Teachers Explain Things a 2nd Grader Should Know at the Beginning of the Year

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Fall is around the corner, and you know what that means!

Fall colors, crisp air, and back to school.

Most of us get excited about all of these things, but it’s totally normal if you’re a little nervous about the back to school part.

You’re a great parent, so it’s natural that you want the best for your kid as they enter 2nd grade.

Whether you think they are a little behind in certain areas or not, it’s good to get a handle on where your child is on the readiness scale going into 2nd grade.

So let’s get down to it: What should a 2nd grader know at the beginning of the year, and how can you get your rising 2nd grader ready over the summer?

Coming from real teachers and education professionals, here are the main skills your 1st grade graduate should have before going into 2nd grade:

  • Strong Ability to Decode Sounds
  • Read Simple Books
  • Answer Simple Questions about Stories
  • Write About Opinions, Facts, and Simple Narratives
  • Add and Subtract Up to 20
  • Place Value Comprehension
  • Understand Simple Fractions
  • Familiar With Telling Time and Counting Money
  • Appropriate Behavioral and Social/Emotional Skills

Let’s take a look at each one more in-depth, and how you can help reinforce these skills over the summer before 2nd grade begins.

Strong Ability to Decode Sounds

In 1st grade, the main focus for literacy skills is teaching children to read.

When your child moves on to 2nd grade, they start reading to learn.

That means that students going into 2nd grade need to have the ability to decode sounds they may not already know.

Ashley Showell, elementary teacher and blogger at fowardwithfun.com says:

“Incoming 2nd graders are expected to have a strong grasp on decoding sounds in words as well as fluency when confronted with words that have tricky vowel pairings: ai,ee, ou, oo, etc.”

Brianna Leonhard, former 2nd grade teacher and blogger at thirdrowadventures.com agrees that this skill is essential for going into 2nd grade.

She adds that a good understanding of phonics rules will help your child decode words that they don’t know.

Practicing this at home can be as simple as reading out loud together.

You can also get out word magnets and rearrange them to make real or silly words. This all builds up your child’s ability to recognize letter sounds and decode words.

Able to Read Simple Books

By the time your child reaches 2nd grade, they should have the ability to read very simple texts.

This demonstrates that they have built up the skills necessary to grow in literacy.

“In first grade a significant amount of time is spent on phonics, memorizing irregular high-frequency words, and manipulating sounds to build a strong reading background,” Showell says.

“The following year kids will build their fluency, which is not only the speed at which they read but also their intonation while reading.”

That means that your child will not be sounding out words for the rest of their lives!

Eventually, they will start to sound like you do when you read a story to them.

Reading comes simply by practice.

Let your child read their favorite books to you over and over.

If you suspect they have the book memorized, have them read aloud to you while pointing at the words.

Basic Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension means that there is some understanding of the story beyond just words on a page. 

Leonhard says that students going into 2nd grade should be able to answer these questions after reading a story (fiction or nonfiction):

  • Identify who is telling a story
  • Compare and contrast two characters within a story
  • Explain differences between two texts
  • Explain differences between fictional stories and informational stories
  • Describe characters, settings, main events, and key details

In addition to this, students should also be able to ask their own questions about a text. 

Asking questions while reading a text is a great way to practice reading comprehension and build up this skill.

Ask your child, “Who is the main character? Where does the story happen? What happened in the story?” and so on.

Write About Opinions, Facts, and Simple Narratives

In 2nd grade, writing practice builds up even more.

“In writing, [rising 2nd grade] students should be able to write simple sentences with proper punctuation, at times with support or a guide/model,” says Eva Petruzziello, an elementary school teacher from simplendelight.com

Leonhard also states that, even though the writing will be very basic, 1st-grade graduates should be able to write about their opinions, 2 or more facts from reading a certain text, and narratives that include the use of the words “first, second, third,” and so on.

Practicing this at home could mean guiding your child through written responses to certain questions, like:

“What was your favorite part of the story? Tell me what happened in the story in your own words. First…second….” etc.

Add and Subtract Up to 20

Incoming 2nd graders should have the basic skill of adding and subtracting numbers up to 20.

In addition to this, they should also be able to do mental math for finding 10 more or 10 less than any given number, according to Leonhard.

Showell agrees and adds:

“Mathematically, 2nd graders need to have a strong grasp on…count[ing] forward from a given number up to 120, and be able to demonstrate two-digit numbers as ones and tens.”

She adds that parents may be surprised to know that most 1st grade graduates know the basics of algebra, too.

For example, finding the missing number in 3 + ? = 4.

You can practice this with your child at home by adding and subtracting snack crackers or small toys, making it into a game. You can also take turns counting numbers up to 120.

Place Value Comprehension

Your 7 year old going into 2nd grade should know about place values.

As a refresher, place values are knowing which place the 1s, 10s, and 100s in a number.

For example, in the number 365, the 3 is in the 100s place, the 6 is in the 10s place, and the 5 is in the 1s place.

Understand Visual Math

Kids going into 2nd grade will have the very basics of visual math down.

This includes fractions, measurement, telling time, and counting money.

“They should understand the concept of simple fractions such as a half, whole, third, quarter. They should be able to begin to use a ruler for measurement,” says Petruzziello.

Leonhard has a comprehensive list of math skills your rising 2nd grader should already have:

  • Tell time to the hour and half hour
  • Demonstrate knowledge of coin values
  • Place objects in order from longest to shortest or shortest to longest
  • Create visual fraction by partitioning shapes into equal parts
  • Organize data on a graph/ask and answer questions about data on a graph

Practicing these skills is as simple as including your child in your daily life dealing with these things. 

For example, when you need to know what time it is, ask your child if he or she can tell you the time from an analog clock.

When cutting a pizza, ask your child how many slices is a half. Practice money by having your child buy something they would like with their own cash.

Appropriate Behavioral and Social/Emotional Skills

School isn’t just about learning the hard skills of literacy and mathematics, but it’s also about learning how to be a functional individual in the world.

Important behavioral skills are also learned in school to help children work cooperatively with others.

Our experts expressed that certain behavioral, social, and emotional pillars should be in place before your child enters 2nd grade.

Petruzziello says students at this age “should be independent enough to be given a three-stage task and execute upon it.

“They should be able to tidy up after themselves, and exhibit enough self-control to ask for basic needs to be met, such as [requests to use the] bathroom, questions about work, [expressing they are] hungry/sick/thirsty.”

Leonhard adds that they should also have the “ability to sit for up to 45 minutes during class discussion, work in small groups without being led by a teacher, raise [their] hand, wait to be called on, and stay in their seat during class time, and navigate technological glitches using devices within the classroom by asking for assistance.”

Practice these skills at home by simply doing normal household chores or activities together.

If you’re having a problem figuring something else, ask your child what they think should be done. 

Also, encourage independence in their lives. Let them dress themselves, make their own bed, get ready for school, and so on.

This helps them have the self-confidence they need to thrive in life.

(Wondering when and if your child should ride the bus? Read this!)

What Children Learn in 2nd Grade

In 2nd grade, kids mainly “go from learning to read to reading to learn,” Showell states. 

2nd grade builds on all the phonics, reading, and writing skills learned in 1st grade, and students will develop into maturity in these skills over the year.

Reading comprehension is also more in-depth this year than it was last year.

When it comes to math, Katie Hamel, 2nd-grade math instructor & math department chair at AspenAcademy.org, says that 2nd graders start:

  • working with numbers up to 1000
  • learning more about telling time to the nearest 5 minutes
  • and counting money. 

They also begin learning about multiplying and dividing.

“When asked what they look forward to the most, it’s multiplication and division. They begin to explore the meaning of 0,1,2,3,4,5, and 10 times tables using grouping and manipulatives,” says Hamel.

Showell adds that students in 2nd grade also learn more about working with 3 and 4 digit numbers.

Overall, 2nd graders are still at a stage where they love school, an aspect of teaching that Hamel loves.

“They love learning and love being challenged at this age, which makes teaching them such a pleasure,” she says.

Wrapping Up

Kids going into 2nd grade have to have some basic literacy, math, and social skills that they more than likely learned in 1st grade. 

But, life happens and sometimes, for whatever reason, you may have discovered that your child is not at the level they should be.

If you suspect this is the case, there are resources to help you.

First of all, make sure you get into contact with your child’s past or next teacher, to see what you can do for your child.

Meeting with your child’s school counselor or other administrative staff can also be helpful to put your child on the road to success.

Beyond that, you’d be surprised how big of an impact a few of the refresher drills above, done over the summer, can really have!

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Hope this helps!