Many schools are using School-Connect Modules 1-3 with middle school students to help prepare them for the choices and challenges of high school. As middle school students enter adolescence, social dynamics can escalate while academic pressures go up as well. Some districts are finding it is easier to create a dedicated SEL-based "high school prep" course in middle school before students' schedules are full with graduation requirements in high school.
The sooner students are able to start understanding and practicing social emotional learning (SEL) skills, the better. The foundations of SEL - e.g., stress/anger management, impulse control, goal-setting, self-motivation, organizational skills, empathy, and relationship building - are essential to proactive and responsible decision-making.
Module 1: Building a Supportive Learning Community helps students develop important study and organizational skills such as keeping a daily planner, managing their time (e.g., prioritizing homework over videogames), participating in class, and building rapport with teachers. Module 1 also introduces the underpinnings of SEL success skills including collaborating effectively, active listening, and Mindset theory which can be game-changers for class climate and academic attitudes.
The emotional management lessons of Module 2: Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Management introduce proven strategies for de-escalating anger and anxiety which can reach new heights in the preadolescent years. As hormones kick in, many preteens feel overwhelmed by the strength and unwieldiness of their own emotions and their peers’ emotions. The discussions and activities of Module 2 Lesson 2.1-2.10 help students gain understanding and mastery over underlying thoughts and habits that can soothe rather than escalate strong emotions and challenging situations. Module 3: Building Relationships and Resolving Conflicts is full of engaging, interactive activities that take a proactive approach to common issues that can unite or divide a middle school campus (e.g., gossip, cyberbullying, responding to conflict). Opportunities to develop authentic empathy and compassion for their classmates and others are embedded throughout the lessons, creating a “new norm” for interacting with and respecting others within and outside their circle of friends.
A dedicated SEL class for middle school students can have a profound impact on students' trajectory as they enter high school with a greater sense of purpose and the SEL skills necessary to navigate the social-emotional and academic challenges ahead.
What Teachers are Saying...
“The lessons have been going well with our 7th grade students. The lessons and accompanying worksheets are clear, thoughtful, and accessible for all students.”
“I love the curriculum and It is great having the grounding of an evidence based SEL curriculum to use as the foundation of the work I do with students.”
“I wish that I had a course like this when I was in Middle/High school.”
— Will Harper, English and Special Education Teacher, Washoe CSD, Reno, NV
Tips for Successful Middle School Implementation:
- Know your students’ developmental needs and interests. Preview the lessons to determine applicability.
- 7th and 8th Grade Recommendations: Most School-Connect lessons work well with this age range except for long-term college/career projections (Lessons 1.13, 2.12 - 2.16).
- 6th Grade Recommendations: Most of Module 1: Creating a Supportive Learning Community lessons are applicable except possibly Lesson 1.13: Valuing an Education (which addresses college/career goals). Many Module 3: Building Relationships and Resolving Conflicts lessons are applicable but may need some modifications for younger students. Risk-taking decision-making Lessons 3.15 and 3.16 would be premature for most 6th grade students.
- Consider modifying some of the hypothetical situations to make them a better fit for your students' age and interests.
- Look for supplemental videos (e.g., YouTube) that may have younger students and middle school scenarios.
- Be sure to coordinate with local high schools so they're not using/duplicating the same School-Connect lessons.