helping New Students
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will help brainstorm ways to support new students.
Question: Ask your child what feelings they had when they started middle school. Did they get support from other students? Ask your child how they can support students who are new to their school.
Lesson 2: Creating New Pathways in Your Brain
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn that intelligence is not fixed; their brain actually makes new connections and their skills and abilities develop when they practice difficult things.
Question: Tell your child about a time you had to learn something challenging and explain how you persisted in learning it. Ask your child if there’s anything they would like to learn to do this year.
Lesson 3: Learning from Mistakes and Failure
Summary: In this week's lesson, your child will learn how to learn from mistakes. When your child does difficult things, they may initially make mistakes and fail, but these mistakes can be chances to learn and grow.
Question: Tell your child about a mistake you made in the past and what you learned from it. Ask your child to tell you about a mistake they made and what they learned from it.
Lesson 4: Identifying Roadblocks
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will identify and distinguish between internal and external obstacles (or “roadblocks”) that can get in their way when working toward goals.
Question: Tell your child about a roadblock you encountered when you were working toward a goal, and if you had control over the roadblock.
Lesson 5: Overcoming Roadblocks 1
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to use If–Then plans to overcome roadblocks. If–Then Plans help your child anticipate potential roadblocks and come up with plans for addressing them.
Question: Ask your child to explain to you what an If–Then Plan is. Work together to make a plan for how your child can respond positively to a difficult situation they might encounter at home.
Lesson 6: Overcoming Roadblocks 2
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will identify a goal they want to work on, anticipate roadblocks, and develop an If–Then Plan for their own goal.
Question: Think of a time you achieved a big goal, such as learning to drive or graduating from school. Tell your child about your big goal and some of the smaller goals you needed to finish in order to achieve it. Ask your child to tell you about a goal they have.
Lesson 7: Advice on Roadblocks
In this week’s lesson, your child will put their knowledge about overcoming roadblocks into action by giving advice to a sixth-grader who is struggling to learn something new.
Question: Tell your child about a time you had to try something new to overcome a roadblock, such as asking someone for help or looking at a problem with a different viewpoint. Tell your child what eventually helped you overcome that roadblock.
Weekly family communications for lessons 8–13
Lesson 8: What Is Harassment?
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to recognize harassment and tell how it’s different from bullying.
Question: Talk to your child about an example of harassment you heard about, or—if you’re comfortable—something you experienced. Ask your child how this is different from bullying.
Lesson 9: What Is Sexual Harassment?
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to recognize the difference between sexual harassment and flirting so they can make informed decisions about how to respond.
Question: Remind your child that it's important that they tell you if they experience sexual harassment. If you feel comfortable doing so, share an example of sexual harassment you or another person has experienced and how you or the other person dealt with it.
Lesson 10: The Effects of Sexual Harassment
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn about the effects of sexual harassment, and how to identify support resources available at school.
Question: Help your child brainstorm a list of trusted adults at school who can help if they, or a peer, experiences sexual harassment. Remind them to report any incidents of harassment to you as soon as they can.
Lesson 11: Gender-Based Harassment
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to recognize gender-based harassment. This is when people are bothered, teased, or bullied because of their sex, or because they look, act, or have interests that are different from male and female stereotypes.
Question: Remind your child that it's important that they tell you if they experience gender-based harassment. If you feel comfortable doing so, share an example of gender-based harassment you or another person has experienced and how you or the other person dealt with it.
Lesson 12: Our Rights and Responsibilities
Summary: This week’s lesson will help your child understand how they’re protected from harassment at school and their responsibility not to harass others.
Question: Tell your child about a time you or someone you know had to speak up about something difficult. Ask your child what might make it difficult for people to speak up when they experience or witness negative things like harassment.
Lesson 13: Preventing Harassment
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will create a public service announcement to inform their peers about their rights and responsibilities regarding sexual harassment and gender-based harassment.
Question: Ask your child to tell you three important things everyone should know about sexual or gender-based harassment. Brainstorm a list of things everyone can do to help create a harassment-free community.
Weekly family communications for lessons 14–19.
Lesson 14: Emotions Matter
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how their brain handles strong emotions and brainstorm positive and negative decisions they might make when they feel a strong emotion.
Question: Ask your child about a negative decision they recently made because they were feeling a strong emotion. Help them think about how they can turn that negative decision into a positive one if they feel that emotion again.
Lesson 15: Feel, Think, Do
In this week’s lesson, your child will distinguish thoughts from emotions. They will also analyze how emotions affect their thoughts, and how their thoughts can influence the decisions they make.
Question: Ask your child to explain the difference between an emotion and a thought. Take turns expressing sentiments aloud and having the other person identify if the sentiments are thoughts or an emotions. (For example, Emotion: “I’m so mad at the coach for not putting me in the game.” Thought: “That’s it—I quit!”)
Lesson 16: Unhelpful Thoughts
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will distinguish between helpful thoughts, which are thoughts that can help them make good decisions, and unhelpful thoughts, which are thoughts that can lead to negative decisions.
Question: Tell your child about a helpful thought you recently had and the decision you made because of it. Ask them to share a helpful thought they had as well. If they can’t think of anything, point out something positive they did recently and help them identify the thought that went along with it.
Lesson 17: Reframing Unhelpful Thoughts
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn ways to reframe unhelpful thoughts into helpful thoughts.
Question: Ask your child to explain the difference between helpful and unhelpful thoughts. Tell your child about an unhelpful thought you had today and how you were able to change it to a helpful thought. Ask your child if they had an unhelpful thought and how you can support them in changing it to a helpful thought.
Lesson 18: Practicing Positive Self-Talk
Summary: This week, your child will practice a strategy called positive self-talk to help them reframe unhelpful thoughts.
Question: Ask your child to explain what “negativity bias” is. Share with each other one or more good things that happened today.
Lesson 19: Making Better Decisions
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will share strategies for how to interrupt unhelpful thoughts and manage strong emotions with their peers by creating a comic strip.
Question: Ask to see your child’s comic strip. If they don’t have the comic strip, ask them to explain it to you.
Weekly family communications for lessons 20–26
Lesson 20: What Makes a Conflict Escalate?
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will examine common reasons social conflicts escalate from minor to major.
Question: Discuss with your child a time in your life when you were involved in an escalating conflict. What do you wish you had done instead? Ask your child if they are part of a conflict right now that they need help with.
Lesson 21: Keeping Your Cool in a Conflict
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will explore how using emotion-management strategies, such as slow breathing, walking away, reframing unhelpful thoughts, and practicing positive self-talk, can help prevent a conflict from escalating.
Question: Share with your child strategies you use to help yourself calm down during escalating conflicts. Ask them to tell you any additional strategies they find helpful beyond the ones covered in the lesson.
Lesson 22: Conflicts and Perspectives
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to listen to and consider someone else’s perspective during a conflict.
Question: Discuss with your child a time in your life when your view of a conflict changed because you were able to see it from another person’s perspective. Ask your child if they have changed their view about a conflict lately.
Lesson 23: Resolving Conflict Part 1
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to describe a conflict in a non-judgmental way by avoiding blaming language.
Question: Discuss with your child a time in your life when you had a particularly difficult time resolving a conflict. How did avoiding blaming language help?
Lesson 24: Resolving Conflict Part 2
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to consider possible solutions, determine the negative and positive consequences of each of those solutions, and agree on the best solution for resolving a conflict.
Question: Ask your child why they think different conflicts need different solutions. Discuss with your child a time in your life when you had to think about the best way to solve a conflict. What did you think about? How did it work out?
Lesson 25: Taking Responsibility for Your Actions
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will learn how to take responsibility for their actions in a conflict and make things right.
Question: Discuss with your child a time in your life when you had to take responsibility for your role in a conflict. What did you do to make things right and repair the harm?
Lesson 26: Tips for Resolving Conflicts
Summary: In this week’s lesson, your child will apply the skills and knowledge they’ve learned in this unit to create a tip sheet for resolving conflicts.
Question: Ask to see your child’s assignment. If they don’t have it, ask them to explain it to you. Think of a realistic conflict from real life, TV, a movie, or a book and have your child share what tips they think would be helpful in resolving it.