We Have Choices! Self-Management for School Success

Children need to learn math and reading so that they’re able to do well on tests. But are academic subjects the most important things for kids to learn in school? Recent research tells us that social skills may have a bigger effect on students’ long-term success in school and in life. Researchers and educators have come up with various names for these so-called “soft skills,” like “non-cognitive skills,” “character building,” and “self-management”.

Self-management is taking responsibility for one’s own behavior and well-being. Children aren’t born knowing how to behave, but self-management skills can be taught, learned and practiced. When self-management instruction is given in elementary school, students will go on to be more successful in middle school, high school and beyond.

Apologizing and accepting apologies are self-management skills.
Apologizing and accepting apologies are important skills for self-management.

It makes sense that self-control, resiliency and getting along with others are important skills to have. A student can be brilliant at reading or math but still have a hard time participating in a group or managing feelings. On the other end of the spectrum, a student can struggle with academics, but with the right social skills, become a successful person. For example, my friend’s mother talked to me about her son, who has dyslexia. She said, “I never worried about his learning disability because he’s always had friends. People like him and I knew that would help him in life.”

Self-management has the added bonus of making the classroom teacher’s job easier and less stressful. If students are sitting in their seats, focusing on their tasks and asking for help when they need it, the teacher will spend a lot less time correcting minor off-task misbehavior and more time teaching academic subjects.

To provide teachers with a tool to teach self-management, IRIS Educational Media has produced We Have Choices!, a 9-week self-management curriculum for 4th-6th grade students. Students watch a short video about the fascinating brain science behind self-management and how they can use self-management to reach their goals. Watch the brain video below:


There are eight more videos that focus on self-management skills: Pay Attention, Focus on the Task, Ask for Help, Do Your Best Work, Get Along, Participate, Manage Feelings and Follow Class Expectations. Each video breaks the skills into steps. Students use a daily tracker to self-assess their habits and behaviors, which in turn strengthens the behaviors that support academic success.

Jocelyn Mendelssohn, a teacher at Thurston Elementary School in Springfield, Oregon, took part in a pilot test of the We Have Choices! curriculum in her 5th grade classroom. She said, “Something I noticed that my students have gotten a lot from has been the requirement for them to stop and think about themselves. How am I doing? Did I sleep? What did I have for breakfast? It’s something really everyone should do to improve themselves.”

Wait to be called on is a step in class participation.
Wait to be called on is a step in class participation.

We Have Choices! is now ready for your classroom. Click here for more information.