Second Step: Early Learning Curriculum

Preschool SELect Program

Program Description

The Second Step Early Learning Program is a universal, classroom-based program designed to increase children’s school readiness and social success by building their social-emotional competence and self-regulation skills. It supports skill development in four key areas of social-emotional competence: empathy and compassion, emotion management, friendship skills and problem solving, and skills for learning.  

Core social-emotional and self-regulation skills are taught through explicit skills instruction in 28 Weekly Themes divided into five units. The Weekly Themes are presented on large photo cards that feature short five- to seven-minute daily activities designed to be integrated into the flow of the day. Each scripted Second Step daily activity is based on the model of best-practice pedagogy and instruction. It connects new skills to other areas in the curriculum (such as literacy, arts, and dramatic arts) and provides a structure for each day of the week. 

Training and Implementation Support

Second Step includes implementation training and resources as well as ongoing support and consultation. The Second Step Early Learning Staff-Training Toolkit (included in the price of the Second Step Early Learning kit) consists of agendas and materials for three important types of meetings and a set of support and monitoring tools. These resources help prepare staff to teach the program and reinforce skills, support staff and check in on progress, and get feedback at the end of the year. The Staff-Training Toolkit includes engaging and educational videos about key concepts in the program and infographic-like handouts that are easy to understand and make the content memorable.  

Additionally, Second Step offers unlimited phone/web-chat support for all teachers, school leaders, or district personnel involved in implementing Second Step: Early Learning. Second Step customizes their support to the needs of the client; therefore, experiences vary. Dependent on the communicated needs from a client, Second Step may facilitate coaching conversations, webinars, or onsite visits. 

Evidence of Effectiveness

Results from a randomized control trial published in 2017 supported the effectiveness of Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) for preschool students. In sum, this evaluation included 492 students in 31 Pre-Kindergarten classrooms (White = 47%, Hispanic = 39%, Black = 26%). This evaluation found that pre-K students who participated in the program experienced significantly greater increases in executive functioning skills (i.e., task required inhibitory control, attention, and working memory) compared to students in the control group (outcomes reported 36 weeks after baseline while controlling for outcome pretest).  


Upshur, C. C., Heyman, M., & Wenz-Gross, M. (2017). Efficacy trial of the Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) curriculum: Preliminary outcomes. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 50, 15-25.