Second Grade Basics

According to this site:

Newly Added info: US National 2nd grade Reading List (read online) or go here for download

Second graders should know these skills:

  • Begin to reason and concentrate
  • Improve his ability to process information
  • Work cooperatively with a partner or small group
  • Understand the difference between right and wrong
  • Make connections between concepts so he will be better able to compare and contrast ideas
  • Expand his vocabulary
  • Read fluently with expression
  • Recognize most irregularly spelled words such as because and upon
  • Begin to use a dictionary
  • Add single- and multi-digit numbers with regrouping
  • Tell time to the quarter-hour
  • Know the concept of multiplication (for example, 2 x 3 is two rows of three)

See below for reading, writing, language arts, and math benchmarks provided by the greatschools website. For additional subject areas, visit their site by clicking on one of these links:science, technology, social studies, art, music, and physical education.

[You may also wish to view the Tennessee standards for technology or the Virginia standards of all subject areas.]


Building fluency and meaning

In second grade, children begin reading for meaning, not simply as a way of sounding out simple sentences. Classrooms should give children many opportunities to read — silently on their own, aloud in groups, and aloud with a partner. Second grade curriculum should also include listening to books read aloud. Students often reread stories to increase their fluency, or their ability to read quickly and accurately with expression.

Decoding words

Your second-grader should be able to recognize a growing number of words, using knowledge of word structures and letter-sound relationships and a variety of strategies to read. Not only do second-graders develop skills to hear and say separate sounds in words, but they also use patterns to decode words. Second graders should be able to read new words by breaking them into syllables. A strong reading curriculum shound include learning the meanings of many prefixes and suffixes.

Reading chapter books

As second-graders graduate to more complex material, they learn to read across subject areas, including social studies, science, and math. They begin to read books that have several chapters and develop a larger vocabulary.

In second grade, kids are taught to use different parts of a book to find information, including the table of contents, index, glossary, title page, introduction, and preface. Second-graders should know that there are different purposes for reading: for pleasure, to get directions, and to gather information.

Second-graders should be able to choose their own books based on their interests, but reading specialist Jennifer Thompson recommends using the “five-finger test” to help them choose a book at the appropriate reading level. “Have your child open to any page,” she says. “If she finds five words that she does not know, the book is too difficult.”

Doing research

Second-graders learn to use books to research different subjects and answer questions about a topic. They may use encyclopedias, informational books, and the Internet to dig up facts.

“Reading informational text is critical for second- and third-graders,” explains Thompson. “Most of the federally mandated tests contain a great deal of nonfiction reading. Children need to learn to read nonfiction for understanding and need to be taught how to use all of the conventions of nonfiction to assist with understanding. These include the table of contents, index, glossary, captions, illustrations, bold print, diagrams, charts, and graphs.”

Reading aloud

By second grade the emphasis should be on students reading their own material, but they should still get many opportunities to listen to books read aloud. Not only does this offer kids a model of fluency, but it also fosters a love of books. It should also help your child understand vocabulary and language patterns in more complex texts. By discussing books before and after they are read aloud, teachers and parents can increase literacy no matter what a child’s reading level is.

Reading for meaning

In second grade, children learn strategies to draw meaning from what they read. They should be able to recognize the sequence of events in a story, as well as anticipate the possible outcome. Important skills should include retell familiar stories, summarizing the main ideas and plot, and identifying the characters and settings. Kids may be asked to compare and contrast characters in stories to their own lives. They may also be asked questions about the text, such as who, what, when, where, why, and how. Kids at this age should learn to use a dictionary and thesaurus to discover the meanings of words.

Writing and Spelling

Second-graders write daily for various purposes. They write responses to literature, journal entries, answers to math word problems, poetry, letters, social studies reports and creative stories. Your child develops more independence as a writer and learns to express her ideas creatively and effectively. Her reports and narrative stories include characters; setting; a problem and solution; and events written in order with a clear beginning, middle and end. She writes stories from her viewpoint as well as in the third person (he, she, it, they). She begins learning how to write a paragraph with a topic sentence and supporting details. Your second-grader continues to expand on the writing process introduced in first grade, using these steps:

  • Discussing ideas before writing
  • Prewriting
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Editing
  • Publishing
  • Sharing

This process helps your child with the organization and thinking required to write a story. Your child becomes more aware of the audience he is writing for and the goal of writing. He begins to understand the purposes of different genres. For example, a report’s purpose is to inform and a narrative’s is to entertain or share a story. To reinforce this at home, you can discuss different purposes of writing as you encounter them, such as those for recipes, letters and programs for concerts or plays.

What will my second-grader learn about spelling?

In second grade, spelling is reinforced through the larger context of reading and writing. Second-graders continue to learn common spelling patterns and recognize frequently used words in their reading.

Weekly spelling lists

Typically, second-graders bring home weekly spelling lists they will be tested on. These lists may be from a prescribed spelling program or chosen by the teacher. They may include word families, or groups of words that have a common feature or pattern. For example, words with a long e that is spelled ea, ee or ie. The lists may also have “challenge words,” which are more difficult to spell, or thematic words that are used around the holidays or in specific subject areas. Second-graders usually do activities with the spelling words, such as writing a sentence using each word to understand its meaning and reading stories that include the terms.

“To reinforce what your child is learning at school,” suggests Karen Heath, our consulting teacher and the 2005 Vermont Teacher of the Year, “find out what spelling program is being used in the classroom. If there is no weekly list, ask the teacher for lists of word families to work on each week.”

Invented spelling

In second grade your child may still use invented spelling (also called inventive spelling), or spelling words as they sound, for difficult words. But she will also use many conventional spellings. When children use invented spelling, they are demonstrating their knowledge of the sounds letters make and of spelling patterns. Research shows that letting children use invented spelling allows them to focus on the purpose of writing: communication. As they learn the rules of spelling, they begin to apply them and make the transition to conventional spelling.

Using a dictionary

Second-graders learn to use a dictionary to find the correct spelling of words. They may also have personal spelling dictionaries in which they enter words they are learning to spell. By the end of second grade, your child will have learned to spell:

  • Words with short and long vowel sounds, such as bread and dough
  • Words with r after a vowel, such as turn
  • Words with consonant blend patterns, such as the cl blend in clay and clam
  • Frequently used words such as was, were, says and which
  • Words in which the consonant is doubled when the tense changes, such as stop becoming stopped and stopping
  • Words that drop the final e when adding an ending, such as use becoming usable
  • Words in which the y changes to i when adding an ending, such as easy becoming easily

Language Arts

Decoding and deriving meaning

Most children enter second grade with a solid grasp of reading fundamentals. Some children are still developing basic reading, while others are already reading fluently from chapter books. In second grade, your child will work on strategies to “decode” unfamiliar words so that she can learn to read with understanding, expression and confidence. These strategies include recognizing:

  • The sounds made by letters or groups of letters
  • Words that sound correct in the context of the sentence

“In addition to ‘decoding’ strategies, your child will also learn to derive meaning from the context of stories and make sense of what is being read,” notes Jane Ann Robertson, our consulting teacher and Arizona’s 2004 Teacher of the Year. “As your child learns to use all of these strategies, she will move into the world of the fluent reader!”

In addition to ‘decoding’ strategies, your child will also learn to derive meaning from the context of stories and make sense of what is being read. —Jane Ann Robertson

This year you can expect the teacher to help your child learn to identify plurals, contractions and compound words, as well as apply knowledge of prefixes, such as un, re and pre; and suffixes, such as er, est, and ful, to determine the meanings of words. Second grade is when these skills are simply introduced so don’t expect mastery yet.

Using the building blocks of language, your child will learn that groups of words make a sentence, sentences make a paragraph and paragraphs make a story. Your child’s teacher will consistently read literature that helps your child understand how an author paints a picture with words.

Your second-grader will begin to learn to paint her own pictures with words, and the results will no doubt be memorable!

Writing skills

Your child will improve her writing skills as she improves her reading. As a child, you may have practiced spelling, handwriting and punctuation as separate lessons before you began to write; your child will learn the mechanics as she writes her own stories. By the end of the year, she should be able to spell frequently occurring words correctly and write legibly, using capitalization and punctuation at the end of sentences.

Here is a list of high-frequency words.

What to Look for When You Visit

  • A variety of reading experiences to accommodate a range of skill levels and learning styles, including books read aloud by the teacher, independent reading and small-group activities
  • Writing, writing everywhere: labels for materials, attendance charts, a daily schedule, signs about classroom rules, posters about what the class is studying, and samples of student work
  • Children writing for different purposes and in different styles, from poems and fairy tales to nonfiction reports and descriptions of science experiments.
  • A classroom library that changes periodically to keep students enthusiastic about reading. Look for examples of fiction, nonfiction, poems, magazines, chapter books, picture books, menus and brochures.

What math concepts will your second-grader learn?

Expect your child to become a minor master of the arithmetic skills he or she picked up in first grade. Over the year, first-graders focus on understanding number relationships in addition and subtraction, first by using physical objects like rods and blocks and later with pencil and paper. If they haven’t already, kids begin making the leap to mental math, gaining the confidence needed to do simple problems in their head.

“Your child should be able to recall her basic addition and subtraction facts from memory by the end of second grade,” says Linda Eisinger, the 2005 Missouri Teacher of the Year.

Money, telling time, and number value

Second-graders will continue their work from previous years by learning about money, time, and number values. They’ll learn how to add and subtract money with decimal points and solve equations like $1.25 + $.20 = $1.45.

When it comes to clocks, your child should be able to tell time to the quarter-hour on analog and digital devices alike.

Students may learn about place value in numbers with as many as three digits. That means being able to break down a number into its components. Take 879: that’s eight 100s, seven 10s, and nine ones. Students will also improve their abilities to compare whole numbers using the phrases “greater than,” “less than,” or “equal to” and the symbols >, <, or =.

Calculators: Tool or crutch?

How much should elementary school students rely on calculators? The issue has been debated by math teachers, university professors, and parents, but there is general agreement that calculators shouldn’t be a substitute for learning basic arithmetic skills. Talk to your child’s teacher about how they are used in his or her classroom. For a discussion on the pros and cons of calculators, check out Education World’s article “Educators Battle Over Calculator Use: Both Sides Claim Casualties.”

What to look for when you visit

  • Graphs on display, pictures of geometric shapes, and number lines used to practice addition and subtraction
  • Tiles, rods, blocks, or other objects used for counting and sorting
  • Measuring devices such as rulers, scales, and thermometers
  • Time set aside for pencil-and-paper practice with numbers
  • Lessons in problem solving throughout the day (“If 15 of you are buying milk for lunch, and 10 are buying juice, how many more students are getting milk?”)


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