Here was the scenario, posed by a video for 4th-graders at H. Allen Hight Elementary School:
Mandy was mad, very mad, because classmate James stole her answer and used it to win the “Funky Monkey” prize in a class quiz contest.
Now the questions by teacher Lia Killeen:
- Was it natural for Mandy to be angry?
- Are strong emotions a normal thing?
- How can Mandy control her anger?
- Can you think of something that made you angry?
Welcome to Second Step, a program teaching all students at H. Allen Hight Elementary skills they can use to control strong emotions, handle disappointment, act responsibly, discourage bullying, and show compassion both inside and outside school.
After sampling Second Step last year, H. Allen Hight is using it in all grades this year, from Pre-Kindergarten to 5th grade – and results are promising. Student referrals to the main office for misbehavior have dropped about 25% this year, Principal Stephanie Carlstrom said.
Teachers give a Second Step lesson once a week for 30 minutes, but the skills learned are reinforced daily, Carlstrom said.
Curriculum varies by grade level and activities range from puppets and songs in early grades to journal-writing, videos and role-playing by upper grades.
Five-year-olds focus on basic issues such as listening, following directions, helping, identifying feelings and calming down. By 5th grade, students are learning to manage anxiety, accept differences, consider other perspectives, be assertive without being aggressive, and respond to situations with empathy and respect.
“Parents and adults sometimes just think, ‘Oh, kids should know this,’’ Principal Stephanie Carlstrom said of the social-emotional skills. “But if we don’t deliberately teach these skills, they’re not going to acquire them, right?”
The goal is to develop the whole child in elementary school, not just teach academic skills, Killeen said. “It doesn’t matter so much if students can read and write if they’re not capable of interacting with others and sharing those skills, or using those skills to accomplish larger tasks.”
Reannae, 9, said she thinks the Second Step program has been good for her 4th grade class. “Sometimes when you watch, you see how bullies act – and you think, you don’t want to be like that.”
Matteo, 9, said he personally has benefited. “It helps calm me down when I’m mad at things or embarrassed,” he said.