Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving (SDM/SPS)

Skills and Activities for Academic, Social, and Emotional Success
Grades 6-8
Pages: 328
ISBN: 9780878225149
Item Number: 5261

$42.76You save $4.23 (9%)


The designation indicates that a program is evidence-based; well-designed and classroom-based program that systematically promotes students’ social and emotional competence, provides opportunities for practice, and offers multiyear programming; and delivers high-quality training and other implementation supports.

This book is an approved Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program. It presents a thoroughly tested and effective approach for helping students succeed in middle school. At this critical point in their lives, young adolescents can move in a positive and hopeful direction, or they can enter into a negative, downward spiral.

SDM/SPS provides students with basic school survival skills and strategies for responsible decision making and problem solving. It is designed for use with a broad spectrum of learners, including those with emotional and behavioral disorders. Helps reduce school violence, foster social and emotional intelligence, improve academic effort and attention, develop multicultural perspectives, and prevent at-risk students from giving up. Also provides strategies for encouraging parent involvement and for implementing a school-community service project. Includes assessment tools for tracking progress.

The manual includes numerous reproducible worksheets available as a download.


SDM/SPS has been recognized as:

  • Select Evidence-Based Social-Emotional Learning Program, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning)
  • Statewide Model Program for Substance Abuse Prevention, New Jersey State Department of Education
  • Promising Program, Expert Panel, U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools
  • Exemplary Evidence-Based, School-Based Learning Program, NASP (National Association of School Psychologists)
  • Model Promising Program, OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)

Book Review

“The authors introduce step-by-step strategies to engage students in activities that will build, as the title suggests, social problem solving skills. . . . The lessons are geared toward teaching skills for self-control, social awareness, group participation, decision-making, and problem-solving. . . . Included are specific lesson plans, replete with worksheets and recommended readings, which incorporate opportunities to increase critical thinking exercises into History, Social Studies, or English literature units. Two units on Media Literacy could easily be integrated into classroom curriculum as well. But what would likely be considered the crème-de-la-crème of this program would be the successful collaboration of home and school.”

—Carol P. Schiavo, New York School Psychologist

“Using strategies such as metacognition, practice exercises, self-talk, body awareness, and aligning these topics with academic subjects to maximize generalization, this work brings the best and latest research for teaching students how to navigate complex interpersonal and intrapersonal challenges. . . . SDM/SPS for any of the grade levels will be valuable for those making the leap to classroom guidance and want a well rounded program that addresses social, academic, and mood management skills.”

—Lynn Merlone, NH School Counselor Newsletter

Training and Workshops

In-service training, consultation, or workshops by the developers of the SDM/SPS program can be provided for your school, facility, or organization. For more information and available dates, please contact:

Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care Behavioral Research and Training Institute
151 Centennial Avenue
Suite 1140
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Phone: (732)-235-9280

Part 1—Development and Pedagogy of Early Adolescents

  1. Developmental Issues and Key Skills for Social and Academic Growth
  2. The Pedagogy for Building Lasting Skills

Part 2—Basic Skills for Sound Decision Making, Problem Solving, and Effective Studying

  1. A Short Course or Time-Limited Group on Social Decision Making and Social Problem Solving
  2. Transition to the New Learning Tasks of Middle School: Organizational and Study Skills Activities

Part 3—Applications to Academic Content Areas and Group Counseling Formats

  1. Applying a Social Decision Making Approach to Social Studies, Current Events, and History to Promote Citizenship and Community Service
  2. Building Social Problem Solving and Social Decision Making Skills Through Literature Analysis
  3. Prepare Your Students to Understand and Use the Tools of Media Literacy and Social Decision Making

Supplemental Activity—Videotaping Feedback on BEST for Skill-Building Practice

  1. A School-Community Environmental Service Project to Promote Social Decision Making Skills

Part 4—Supporting Your Efforts in Building Students’ SDM/SPS Skills

  1. Parent Involvement and Engagement in Middle School: Communicating, Collaborating, Connecting
  2. Promoting a Multicultural Perspective in Students
  3. Tools for Monitoring and Evaluating Middle School Programs


  • Put-Down Tracker
  • Put-Down Pain Scale
  • Keep Calm Procedure
  • BEST Procedure
  • Trigger Situations for Others
  • Trigger Situations for Me
  • Trouble Tracker (Short-Answer)
  • Trouble Tracker (Open-Ended)
  • Steps in FIG TESPN
  • FIG TESPN: My Social Problem Solver
  • Organizing and Cleaning Out Your Locker
  • Organization and Study Skills Student Feedback Form
  • Study Habits Rating Scale
  • Study Skills Planner
  • Notebook Organization
  • Daily Assignment Sheet
  • Tips for Using an Assignment Sheet
  • Creating Your Own Study Skills Skit
  • Making Decisions About Important Events
  • Creating a Newspaper Article
  • Social Decision Making Chart
  • Current Events Outline
  • Linking Present and Past Problems
  • FIG TESPN: A Strategy for Everyday Decision Making and Problem Solving
  • Literature Analysis: SDM/SPS Questions
  • Advertising Appeals
  • Viewing Commercials
  • Planning Commercials
  • Completed Script Sheet
  • Completed Storyboard
  • Script Sheet
  • Storyboard
  • FIG TESPN: Steps in Social Decision Making
  • Critical Thinking Guide for the Media
  • Outline for the Video Critique Club
  • Group Leader’s Game Plan
  • Social Decision Making Discussion on Environmental Problems
  • Committee Meeting Summary Form
  • Planning Interdisciplinary Projects (PIP)
  • Presentation Planning and Selection
  • Guidelines for Reading and for Leading Discussions
  • SDM/SPS Curriculum Feedback 1
  • SDM/SPS Curriculum Feedback 2
  • SDM/SPS Content Check
  • SDM/SPS Skills Practice
  • Student Opinion of SDM/SPS Activities
  • Student Feedback on SDM/SPS Activities
  • Teacher/Leader Opinion of SDM/SPS Activities
  • Student Evaluation Form for Use in Assessing SDM/SPS Readiness Skills
  • Student Evaluation Form for Use in Assessing SDM/SPS Skills
  • Adult Assessment of Student SDM/SPS Skills
  • SDM/SPS Trainers’ Program Planning Guide
  • SDM/SPS Evaluation Planner


  • Sample Classroom Constitution
  • Sample Environmental Goals and Action Strategies
  • Sample Committee Meeting Summary
  • Meeting of the Town of Gar-Baj
  • Sample Refrigerator Note
  • Sample Schedule for an EIP Circle

Outcome Data: Four major evaluation studies have been conducted in 1986, 1991, 1997 and 2007 in additional to a wide range of additional evaluations nationally and internationally.

  • In 2007, in an urban school district, schools implementing SDM/PS obtained significant results as compared with control schools. Results Included:
    • An increase in student engagement and effort in school.
    • Significant decrease in aggressive and delinquent behaviors, as compared with an increase in control schools.
    • Increased connectedness and more positive school relationships.

    In a suburban schools participating in the SDM/PS program schools obtained significant results that included a decrease in the frequency and acceptance of verbal and physical aggression, an increase in school engagement and effort.

  • In 1997, children trained in SDM/PS made substantial gains in interpersonal sensitivity, problem analysis and planning.
  • In 1991, a longitudinal study of students exposed to the program in elementary and middle school showed higher levels of positive pro-social behavior and decreased anti-social, self destructive and socially disordered behavior then controls. Controls scored significantly higher in vandalism, physical aggression and more negative self identity and peer acceptance. Across grades male controls showed significantly higher rates of buying alcohol/providing alcohol, girls in control groups used more tobacco.
  • In 1986, results showed that students participating were better at coping with stressors and adjusting to middle school then controls.

In the video below, Research Press author Maurice Elias discusses the positive impact of promoting social emotional learning (SEL) and character development with Christopher De Michele at Rutgers University (you may also view the 48-minute interview and discussion at

Reproducible forms and handouts for this title are available on our downloads page.

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