Should be old hat, right? This may be called second grade, but really, counting kindergarten, it’s the third year of school. Your child has long ago mastered rugtime and lineup, recess and lunch. You’ve had the excitement of first grade reading and math, so now you’re probably looking forward to a steady, solid year.
Well, maybe. But don’t be shocked if your second grader also has up, down, and sideways days, the kind that make you wonder if kindergarten ever got done after all. It’s developmental: seven year olds tend to think in black and white but worry in Technicolor—all at a time when their academic and social worlds are growing broader by the day. It can be dizzying—but fortunately, teachers expect the ride to get bumpy sometimes, and they expect to help.
So what’s in store at school this year? For details, consult your state’s academic standards, found on the Department of Education website, and ask your teacher to provide the district and/or school curriculum outline. But in general, expect these themes:
Second graders continue from wherever first grade left off, and teachers expect a wide variety of levels. But as reading becomes easier and more natural, the focus will shift from sounding words out to reading long stories. Keep reading aloud at home—but also encourage your child to read to you. Before reading, try making predictions; and afterward, talk over the story together. What does it all mean? These conversations are usually fun for both kids and parents; they’re also great for second grade learning.
Having finished first grade, your child can write at least one sentence. Now, in second grade, it’s time for a whole lot more. Expect your teacher to focus on “early production”—writing lots and lots—but also to introduce early editing skills like correct spelling and punctuation. Does Cousin Fred like getting letters? Now is a great time to encourage a pen pal.
This is a big year for young mathematicians, not because there’s so much new stuff but because it’s so important that the basics are solid. Expect lots of work with place value, adding, subtracting, measurement, money, and time. These are lifetime skills, and there’s no such thing as too much practice, in school or out. You can provide steady, easygoing support when you invite help with counting grocery bills, keeping time schedules, or “racing the clock” to remember addition and subtraction facts.
Second graders expand the map skills of first grade to reach out into geography and to explore historical timelines. Specific topics vary by region in the United States, but by the end of second grade, your child should recognize the continents; this will be added with the common science curriculum on water, marine life, weather, and geology. Your child should also understand the concept of country (and of different cultures), and be familiar with timelines that start before his or her birth. Do Grandma and Grandpa like to talk about where they’re from? Now’s a great time to schedule another visit.
Whatever the ups and downs in September, most second graders have settled quite a bit by the end of the year. You’ll notice longer attention spans, more reflective thinking; and often newly solid friendships as well. If, by the end of second grade, your child still does not appear to understand reading, or seems to crumple at the sight of a math book, make sure you consult your teacher. Now’s the time to fill in gaps and get set: third grade is just around the corner.