The Guide to 2nd Grade

Review general curricula for second grade, learn what to expect for each subject, and discover the books and activities you can use at home to support learning in the classroom.
By Shira Ackerman and Kelsey Kloss



The Guide to 2nd Grade

Once students reach 2nd grade, they’re often ready to accelerate their learning. That’s because at this point, they've adjusted to the more rigorous learning environment initially encountered in 1st grade, and are able to further expand their skills and knowledge in every subject area.

In 2nd grade, your child becomes a more experienced writer, reader, and mathematician by practicing her skills in more complex and comprehensive ways. Students read bigger and more complicated books, write longer and more in-depth pieces, and learn more about the concepts behind certain math skills. What’s more, second graders pursue projects that involve research and critical thinking, which might include doing individual or group work and then sharing learned information through writing, speaking, and art.

The 2nd grade classroom is structured like most elementary school classrooms — with desks or tables for the students, and usually an area for class meetings and discussions. There are often areas dedicated to different subjects of learning. For instance, there may be a corner of the classroom for math tools and supplies, or a class library area dedicated to reading. Technology also becomes a more integrated part of the 2nd grade classroom as students use it more to publish their writing.

Reading in Second Grade 

Second graders continue to develop their literacy skills as they learn more complex words and absorb longer, more rigorous texts in a variety of genres including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Students also expand their reading comprehension skills as they talk about what they read, and develop more advanced ideas around those topics. Just like in previous years, second graders also continuously practice reading as they use texts for other subjects throughout the day.

To build reading skills, your second grader:

  • Reads more complex words, such as two-syllable words.
  • Reads words with common prefixes and suffixes, for example: pre-re-un-, -able, -ad, and -er.
  • Reads grade-appropriate, irregularly spelled words (consult your child’s teacher for a specific list of these words).
  • Reads a variety of texts including fiction, non-fiction, fables, and poetry (such as the rhyming stanzas in the book Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin).
  • Understands the structure of a story, specifically the purpose of beginnings (introducing the text) and endings (concluding the text).
  • Understands the most important details of a text—its main purpose and the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.”
  • Talks about characters’ responses, main events, lessons learned, and important ideas or concepts.
  • Begins to make connections within and between texts.
  • Compares at least two different versions of the same story, such as two versions of a classic fairy tale (think Little Red Riding Hood and the Chinese variation, Lon Po Po).
  • Reads at grade-level with correct accuracy, pace, expression, and comprehension.
  • Self-corrects mistakes and re-reads when necessary.

Your 2nd Grade Book Checklist for Reading

Magic Treehouse Boxed Set (Books 1-4)  A favorite for countless second graders, the Magic Treehouse series will whisk your child away to past eras when two siblings discover a treehouse filled with enchanted books! This series showcases simple language and illustrations that build reading confidence in second graders.

Captain Underpants #1-5: Full Color Pack  The Captain Underpants books have encouraged the love of reading in many young children, who love these silly texts filled with practical jokes and superhero antics. Humorous books like this one can help keep your child engaged with reading as he learns more about the basics of language, stories, plot, and characters.

The Oregon Trail Boxed Set — Transport your second grader to 1850, when the biggest goal was to get to Chimney Rock with your family safely — passing through rugged mountains, wild animals, natural disasters, and fast-flowing rivers along the way. These books make reading particularly interactive with 22 possible endings in each (choose wrong, and you may not make it in time!).

Dog Man — From the creator of Captain Underpants, this story reveals a new hero who digs into deception, claws after crooks, and rolls over robbers. When Greg the police dog and his cop companion are injured on the job, Dog Man emerges out of a life-saving surgery — but this heroic hound will need to resist the call of the wild to answer the call of duty. 

The Story of Ruby Bridges — An important book for your second grader’s nonfiction collection, this story reveals the extraordinary journey of a 6-year-old who shaped history when she became the first African American to attend an all-white school. Moving watercolor paintings capture the warmth of Ruby’s family and her illustrious strength in the face of racism.

Bonus Reading Activities

Make a “W” Chart: While you and your child read books together, or while your child reads a book by himself, make a “W” chart. Fill out the "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" of the book as your child discovers them.

Pay Attention to Prefixes and Suffixes: When your child uses a word with a prefix or suffix, occasionally stop to talk about it. Break down the word and say what the prefix or suffix and root word mean when they’re put together, and brainstorm other words that have the same suffix or prefix. You can also write the word out on two separate cards, with the prefix or suffix on one and the root word on the other, and make new words with those cards.

Make Up Your Own Version of a Story: After your child reads a story, work together to create your own versions, changing details such as setting, time, or even the ending. You can even tweak the story so it occurs in places or with characters you know. This helps him understand story structure and make comparisons.

Play Time: Act out a favorite picture book or a section of a chapter book together. Use the book as a script, playing the different characters and narrator. Then, team up with your child to put on a performance for friends and family!

Writing in 2nd Grade

Second graders write texts that are more detailed, lengthy, and varied, all of which refines their writing skills. They also use technology to publish their writing (you can help prepare them for this by using the Internet at home together).

Similar to reading, writing occurs throughout the day as students use it for a variety of subjects. For instance, students may write about a math problem and explain how they solved it, or about a topic they learned in science or social studies. All of these tasks make them stronger and more experienced writers.

To build writing skills, your second grader:

  • Writes a variety of types of texts including:
    • Opinion Pieces: Students state their opinions and provide reasons to support them, closing with a conclusion.
    • Narrative Pieces: Students write about an event, describing actions, thoughts, and feelings, and provide a conclusion.
    • Informative/Explanatory Pieces: Students introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a conclusion.
  • Revises and edits writing to improve it.
  • Uses digital tools with the aid of the teacher to publish writing (teach your second grader more about technology with A True Book: Computers).
  • Researches topics for shared, group, or class-wide research and writing projects.

Your 2nd Grade Book Checklist for Writing:

Scholastic Success With Writing: Grade 2 — Help your second grader develop the skills she needs to become an independent writer with this workbook filled with engaging exercises and daily writing assignments such as journals, stories, and letters.

Scholastic Success with Grammar: Grade 2 — This workbook’s fun practice in sentence types, contractions, verb tenses, punctuation, and much more will reinforce the grammar lessons your child is learning at school. Each practice page emphasizes grade-specific skills outlined in common standardized tests for second graders.

Shoppies: Fun-tastic Fill-In Journal — Make writing fun and engaging for your second grader with this colorful book filled with a “Meet the Shoppies” bio section, writing prompts, and story starters, all of which encourage a love of writing.

A Box of Clementines — Written like a journal, this modern-day Ramona is a hit with teachers, parents, and kids alike — and will appeal to your second grader with its relatable stories. Clementine’s chronicles of her life provide an example of written opinion and narrative pieces for your second grader.

Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution — In this factual gem, your second grader will learn just how powerful the written word can be! This book puts a humorous touch on a historic time in 1787, when 55 delegates from 13 states came together to write and ratify the Constitution — and it even includes the full text of the document.

Bonus Writing Activities

Start a Journal: Use it to remember the trips, weekends, and special times your family has spent together. Your child can both write and illustrate the journal — in fact, you can pick a favorite entry from the journal and work with your child to write a longer piece or story about that event, illustrating it with photographs or drawings.

Write What You Think: Kids often have very strong opinions! Ask your child to express her opinion about something through writing and to explain the reasoning behind her thoughts. Your child can then read the piece out loud to family members and take questions from the “audience.”

Read Other People’s Writing: Second grade is a great time for your child to start reading magazines that are created specifically for kids, like Scholastic News. These often have many types of texts, including narratives, fiction, non-fiction, and opinion pieces for your child to absorb and learn from. Read the magazines together and talk about the articles — doing so will help fortify her own writing skills.

Math in 2nd Grade

Second graders continue to practice addition and subtraction skills, and eventually solve problems in their heads and add some numbers from memory. In many classes, math tools such as blocks, tiles, and different shapes help students practice these skills.

Students also learn to explain how they solved a problem using words and writing, and how to break down numbers to better understand them. They learn concepts that provide the foundation for multiplication, and continue to gain a deeper comprehension of certain math principles.

To build math skills, your 2nd grader:

  • Adds and subtracts numbers from 1-20 using mental strategies and ultimately, by the end of the year, adds two 1-digit numbers from memory (these addition flash cards will help with that).
  • Solves one- and two-step addition and subtraction problems with numbers up to 100, using drawings and equations and explaining the process.
  • Learns the difference between odd and even numbers.
  • Begins learning the foundations of multiplication by adding the same number to itself (for example, 4+4) and grouping together the same number of objects to add up to more.
  • Understands and can break down a 3-digit number into groups of hundreds, tens, and ones.
  • Reads, writes, and counts up to 1000, and can count by 5’s, 10’s, and 100’s.
  • Compares 3-digit numbers, using the signs: >, <, and =.
  • Practices adding together up to four 2-digit numbers by skip counting and adding smaller parts of the numbers together.
  • Measures objects and uses different units of measurement, like inches and centimeters (you can use Scholastic Learning Express Level 2: Time and Measurement to help support these skills).
  • Estimates an object’s measurement and measures how much longer one object is than another.
  • Tells time using analog and digital clocks.
  • Begins to solve word problems involving money.
  • Creates picture and bar graphs, and answers questions about the data represented in the graphs.
  • Recognizes triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes—and their defining characteristics, such as the number of angles.
  • Breaks up shapes into halves, thirds, and fourths, and uses smaller shapes to create larger ones.

Your 2nd Grade Book Checklist for Math:

Scholastic Success with Math: Grade 2 — Reinforce invaluable math skills such as geometry, graphs, reasoning and logic, story problems and equations, and much more with this helpful workbook! Each practice page teaches age-appropriate skills as outlined in common standardized tests.

Greg Tang 2nd Grade Math Bundle (Pack of 4) — Your child will be excited to read about numbers with these four witty books that teach math with witty rhymes, hilarious illustrations, and clever techniques. The four books include The Best of Times, Math Potatoes, The Grapes of Math, and Math-terpieces

100 Math Practice Pages (Grade 2) — Support the lessons your child is learning in school with a little extra practice in numbers, counting, place value, measurement, time, shapes, and many other 2nd grade math skills in this handy and engaging workbook. 

Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! — When Mr. and Mrs. Comfort have a family reunion, they arrange eight tables and 32 chairs so everyone will have a seat. Little do they know, the guests will come with their own seating plans! A delightful read filled with wit and humor, this book will teach your second grader about math concepts such as area and perimeter.

Mystery Picture Math — Second graders will be intrigued by this mysterious workbook that encourages students to solve math problems on a hidden picture page, and then use a cool key to reveal a mystery image! Each page features riddle clues that add to the fun.  

Bonus Math Activities

Shop and Count: When you are with your child in the store, ask him to help you figure out the math involved in paying. Talk about how much change you should receive back, the amount of total money spent, or how much money you saved by using a coupon. You can also play “store” at home using real or pretend money (this Pretend and Play Calculator Cash Register is perfect for make-believe transactions!).

Find and Build Shapes: When you see objects such as skyscrapers, picture frames, or even bookshelves, have your child identify the different shapes he sees in it. You can also create your own objects using different shapes.

Make a Measure Treasure Hunt: Ask your child to measure different objects in the house, then turn it into a game by asking him to find two objects that are the same length, objects that are longer or shorter than each other, and the longest or shortest object possible. 

Time It: Ask your child to time how long it takes him (or another family member) to do something. Record these times and figure out how much longer one time is than another, or help your child break his own record. 

Science in 2nd Grade 

In 2nd grade, students continue to explore the world around them, but they do so in a more rigorous way by using hands-on experimentation to develop questions, hypothesize, collect data, and make observations and conclusions.

As in other grades, the specific topics studied in science vary according to state. However, common topics include earth and space, the human body, plants, the cycle of life, animals, and electricity and magnetism. Consult your child’s teacher or research your state’s specific science standards for more details.

To build science skills, your 2nd grader:

  • Uses observation and experimentation to learn about her world.
  • Asks scientific questions and finds the answers to her questions.
  • Collects and uses data to support experiments and what she learns.
  • Records her observations through writing and speaking, and uses her observations to explain and make conclusions.
  • Reads about different scientific concepts (prime her for animal science topics with this Guided Science Readers Parent Pack).
  • Works in groups and as a class to conduct experiments and create projects.

Your 2nd Grade Book Checklist for Science

Scholastic First Encyclopedia: How Things Work — Your second grader has hundreds of questions about how the world operates, and this book explains it all in simple, accessible explanations. It covers the who, what, why, and how of everyday things, including the science of guitars, bridges, roller coasters, electricity, and vehicles!

Magic Tree House Incredible Fact Book — Everyone’s favorite characters from Magic Tree House, Jack and Annie, share incredible scientific tidbits — including the coolest, weirdest, funniest, and all-around most amazing facts! — they’ve learned during their worldly adventures in this exciting read.

The Magic School Bus Rides Again: Satellite Space Mission — In this extraterrestrial adventure, Keesha is determined to get accepted into Space Camp, the launching pad to becoming an astronaut. But when her eagerness to take a selfie for her application form leads to a disruption in the galaxy, she and her classmates must work together to save the planet’s future.

Scholastic Reader Level 2: Surprising Swimmers — Sure, your second grader may know that fish swim — but does she know that elephants, tigers, and many other animals swim, too? This splashy book is filled with fun facts about how various animals take a dip, why they do, and the reasons you might not often see them swimming (plus hilarious pictures throughout!) to pique your child’s interest in animal science.

Race the Wild #1: Rain Forest Relay — Your child will dive into the rainforest and join Russell in this once-in-a-lifetime race through the animal kingdom. Nothing can prepare them for what’s ahead: raging rapids, poisonous venom, and totally true facts about wild creatures and dangerous habitats!

Bonus Science Activities

Compare Textures: Collect different textures from nature such as sticks, leaves, grass, stones, and bark. Your child can make a collage out of them, or you can blindfold your child and ask her to use her sense of touch to figure out what each item is.

Use Your Senses: Go outside and help your child take pictures, record videos, and draw and write about what she sees, hears, smells, and touches (but be sure to focus on one sense at a time). She can then create a poster, collage, or short book about what she learned and observed.

Mix It Up: Let your child mix together different liquids, and then add baking soda or baking powder. Ask your child to record her observations using text and illustrations, and write down what she learned (she can also mix up a variety of captivating kitchen experiments with the Clifford the Big Red Dog: Kitchen Science Kit).

Read and Report: Ask your child to pick a scientific topic she enjoys, such as animals, space, or the human body. Research the topic together using books and your computer. Your child can then create a collage, short book, or informative text about the topic and present it to family and friends. 

Social Studies in 2nd Grade 

The 2nd grade social studies curriculum includes specific topics that vary from state to state, but overall focuses on helping students develop their reading, writing, research, and critical thinking skills as they gain a deeper understanding of history and society and share the new knowledge they learn. Teachers may use texts, photographs, film, art, class trips, and visitors to help students learn about a specific topic from different types of media and various perspectives. In 2nd grade, there is often a strong emphasis on comparing differences between groups and appreciating these differences.

Many social studies lessons and projects also integrate and overlap with other subjects such as reading, writing, and math.

To build social studies skills, your 2nd grader:

  • Learns about the history of his community and family.
  • Compares his own community to others, specifically with an appreciation for valuing difference and multiculturalism.
  • Gains a deeper understanding of geography, and specifically that of North America, using maps to locate and identify different places such as bodies of water, mountains, the equator, etc.
  • Learns more about government, its roles, and how officials are chosen.
  • Learns about important historical figures.
  • Uses reading, writing, and art to deepen his understanding of concepts and portray what he has learned.
  • Learns about American holidays and other important days and events.

Your 2nd Grade Book Checklist for Social Studies

A True Book: American History: The Congress of the United States — Teach your second grader how an important part of our government works with this info-packed book about the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. Inside, he’ll learn all about how members of Congress write, debate, and pass laws. 

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King — This picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young readers. Using his own quotes from his most beloved speeches, it tells his life story in a direct way that second graders will easily understand.

If You Were a Kid In the 13 Colonies — Your second grader will travel back in time to the winter of 1724 and to North American colonies in this story about dangerous conditions, immigrant families, and the power of working together during our nation’s beginnings. 

American Girl: A Girl Named Helen — When Helen Keller was struck by an illness that made her blind and deaf at a very young age, her parents hired a teacher named Anne Sullivan. This story teaches young readers about these two famous American figures and how they worked together to defy expectations.

Those Rebels, John and Tom — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were two American heroes, but they were completely different! One was blunt, and one was polite. One was short, and one was tall—but they both cared deeply about the American colonies. This masterful blend of biography and history creates a portrait of two icons who joined forces to fight for our country’s freedom.

Bonus Social Studies Activities

Compare Your Community: Learn about another community by visiting or researching it with your child. Then, make a chart comparing the differences between that community and yours.

Find the Historical Figures You Know: Partner up with your child to interview an older family member or friend about an important historical moment he or she experienced. This can be filmed or recorded, or your child can create a poster or book about what he learned.

Make Your Own Map: Help your second grader create a map of your home, neighborhood, or another important location.

Continue the Fun Through Play!

Sharpen your second grader’s skills further by integrating learning with these exciting activities.

The Magic School Bus Weather Lab — Your second-grade scientist will learn all about incredible weather by making a tornado in a bottle, recreating the water cycle, using a sun dial, constructing a barometer, and much more in this explorative kit.

Klutz: LEGO Crazy Action Contraptions — The building skills required for these fun gizmos will reinforce certain math concepts your second grader is learning in school. The 16 vehicles, tools, and other buildable contraptions also emphasize the importance of following instructions (and diagrams!) to complete a project.

Earth Science Bingo — Each playing piece of this stunning game features a different illustrated species for your second grader to learn about. She will absorb facts about fossils, bugs, and shooting stars as she fills her bingo board with the wonders of nature.

Clifford the Big Red Dog: Rainbow Science Kit — Clifford and his friends explore the colorful world around them with this awe-inspiring kit about rainbow science. In a fun 20-page manual narrated by Emily Elizabeth, young scientists will take on thrilling experiments such as Milk Rainbows, Colored Bubbles in a Tube, and Rainbow Explosions.

Klutz: LEGO Chain Reactions — Students get an introduction to the basics of physics in this kit packed with ideas, instructions, and inspiration for 10 LEGO machines that spin, pivot, lift, swing, roll, and drop. Your child can then combine the machines in any order she’d like to get incredible chain reactions! 

Shop Essential Resources for 2nd Graders

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