You are here

A Guide to Every Grade

Jon Whittle
    • Second Grade

      In second grade, a child becomes a student. By now, children should have a strong grip on all the rudimentary skills of learning, from reading and writing to arithmetic. With evident pride in what they know, second-graders are among the most eager learners to be found. They tend to be attached to the literal and concrete, and begin to pay attention to the world around them and expect to have some input and control. But they are still marvelously open to new experiences, and they have an appetite for stories, poetry, music, and other arts-oriented activities.

      What to Expect

      1. Reading. The emphasis this year moves from reading as "decoding" (being able to convert letters into sounds; combining the sounds into words) to reading for understanding. (Second-graders, however, still love being read to, so teachers should provide regular story time.)

      2. Real homework. Though not generally time-consuming, second-grade homework usually becomes regular, perhaps 15 to 20 minutes a night. It is a good grade to begin a homework routine: Decide on the time and place homework gets done and see that your child stays with it as much as her schedule permits.

      3. Uh-oh: Spelling! In most schools, second grade marks the beginning of the spelling curriculum. There may be textbooks, photocopied lists, tests, or some combination of these, all in the interest of introducing children to the idea that spelling does matter after all.

      4. Math as a subject. If not before, this is the year that math becomes a formal subject of instruction (best taught in the morning when children are more alert). Math moves beyond counting into more complex addition and subtraction, simple fractions, measurement, and problem solving.

      5. Journalizing. Second grade is a big journal year. Children write about everything that happens to them, and in the process create one of the most adorable and enduring documents of their school careers.

      6. Outside experiences. While your child may already have a history of extracurricular activities, in second grade she may, suddenly, begin to express her own ideas about what she would like to be doing outside of school.

      Watch Out for:



      • Excessive self-criticism. A second-grader will notice how his friends and peers do things and compare his own abilities. He may need help putting self-criticism in perspective and not judging himself too harshly.


      • Lack of concentration. Children who still have trouble sitting still and listening will begin to have trouble achieving at a high level.


      • Slow readers, redux. As the year passes the halfway point, if your child is still struggling with reading, it may be time to confer with the teacher.