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Tips for Starting School: What Do You Learn in Second Grade

Tips for Starting School: What Do You Learn in Second Grade
By second grade, your child will probably be around seven or eight years old. Every child is unique, so their reactions to school at this age will be very different. Maybe they’re still enamored with the idea of school and are excited to get on the bus every day. It’s also possible that some of the shine of first grade and kindergarten has begun to wear off, and they’re no longer so enthusiastic about school. As a loving parent, what can you do to ensure your second grader is getting the most out of the school year? If you or your child are wondering how to get ready for second grade, then you’re in the right place. We'll take a look at things you can do to set your child up for success in this new chapter in their lives. We’ll talk about supplies your second grader should have, skills they should be developing and, of course, all the most important things they’ll be focusing on in school this year. By keeping these things in mind, you’ll be doing wonders for your child and helping them get the head start they deserve.

What Will Your Second Grader Learn in School This Year?

Second grade is primarily about building on the solid foundation established in first grade. While first grade is all about introducing fundamentals of language and math, second grade is about becoming comfortable with these concepts and growing to the point where they become almost like second nature. If your child wasn't quite ready for these concepts in first grade, they will often be much more ready by this year, and these ideas will sink in where they didn’t before. That being said, there are plenty of specifics your child’s teacher will likely focus on over the course of the year. As a parent, it’s a fantastic idea for you to familiarize yourself with a basic second-grade curriculum. This doesn’t mean you have to read every book this year or go over every single math problem. But by you taking the time to review the things they’ll be learning, you can better make yourself available to them for help and encouragement throughout the year. With this goal in mind, here are just a few of the things your kids will probably be focusing on during second grade.

Language and Literacy

By second grade, your child should have mastered the basics of reading. If they did, they’ll be ready to move onto the next level. They’ll likely begin to enjoy short chapter books and may start to seek out books on their own time as a means of entertainment. If your child struggled with reading in first grade, however, don’t worry. Plenty of children do, and by the time they reach second grade, they’re often more ready for this challenge than they were last year. By the end of the year, it’s very likely that they’ll be reading fluently. A few of the particular skills and concepts they’ll focus on this year include:
  • Fluent Reading: Kids will likely have a firm grasp of the basics of reading at this point, meaning that the focus will now be on reading quickly and smoothly, without having to stop to sound out words. Books will still be at an appropriate reading level, but children should begin to read at a quicker pace without interruption.
  • Silent Reading: When kids begin reading, most of them do so by reading the words out loud. During second grade, children will be encouraged to begin reading silently, a skill that takes some time to develop fully.
  • Reading Comprehension: Children will be able to understand and grasp more complex stories, and comprehension questions may begin to reflect this. Questions will move beyond simple matters of, “What did this character do?” and, “Where did this character go?” to become more interpretive questions such as, “How did this character feel?” and, “What does this character want?”
young boy looking up at his teacher and smiling
  • Writing: Children may be asked to write more inventive stories of their own, often in the form of personal anecdotes as they begin to gain a sense of logical flow. Sentences will likely still be short and simple, but they should start to gain an understanding of how to tell a brief story with a beginning, middle and end.
  • Handwriting: Handwriting will continue to be a focus as children are taught the correct way to form letters and to make their letters look easily readable.
  • Spelling: While spelling was likely not a focus in first grade, it will begin to become more of a priority here. Now that children understand the basics, it’s important to make sure their writing is legible and understandable. Spelling tests and other such methods will probably become common.
  • Grammar: Proper grammar will also become more of a priority in second grade, as children will begin to learn more about proper sentence construction, as well as correct capitalization and punctuation. The basic parts of speech such as nouns and verbs may be introduced.


Math in second grade will start to get a little more complicated, although it’ll still be quite foundational. Students will begin moving beyond simple counting and other such helpful tools to slightly more abstract thinking. For example, instead of working with objects and having them physically work addition and subtraction problems, students will be asked to work the same exact problems, but on paper. In particular, your child may spend time this year on ideas and concepts such as:
  • Addition and Subtraction: Children will build on skills they honed in first grade. They’ll begin to add and subtract numbers that are less round and often come out less even. The numbers used will also begin to be bigger and may be two or three digits long.
  • Place Value: Because students will begin working with numbers that are two or three digits long, the concept of place value will be introduced.
  • Evens and Odds: Students will learn the difference between even and odd numbers, and what makes these different categories significant and unique.
  • Numbers in Word Form: Students will learn to write numbers in word form. They likely already know how to do this with small numbers, but they’ll begin to learn how this applies to larger numbers as well.
girl counting money to practice math
  • Money: Students will do further work with money, learning to add and subtract more complicated sums including odd amounts of change.
  • Time: In second grade, students will become proficient in telling time on an analog clock to the nearest five minutes.
  • Word Problems: The idea of word problems will be introduced, with students learning to take the concept they’re given and translate it into numbers and an equation which they can then solve.
  • Multiplication and Division: Depending on your school and state, very simple multiplication and division may begin this year, or it may wait until third grade. If these ideas are introduced, the problems will be very small and likely only involve numbers zero through five.


Science at this age will still be largely observational. Kids will learn about the world around them and the way things work. They may even begin performing simple experiments, and there may be crossover with their reading skills as they occasionally read books about the weather, animals or other topics that might interest a second-grade science student:
  • Earth Science: Kids will learn about topics like the Earth and what it’s made out of. They might learn where energy comes from, and what natural resources are found in the ground. They might learn about rocks, fossils, volcanoes and more.
second graders learn about the weather
  • Weather: Kids this age are often fascinated by weather. Ideas such as climates may be introduced. Students will likely learn about lightning, wind, rain, clouds and more.
  • Animals: Children will learn more about how to identify and classify different animals, as well as things like habitats, lifecycles, diet and more.
  • Plants: This is the perfect age for in-class experiments where students can observe small seedlings transforming into bigger plants. Class discussions may revolve around what a plant needs to grow and how to care for plants.
  • The Human Body: While an in-depth study of the human body is certainly reserved for later years, second graders will learn about the body's inner organs and their functions. Ideas of health and nutrition will likely be tied in as well, with teachers explaining why junk food is bad for you and similar concepts.
  • Experiments and the Scientific Method: Students may begin performing simple observational experiments. They might be asked to make predictions based on what they know, and try to guess the outcome of these experiments.

Social Studies

Social studies are still probably not the most crucial part of your child’s education at this stage, but it’s still important because of the way it orients your child in the greater community and world. Concepts and ideas from first grade will be built on with slightly greater depth and complexity. A few of the ideas that will probably come into play this year include:
  • Maps and Geography: Students will learn to identify the continents and oceans on a map, as well as recognize the United States and their own state. They may learn more about their own community or state as well.
  • History: History will still likely be introduced in a narrative fashion. Basic ideas and concepts covered might include the founding of the United States, as well as other major events and people throughout history. The focus is typically on broad stories and less on specific dates.

How to Prepare Your Child for Second Grade

As a parent, you might wonder what second graders should know, and if your child is ready for this next step. If you want to help your child put their best foot forward, we recommend taking these steps and reinforcing these practices and interests at home with your child:

1. Read, Read, Read

Reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child. Even if you aren’t a big reader yourself, make an effort for your child. Read aloud to them, read independently next to them and help read harder books with them. Get them a library card so they can check books out at your local public library. Really strive to tap into your child’s inner reader and help them learn to love it — it is something that will serve them so well not just in second grade and in school, but for the rest of their lives.

2. Buy Them a Journal

Learning to write and learning to express yourself through writing is important as a child. One of the best ways you can foster this is by getting your child a journal and encouraging them to write in it. This will help with grammar, spelling, handwriting and so many more things.

3. Get Your Child an Analog Clock

get your second grader an analog clock
It might seem like less than a priority, but children work with time a lot during the early years of elementary school. This skill will become so much more natural and easy for them if it’s something they’re practicing at home. Before they know it, they’ll be able to do it without even thinking about it.

4. Encourage Curiosity

So much of a child’s success in school and in life revolves around their natural curiosity. Science, in particular, rewards the curious student. So when your child asks you questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do the leaves fall in October?” take these opportunities to help them answer their own questions and foster this love of learning.

Second Grade School Supplies

When your child heads off to second grade, they should be well equipped with:
  • Pens: One or two pens should be practical black and blue, but the rest can be fun colors.
  • Pencils: The No. 2 pencil is standard, and we recommend buying a whole box. Be sure to include a pencil sharpener and extra erasers as well.
  • Scissors: For all the art projects your child is sure to be doing, a good, sturdy pair of scissors is a must.
  • Ruler: Kids will likely end up doing lots of measuring in science and math, meaning it’s a good idea to equip them with a solid ruler.
  • Pencil Case: This is a handy tool that helps your student keep all their pens, pencils, rulers, scissors and other supplies neatly organized in one location.
  • Construction Paper: This is always a must for art projects. Make sure to get a pack with a wide range of colors for all your budding artist’s needs.
  • Glue Sticks and School Glue: These are both cheap and easy to find, especially during back-to-school season.
  • Notebooks: Wide-rule is still best, especially as your child is still getting comfortable with writing and will likely form larger-than-average letters.
  • Backpack: You’ll want something sturdy that’ll stand up to some wear and tear, but there’s no reason it can’t also be fun. Let your child pick out a fun color or something with their favorite characters on it.
  • Planner: Things like homework will likely begin picking up in second grade, meaning your child needs someplace they can keep track of all their assignments. A student day planner is a perfect way to do this. By getting them started on this habit now, in elementary school, you’ll also increase their chances of maintaining this practice throughout their school career.

Shop Student Planners Today

Here at Success by Design, we believe that success isn’t something that just happens by accident. We believe you plan for it, by using things like our beautiful and handy day planners. It’s never too early to get your kids hooked on this habit, as it’s one that will serve them well their entire lives. Browse our full selection of student planners today and find the perfect one for your second grader.

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