The core curriculum results report analyzes the Second Step Curriculum that address student academic development and behavior at a Tier 1 level. The lessons align with the academic mindsets and behavior standards of the Pennsylvania School Counselors and the American School Counselors Association. By implementing the Second Step Curriculum, the school counseling program's behavior goal was met by decreasing discipline referrals in 3rd grade classrooms by at least 10%. The lessons link to the counseling program's mission and vision by helping all students develop appropriate personal/social skills as well as the self-awareness needed to become growing students and lifelong learners who contribute confidently in a global society.
While the curriculum is broken down into 4 key units: Skills for Learning, Empathy, Emotion Management, and Problem Solving; each lesson ties in real scenarios that students might experience as 3rd graders. To make it even more relevant to our students, I used our real 3rd grade behavior referrals from that week and month, so that we could talk through actual problems students were having with the hope of decreasing those referrals.
The majority of classroom behavior referrals were linked to the lack of emotional coping strategies with situations like feeling overwhelmed with classwork, struggling to manage peer relationships and solve age appropriate problems, as well as demonstrate empathy and perspective taking. While many of the lessons (1-9) are intertwined and build upon each other, Lessons 3, 6, and 8 focused heavily on those specific skills.
In lesson 3, students had to identify others’ feelings by focusing on their faces and bodies for clues about how they’re feeling as well as understand the situation since that can also be a clue for how others are feeling. Students had to take the perspective from a student in a video clip and predict how the character would handle a situation. This example demonstrated that people can have different perspectives and feelings about the same situation, and their feelings can change. Students reported that practicing empathy and understanding perspectives was especially useful when working in groups with each other. There was a 14.67% increase on identifying others’ feelings on the posttest.
Lesson 6 focused on emotion management and test anxiety. Specifically, students had to identify strong feelings and the physical clues that happen in your body as well as practice how to calm down those strong feelings. The month following this lesson there were 0 behavior referrals for 3rd graders occurring in the classroom. Also, there was 100% increase in students’ ability to identify the calm down steps (see posttest).
In lesson 8, students had to identity problems and practice stating the problem without using blaming words. Student’s also had to think about solutions as well as the positive and negative consequences of the solutions. Students and teachers reported using the problem solving steps to work through classroom conflicts. There was at least a 10% increase for each problem solving question on the post test.
I believe that as students received direct instruction in the use of skills dealing with learning, empathy, emotion management and problem-solving, in addition to the skills being modeled and practiced, we saw an overall improvement in behavior and academic achievement due to less disruptions. A total of 114 third grade students participated in the Second Step lessons each month. While there was a 23% increase on 3rd grade core curriculum pretest to posttest, every grade level showed growth from pre to post test. Because of the outcome results, the Second Step Curriculum will continue to be taught at each grade level, Kindergarten through 4th Grade. Students who are not successful with the tier 1 school wide core curriculum will be supported by counseling group to continue to develop academic and personal/social skills, and possible individual meetings and behavior plans if necessary.