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 controlled trial study conducted in 2018 supported the effectiveness of the Incredible Years Teachers and Children Series: Promoting Positive Academics for early elementary school students. This evaluation used a large, multi-site sample, including 1,680 students (833 in the treatment group and 847 in the control group) and 104 teachers (53 in the treatment group and 51 in the control group) in kindergarten-3rd grade (76% African American, 22% White, 61% eligible for free or reduced lunch).This evaluation found that students who participated in the program demonstrated significantly higher teacher-reported prosocial behavior and social competence, as well as significantly lower teacher-reported emotional dysregulation compared to students in the comparison group (outcomes reported approximately 7 months after baseline). Analyses controlled for outcome pretest and a host of relevant demographic characteristics.  


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.