The Guide to 2nd Grade

Review general curricula for 2nd Grade, what to expect for each subject, and activities that can be done at home to support learning in the classroom.



The Guide to 2nd Grade

Introduction to 2nd Grade Curriculum 

In 2nd grade, students have adjusted to the more rigorous learning environment they initially encountered in 1st grade and are able to further deepen and expand their skills and knowledge. In 2nd grade, they become more experienced writers, readers, and mathematicians as they practice these skills more and in more complex and comprehensive ways. They read longer and more complicated books, they write longer and more complex pieces, and they learn more of the concepts underlying the math they do. In addition, 2nd graders begin to develop their research and critical thinking projects as they create individual and group work to share and present what they learn through different forms, including 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 lessons and class meetings and discussions. There are often also areas or centers dedicated to different subjects of learning.  For instance, there may be an area with all of the math tools and supplies and a class library dedicated to reading. Technology also becomes a more important part of the 2nd grade classroom as students learn about and use it more, specifically for publishing their writing. 

Reading in Second Grade 

Second graders continue to develop their reading skills as they learn to read more complex words and read longer, more complex texts in a variety of genres, such as fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. They also develop their reading comprehension skills as they talk about what they read and use it for developing and presenting further ideas. In addition, 2nd graders continually practice their reading skills as they read for other subjects they learn throughout the day.

In order to build reading skills, your 2nd 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.
  • 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” of a text.
  • Talks about characters’ responses, main events, the lessons in texts, 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.
  • Reads at grade-level with correct accuracy, pace, expression, and comprehension.
  • Self-corrects mistakes and re-reads when necessary.

Reading Activities

  • Make a “W” Chart: While you and your child read books together, or while your child reads a book by herself, make a “W” chart. Fill out the "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" of the book as they are learned.
  • Pay Attention to Prefixes and Suffixes: When you or your child uses a word with a prefix or suffix, stop to talk about it. Break down the word and talk about what the prefix or suffix and the root word mean together. Think of other words that have that suffix or prefix. You can also write the word out on two separate cards, with the prefix on one and the root word on the other and make new words with the cards. Write down the different words with prefixes and suffixes you and your child use.
  • Make Up Your Own Version of a Story: After your child reads a story, make up your own version, changing details such as setting, time, or even the ending. You can change the story so it occurs in places or with characters you know. This helps your child understand story structure and make comparisons. Alternatively, make up your own version of a fairy tale or known story.
  • Play Time: Act out a favorite picture book or part from a chapter book. Use the book as a script, playing the different characters and narrators. You can even put on a performance for friends and family.

Writing in 2nd Grade 

Second graders refine and expand their writing, growing as writers as they begin to write texts that are more detailed, longer, and of different types. Technology is an important part of 2nd grade as students begin to use it to publish their writing. You can help support this by using technology at home with your child in an appropriate and supervised manner. 

Similar to reading, writing occurs throughout the day as students learn a variety of subjects in addition to the specific writing lessons or times in class. For example, students may write about a math problem, explaining how they solved it, or write about a topic they learned in science or social studies. All of this work makes them better writers overall.

In order to build writing skills, your 2nd 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 his writing in order to improve it.
  • Uses digital tools (with the aid of the teacher) to publish his writing.
  • Researches topics for shared, group, or class-wide research and writing projects.

Writing Activities

  • Keep a Journal: Keep a family journal of trips, weekends, and special times spent together. Your child can both write and illustrate the journal. Pick a favorite entry from the journal and use it to expand your child’s writing. You and your child can write a longer piece or story about that event and illustrate it with photographs or drawings.
  • Research and Report: Pick a topic your child is passionate about and research it. Go to the library or look online together for information. Then work together to create an informative collage, magazine, or article about the chosen topic, using illustrations or photographs from magazines or online.
  • Write What You Think: Kids have very strong opinions! Ask your child to express her opinion about something through writing and be sure to explain reasons 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 like Scholastic News that are made especially for kids. These often have many types of texts including narratives, fiction, non-fiction, and opinion pieces. Read the magazines together and talk about the articles. Reading these pieces will help your child become a better writer. 

Math in 2nd Grade

Second graders continue to practice their addition and subtraction skills, eventually solving problems mentally and knowing how to add some numbers from memory. In many classes, math tools and manipulatives, such as blocks, tiles, and different shapes are used to help students practice math using concrete, visible objects. They learn to explain how they solve a problem using words and writing, as well as break down numbers to gain a better understanding. This helps students truly understand the concepts underlying the math they learn. In addition, students in 2nd grade begin to learn concepts that lay the foundation for multiplication as well as continue to gain a deeper understanding of the ideas underlying the math they learn.

In order 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.
  • 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, including being able to 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 part of the numbers together.
  • Measures objects and uses different units of measurement (for example, inches and centimeters).
  • 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 world 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 and faces.
  • Breaks up shapes into halves, thirds, and fourths and uses smaller shapes to create larger ones.

Math Activities

  • Shop and Count: When you are with your child in the store, have her help you figure out the math involved in paying. Talk about change received, total money spent, or how much money you saved by using a coupon. You can also play “store” at home using real or game money.
  • Find and Build Shapes: When you see objects such as skyscrapers, picture frames, or even book shelves, ask your child to identify the different shapes she sees in it. Create your own objects using different shapes.
  • Make a Measure Treasure Hunt: Ask your child to measure different objects in the house. You can make this into a treasure hunt. Ask her to find two objects that are the same length, objects that are longer or shorter than each other, and the longest or shortest object she can find. She can even measure the people in your family. A tape measure, paper, and pencil are all she needs!
  • Time It: Ask your child to time how long it takes her (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 her 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 as they make more detailed observations and use and collect data to support their observations. Second graders use hands-on experimentation to develop questions, hypothesize, and make observations and conclusions. As in other grades, the specific topics studied in science vary according to state. However, common topics studied in 2nd grade 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 science standards for more details.

In order 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 both through writing and talking and uses her observations to explain and make conclusions.
  • Reads about different scientific concepts.
  • Works in groups and as a class to conduct experiments and create projects.

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 into nature and help your child take pictures, record videos, and draw and write about what she sees, hears, smells, and touches. Be sure to focus on one sense at a time. For example, have your child close her eyes and ask her to focus on what she hears. She can then create a poster, collage, or short book of what she learned and observed.
  • Mix It Up: Let your child experiment and mix together different liquids. Add baking soda or baking powder. Have your child record her observations using text and illustrations and write down what she learned. Record differences and findings.
  • Read and Report: Your child can pick a scientific topic she enjoys such as animals, space, or the human body. Research the topic together using books and the computer. Your child can then create a collage, short book, or informative text about the topic and present it to family members and friends. 

Social Studies in 2nd Grade 

In addition to learning about specific topics (which vary from state to state), the 2nd grade social studies curriculum 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 through different types of media and from different perspectives. In 2nd grade, there is also often a strong emphasis on comparing differences between groups and appreciating these differences.

In addition, many social studies lessons and projects integrate and overlap with other subjects such as reading, writing and math so 2nd graders continue to develop those skills as well.

In order to build social studies skills, your 2nd grader:

  • Learns about the history of his community and family.
  • Compares his own community with 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 types of places, such as bodies of water, mountains, the equator, etc.
  • Learns more about government, its roles and how its 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 important days and events.

Social Studies Activities

  • Compare Your Community: Learn about another community by visiting it or researching it together in books or online. Then make a chart comparing the differences between that community and yours.
  • Find the Historical Figures You Know: You and your child can talk with and interview an older family member or friend about an important or historical moment they experienced. This can be filmed or recorded, or you can even put together a poster or book of what you learned together.
  • Make Your Own Map: Help your child create a map of your home, neighborhood or another important location.

A 2nd Grade Book List 

Here are some book picks for your 2nd Grader:

  • Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant: This humorous story of a boy and his dog is a good beginner chapter book.
  • The Ramona Series by Beverly Clearly: This series about a girl and her family is a humorous chapter book that you and your child can read together.
  • Nate the Great Series by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat: This series is a good introduction to the mystery genre. 
  • A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon: This picture book uses an amusing approach to address social issues such as fitting in, which kids often face in school. 
  • The Empty Pot by Demi: This book tells a Chinese folktale and addresses issues of honesty, the growth of plants and exposures to other cultures.

Shop Picks for 2nd Grade

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