Learning Guide:Second Grade
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Learning Guide:Second Grade

These youngsters respond better to praise than criticism as they evolve into classmates who can cooperate.

Portrait of a Second Grader

Second graders have a certain confidence: It's their third year of elementary school, and they know their way around. They also are pleased with their growing ability to tell stories, to inform their classmates of facts they've learned, to do basic math and reading. Socially, some are awkwardly trying to hook up with new friends; others remain with that one comfortable pal. Parents need to help kids branch out and not always allow them to do the easy thing socially. Second graders are extremely sensitive and emotionally vulnerable. And they're territorial: They don't like to be looked at and cannot stand criticism. They tend to solve problems through their emotions: "You didn't play fair; I'm not going to play with you."

Both boys and girls withdraw under emotional stress: Tattling still typifies some second graders. This is attention-getting behavior that parents can stop by praising the child's accomplishments and abilities, and distracting him from nosiness. Second graders can categorize and cluster information more effectively. They understand symbols.

What your child will learn

To the three R's add two C's: consolidate and cooperate. By the time most children enter second grade, they have acquired many of the skills they will need to function in school for years to come -- taking turns, following rules, sharing, cooperating and reading. Second graders are still desperately eager to learn but have not yet entered the critical peer-pressure phase.

Kids are beginning to read more than the individual words on a page, looking for the meaning in a group of sentences or paragraphs. In fact, reading comprehension is the major academic focus in many second-grade classrooms. An educational term you may hear this year is "cooperative learning," the completion of an assignment by a group of three or four students. Actually, teachers use this approach throughout the school years to teach kids to work with others and to give them a taste of shared responsibility with peers.

Computer use continues in this year, but the Internet is usually not a part of early grade study. Educational game play still figures in, but children are encouraged to find ways to make their own creations with art and word-processing software.

In the Classroom

Teachers show students how to...

  • Deepen their ability to read with fluency; begin to read for information. Read more complex stories and books.
  • Unlock the meaning of longer words by understanding how words are constructed -- root words, prefixes, suffixes, and
  • Arrange events in order; summarize a reading selection.
  • Alphabetize according to two or more letters.
  • Write on a variety of topics and in a variety of genres (fiction; non-fiction; how-to; poems).
  • Use hundreds, tens and ones to show place value; recognize fractions.
  • Add and subtract two-digit numbers.
  • Solve word problems using addition and subtraction; use charts and graphs to answer questions.
  • Measure money, time, length, weight/mass; tell time to the nearest five minutes.
  • Classify objects, plants or animals; use scales and balances, thermometers.
  • See more about the people in their world, recognize how their neighborhood is made up of individuals who do a variety of
    jobs and interact in a number of ways.

7 Ways You Can Help

  1. Talk to your child about events, ideas, and stories. Start the morning with a conversation about what each of you expects; make dinner conversation a recap of the day.
  2. Play car word games: Find letters of the alphabet (in order) on license plates; keep a list of the states.
  3. Play math games at restaurants (or at home, with take-out menus!): Take turns being customer and waiter. Have the
    customer estimate the cost of the meal while the waiter figures the exact amount.
  4. At the store, ask your child to estimate costs. "I have $5 to buy apples, bananas and lemons. How many can I buy of each?"
  5. Make flash cards to help your child with math.
  6. Have your child create a chore chart; have him check chores off as he completes them.
  7. If you can share the computer with your child at home, look for the kinds of activities that he is not likely to encounter in school. Don't focus on word games; instead, introduce him to the Internet as a place where his hobbies and interests can be enriched. If whales fascinate him, check out whale websites together, or find the answers to questions he asks: What is the tallest building in the world? Why doesn't the sky fall down?

What the Experts Say

"By second and third grade, children are becoming less literal, more able to abstract things from what they see and read. They gain enormously in their ability to put themselves in other people's shoes." Ruth Roemer, teacher trainer, New York City