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Second Step, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As communities around the world grapple with this unprecedented public health crisis, educators are facing uncharted waters. Some districts are quickly shifting to remote learning, while others close altogether. Even in schools unaffected by COVID-19 educators, students, and families alike are dealing with stress and uncertainty abtout what’s next.

So it can be easy to lose track of SEL instruction—but times like these are when it’s critical that we support the social-emotional needs of everyone involved, in any way we can. Teachers and schools can still be an important source of support for students during this time. Here, you’ll find ways to use the skills taught in the Second Step program to provide support for students and help them support each other.

Using SEL to Support Students

Provide Opportunities to Process

It is important to acknowledge that the situation is happening and give students an opportunity to process everything they’re experiencing.

Invite students to write or draw about their experience if they wish to, so that they know it is not a taboo topic.

Facilitate online discussions about the experience of being at home during this time. Make sure to create a sense of safety and connection before beginning these discussions. If you become
aware of a student being triggered by these conversations, make sure to connect with them after the meeting using your usual communication means. If warranted, alert a family member to the student’s response to these discussions. End these discussions with students identifying one fun thing they can do at home that helps them feel calm and happy.

Second Step Skills

Second Step, as a social-emotional learning program, is designed to provide students with the skills they need to navigate through both school and life challenges. The following skills taught in Second Step will help students

while they are at home during the pandemic.

Identifying and Talking About Their Emotions

Both the empathy and emotion management units have lessons about identifying emotions.
Students may have a hard time identifying the exact emotions they are feeling—and that’s normal. It is
not critical to have exact names for emotions, but it can be helpful for students to describe how they feel. Use lessons in the emotion management unit to help them do this, and reassure students that the range of emotions they may be experiencing—and any worry, anxiety, anger, or fear—are normal for such a situation.

It may help to explain fear as a normal emotion that can remind us to do things to keep ourselves safe, like remembering to wash hands frequently and keep an appropriate distance between people to stay healthy.

Helping Students Manage Emotions and Anxiety

Even if students don’t fully understand what is happening, they are aware of how the situation is affecting the adults in their lives. It can be helpful to teach or go back over lessons that deal with anxiety and managing strong emotions. It may also help to work with students on how they can use what they learned and practiced in the lessons to manage their feelings around COVID-19 and not being in school.

To view the following lessons, please visit our second steps tab.


• Lesson 12: We Feel Feelings in Our Bodies (Identify physical clues of feeling worried and an adult to talk to)

• Lesson 13: Managing Frustration (“Stop” and “Name your feelings” as calming-down strategies)

• Lesson 14: Calming Down Strong Feelings (Belly breathing and Calming-Down Steps)

• Lesson 15: Handling Waiting (Using the Calming- Down Steps to manage waiting)

Grade 1:

• Lesson 12: Identifying Our Own Feelings (Identifying feelings in the body; identifying grownups to talk to about feelings)

• Lesson 13: Strong Feelings (Using Calming- Down Steps)

• Lesson 14: Calming Down Anger (Recognizing physical signs of anger and using belly breathing)

• Lesson 15: Self-Talk for Calming Down (Recognizing situations that require calming-down strategies and using positive self-talk)

• Lesson 16: Managing Worry (Recognizing situations that require calming down; demonstrating belly breathing, counting, and self- talk; identifying an adult to talk to)

Grade 2:

• Lesson 11: Introducing Emotion Management (Identifying physical cues for strong feelings; identifying adults to talk to about feelings)

• Lesson 14: Managing Anxious Feelings (Using positive self-talk)

Grade 3:

• Lesson 11: Introducing Emotion Management (Identifying physical cues that can help name

strong feelings)
• Lesson 12: Managing Test Anxiety (Identifying

and demonstrating the first two Calming-

Down Steps)
• Lesson 15: Managing Anger (Using counting

as a calming-down strategy and assertive communication)

Grade 4:

• Lesson 10: Introducing Emotion Management (Identifying triggers for strong emotions; what strong feelings do in brains & bodies)

• Lesson 11: Managing Strong Feelings (Interrupting escalating emotions; identifying strong feelings as they occur)

• Lesson 12: Calming Down Anger (Demonstrating deep breathing, counting, using positive self-talk)

• Lesson 13: Managing Anxiety (Identifying anxiety-causing situations and applying calming- down steps)

Grade 5:

• Lesson 9: Introducing Emotion Management (Describing the effects of strong emotions on brains and bodies; identifying and naming strong feelings)

• Lesson 10: Calming Down (Demonstrating deep breathing and other Calming-Down Steps)

• Lesson 11: Managing Anxiety (Identifying scenarios and applying Calming-Down Steps to anxiety)

• Lesson 12: Managing Frustration (Demonstrating how to reduce frustration using Calming-
Down Steps)

Grade 6:

• Lesson 13: What are Emotions? (Analyzing how feelings affect decision-making)

• Lesson 15: Spot the Thought (Recognizing the difference between thoughts & feelings; identifying and mitigating unhelpful thoughts)

• Lesson 16: Calming Down (Identifying and creating a plan for using calming-down strategies)

• Lesson 17: Slow Breathing (Practicing and making a plan for using slow breathing to stay calm)

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