Zippy’s Friends is a skills promotion program that uses free-standing lessons to promote social and emotional learning for students in kindergarten through second grade. The program includes 24 lessons in total and is designed to be implemented for 45-60 minutes weekly or broken up into two shorter sessions.
The fundamental concept behind the program is to help young children develop their own positive strategies to deal with problems. The program includes six modules: feelings, communication, friendship, conflict, change and loss, and moving forward. The sessions within each module are structured in a similar way. Each includes engaging activities, such as listening to stories, discussions, games, role-play and drawing. Each session ends with an opportunity for students to share feedback on how they feel the lesson went. Zippy’s Friends has been translated into Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, Icelandic, Konkani, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, and Spanish. Zippy’s Friends is designated as complementary because there is a single set of lessons for grades k-2 that is not sequenced across these grade levels
Zippy’s Friends is provided by a UK-based non-profit agency, Partnership for Children, which licenses agencies in other countries to implement the program. Partnership for Children offers a six-hour training as their standard professional development model. The training starts with the theoretical background to the program and the evaluation findings. Trainees take part in a mock Zippy’s Friends lesson to get a feel for what the program looks like in real life and watch video clips of teachers delivering the program to their class. Teachers try out some of the activities themselves and spend time in groups working through the content of the program materials. There are opportunities to discuss any concerns and questions as well as how to engage other school staff and parents.
Partnership for Children also offers a train-the-trainer model. In this two-day training, participants take part in the above teacher training before going into more detail on the theory and evaluation. This training also covers how to effectively train others, including working with group dynamics.
Partnership for Children and its partner agencies offer a variety of follow-up support. Additional training on emotional literacy and children’s mental health are available. In addition, trainers are available to observe the program in action and often offer support meetings for teachers over the course of the year. Partnership for Children sends out regular newsletters with advice, support and tips. Every three to four years, Partnership for Children holds an international workshop for Program Coordinators to meet, hear about developments, and share best practices.
All teachers are provided with pre- and post- implementation outcome questionnaires to measure the impact of the program.
Evidence of Effectiveness
Results from a randomized control trial (RCT) in a published evaluation conducted in 2012 supported the effectiveness of Zippy’s Friends for elementary school students. This evaluation included 1,271 Norwegian students in 35 schools who were in 2nd grade. This evaluation found that students who participated in the program demonstrated reduced oppositional coping strategies (student self-reported), higher active coping strategies (parent rated), and a reduced impact of mental health difficulties (teacher-rated) compared to students in the control group (outcomes reported approximately 24 weeks after pre-test), while controlling for baseline differences.
Holen, S., Waaktaar, T., Lervåg, A., & Ystgaard, M. (2012). The effectiveness of a universal school-based programme on coping and mental health: A randomised, controlled study of Zippy’s Friends. Educational Psychology, 32, 657-677.