Second grade boy sitting at desk writing on paper
  • What Kids Learn in Second Grade

    The Basics

    In second grade most children practice the skills learned in earlier grades and begin to use them with ease. Some children who were not completely ready to understand all the material introduced in first grade may now be ready to master it. Second graders apply what they learned about the meanings of letters and numbers to more complicated material, and begin to develop their analytical abilities even further.

    Language & Literacy

    By second grade, most students can read and write at a basic level. They tackle more and more texts in and out of the classroom as they work to become rapid and accurate readers.

    Second-grade teachers put an emphasis on fluent reading (reading without stopping to figure out words) at each child’s own level. The more fluent children become at one level, the more likely they are to become fluent in the next. Children need to be able to read words at each level effortlessly before they’ll really comprehend what they read.

    At this stage children also become better story writers as they learn to write basic sentences and short narratives about an event or a character. Children’s handwriting often becomes smaller and neater, and the cursive alphabet may be introduced. Second graders may experiment with different voices, writing some stories from a personal viewpoint, and others in the third person. They more frequently use the correct spelling of words that they know and use punctuation more regularly.


    Mathematics concepts become more complex in second grade. Children can order, group numbers, and work with numbers far greater than those they can physically count. They’ll have more practice with skills and concepts introduced in first grade, such as skip counting. They’ll learn to add and subtract two-digit numbers and to understand the meaning of multiplication and division. Many teachers will introduce the first half of the “times table” up to the number five.


    Second graders will be asked to use what they know to make predictions and find patterns in the natural world. They learn about the Earth and its natural resources, and how people use these resources to get energy. They look at how the Earth changes over time and how we learn about the history of the Earth through fossils. They may do a deeper study of the life cycles of plants and animals.

    Social Studies

    In second grade, children broaden their knowledge of the world. Students learn about the people and places of their local communities and regions, and compare them to other communities and regions.

    Children may be given more responsibility to resolve conflicts with their classmates. They will be expected to have a deeper understanding of the importance of rules and their role in helping people get along.


    How Kids Learn in Second Grade

    Learning from Experience

    Second graders no longer rely solely on their life experiences to learn. Even so, they may have trouble imagining unfamiliar things. This means that a second grader who reads a story about a mountain can create a mental picture if she has seen a mountain in the past. But if she has no idea what a mountain looks like, she might have a difficult time figuring it out, even from a detailed written description.

    Processing Information

    Children at this age are better at processing information than they were just a year ago. They get riddles, puns, and sarcasm. They can build on the things they know to understand more about them and to make connections to new concepts. If they’ve been fascinated with spiders in the past, now they can study details of a spider’s anatomy, and then compare it to a praying mantis.

    Worries & Pressures

    Second graders now begin to care more about how other people see them. They are more likely to worry, be self-critical, and show a lack of confidence in their abilities than they have in the past. The pressures of the peer group begin to take hold — second graders enjoy being considered part of “the group,” and dislike being singled out. They may be embarrassed by either praise or criticism that calls attention to them, especially in front of their friends. Support your second grader by talking openly with him or her and helping your second grader navigate their new friendships.


    Parents, Don’t Stress Over . . .
    Lots of yapping: Chatting with classmates becomes a distraction, but there’s a plus to this new verbosity. It often helps kids who exhibit developmentally inappropriate behavior, as they realize their peers don’t talk or act that way. All second-graders, but especially those who are immature, now have to summon more self-control and motivation to live up to teacher and classmate expectations. Overall, second grade calls for a new level of perseverance. Try instilling the grit she’ll need. Allow your 7-year-old to struggle a little when she attempts something new. Support her, show her you have confidence in her but don’t provide the answer. Help her understand that she’s capable enough to work out an answer for herself.
    Insecurity: Second-graders are now aware of how others see them. Self-consciousness leads to teasing, and friend-jockeying creeps in. Try stepping back, unless you suspect bullying. Give her strategies for common situations, maybe ones that worked for you. Then tell her again that you believe she’ll be able to get past whatever—or whoever—is slowing her down. Find a noncompetitive activity that plays to her strengths, like art club or martial arts. She’s likely to find kids she clicks with, especially if the group is a small one.


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