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Second Step® Insights

4 Reasons Second Step® Middle School Is More Engaging than Ever

June 12, 2024 | By: The Second Step® Team

As the makers of Second Step® Middle School, we know how essential student engagement is for any healthy classroom. And we know how challenging it can be when students check out. We use our evolving understanding of how students learn to design programs that keep them engaged, challenged, and excited about learning—and we’re committed to improving those programs over time to make them even more effective.

An opposing pair of yellow quotation marks.
We use our evolving understanding of how students learn to design programs that keep them engaged, challenged, and excited about learning—and we’re committed to improving those programs over time to make them even more effective.

That’s why we’re so excited to introduce updates to our Second Step® Middle School program, updates that came from feedback from thousands of educators and students across the United States. When it comes to engaging students, equipping educators, and empowering them all with tools to thrive in middle school, the updated Second Step® Middle School program is better than ever. Here are four reasons why.

1. An All-New Unit on Developing a Positive Sense of Self

As middle school students navigate the transition from childhood to adolescence, they begin to consider on a deeper level who they are, how they show up in the world, and what kind of person they want to become. They become more independent, and their relationships with others become more important. The updated program includes an all-new unit designed to place a greater emphasis on the development of students’ confidence in themselves and their capabilities.

In the new unit, Developing a Positive Sense of Self, students gain a better understanding of themselves, recognize their strengths, and identify areas for growth. Lessons in this unit also teach practical strategies students can use to make decisions they feel good about and take steps toward who they want to be in the future.

2. More Authentic, Age-Appropriate Content

Middle school students will be the first to tell you they aren’t little kids anymore. Students and teachers, we heard your desire for more relevant, relatable content that students can connect to their real lives. In the new unit 2, we’ve designed the lesson content to be appropriately challenging, interesting, and complex, with questions and prompts that are designed to encourage critical thinking and more mature reflection. Using insights from students about their lived experiences, we’ve also created more authentic scenarios that resonate with real middle school students.

The updated program features new color palettes and more realistic imagery to enhance the look and feel of the slides. Students we showed our new design palettes to said they preferred their vivid colors and imagery.

3. More Student Voice and Choice

Middle school students want to hear the perspectives of their peers. In our focus groups, students continually gave their highest reviews to the program’s signature Real Voices videos. So we added three more! In the updated program, students will not only hear more real middle school students sharing their perspectives and experiences on relevant topics, they’ll also experience more open-ended questions about student choice and agency and have more activities where they can explore the concepts and apply what they learn to their own lives.

Middle school students also want to work together. They want to be active, connected, and involved. In the updated program, lessons feature more open-ended prompts and activities that promote students’ autonomy and encourage them to take ownership of their ideas. In tandem with more age-appropriate content, the expansion of collaborative activities creates a more engaging learning experience where every student can move, discuss, and connect.

4. Teachers and Schools Leaders Get More Time Back

The updated program requires less of busy teachers’ valuable preparation time, allowing them to focus more on students and teaching. Individual lesson plans were removed for a more streamlined experience, an approach that was favored by the teachers in our focus groups. Other text-based instructions have been revised so the class can more smoothly carry out on-screen instructions.

Empowered to Thrive Together

For an educator, there are few things more exciting than seeing your students engaged in what they’re learning. The updated Second Step Middle School program helps students and educators more actively engage in the process of social-emotional learning. Together, let’s create a more engaging, empowering learning experience for middle school students.