2nd Grade: What to Expect

back to school guide

As we count down the days to back to school, the Daily Buzz talks with moms and public school teachers about what you and your child can expect in the coming year.

Today 2nd grade teachers singlemomme2jj and MAUREEN55 and post-2nd grade mom 5forjulie answer common questions about ...



MAUREEN55: Reading is a huge part of the 2nd grade curriculum. By 3rd or 4th grade, students are expected to read well enough to learn information from text books.

Students who haven't mastered basic addition and subtraction skills must make sure they get their facts memorized so they will be prepared for instruction on multiplication and division later in the year.

Independence is key to second grade. As kids move through school they become less dependant on the teacher and more responsible for their own learning.

Singlemomme2jjBy the end of second grade, students need to be writing a solid paragraph (introduction sentence with three or more related detail sentences with an indent, correct capitalization, sentence structure, and punctuation).

With respect to grades, a current trend is standards-based grading. For each subject or rubric on the report card, there is a standard. Either the students is meeting it or not. 

For example, if the standard for reading a text book is 80 words per minute to get a passing grade, the child must hit that mark. Extra credit, an elaborate diorama or special report, will not bring that grade up.

The main educational goal in second grade is to meet the standards set forth by the curriculum. The curriculum isn't the textbook used by the school (those are resources). You can find the standards on your state's OSPI website (Office of the Superintendent of Public Schools).

School Supplies

5forjulie: Second graders need a backpack, binder, folders, pencils, and crayons. I spent about $50-65, depending where you go.

MAUREEN55: One thing that may be new is the dreaded notebook paper. Make sure you get the wide rules kind. Many kids have only written on the primary paper with the big lines. Learning to write on notebook paper can be a surprising challenge for some kids. I don't expect parents to spend more than $20 total on supplies.

Singlemomme2jj: If times are tight, don't hesitate to contact your school's family resource coordinator to get assistance. If things are going well for you, get extras and send them to the teacher with a note that you'd like to share with others.


5forjulie: My son had 20 minutes of homework per night  and 20 minutes of reading. In my experience parents aren't expected to help because it's usually ideas that they discussed during the week.

MAUREEN55: In most schools, second graders will have nightly assignments. The rule of thumb is to multiply the grade level by 10 minutes — so 20 minutes of written work and studying should be just right for this age. I also ask parents to spend at least an additional 15 minutes a night reading with and to the children.

Parents need to watch the fine line between helping the student and doing it for them. Teachers come across homework with adult handwriting more than you'd think. We don't expect homework to be done perfectly. We do expect it to be done with the same quality classwork is. I recommend parents look over homework after it's done to ensure the child has indeed put forth a good effort. Kids who are struggling may need a parent to sit and assist, but for most, supervision should be enough.

Singlemomme2jj: If you're going over your child's work and having them fix it up, please indicate this to the teacher, too. Homework is meant to be independent practice. Helping is good, but please indicate the help your child needed. Sometimes teachers use this work to inform their teaching the next day. If your child got everything correct with a lot of assistance and it's not indicated, they may not get the instruction they need at school.

Social Scene

5forjulie: Friends are important at this age. My son had some best friends and went to a couple parties through out the year.

MAUREEN55: Second grade is when many kids begin forming true friendship bonds. The nice thing about this age is grown ups still rule over friends for the most part. Second grade is when I've seen cliques start to form among the girls for the first time. It gets more intense in the upper grades, but this year may be the beginning of it.

Singlemomme2jj: Friends are important!  Students in second grade may start calling one another to set up play dates. Expect birthday party invites!  Ask the teacher for rules about distributing them at school. My personal rule is you must invite everyone (the whole class, or all of the same gender students) if you are going to bring your invitations to school.

You must read Ira Sleeps Over to your child if they're feeling a bit unsure about their first sleepover. This year or next will be prime time. This is a very good age for learning skills to deal with future tough issues. If your child is involved in following the crowd and making a poor choice, jump all over it for a teaching moment.

Cliques really depends on the class. Every group has its own dynamic and some groups develop cliques, while most others don't. If this happens in a negative way, it will be among the girls This is also a time when the more athletic boys who participate on sports teams together outside of school start naturally collecting together at recesses.

Behavorial Issues

5forjulie: Issues I saw with my son included getting used to more structure and more test-taking. I noticed my son didn't want to do his homework, and he wanted to do it his way.

MAUREEN55:  As kids get older, they are expected to work independently for longer periods of time. This year they may be expected to work quietly for 20 to 30 minutes—sometimes more. For many kids the frustration this causes leads to talking with classmates and other disruptive behavior. If you think your child will struggle with this, make sure to talk to the teacher about strategies to make the transition easier for your little one.


5forjulie: In my son's class, students get warnings from teacher and if they are really bad then they see the principal.

MAUREEN55: I haven't found time-outs to be very effective in a school stetting. The usual punishment, after a formal warning, would be loss of a privilege such as free time. Students are also sent to school administration for more severe or ongoing infractions. The first step I take is contacting the parents and making them aware of what's going on. Most of the time that helps the situation a great deal.

Singlemomme2jj: Some teachers will keep kids in for a recess time out. Other teachers will send notes home. However the teacher/school decides to handle discipline issues, the goal should be to extinguish the negative behavior. 


5forjulie: Moms are asked mostly to put homework packets together or to donate food to parties.

MAUREEN55: I enjoy having parents come and read with struggling students or help kids with drill activities using flashcards. It's always nice to an extra set of hands on party days or for field trips. Find out the best way to contact the teacher and do it regularly. For me, email is the easiest, fastest way to keep parents up to date. If you are contacting your child's teacher frequently, please take the time to let him or her know what you think he or she is doing well. If you have questions or concerns don't be afraid to be upfront about them right away.

Singlemomme2jj: Anything from clerical duties (like photocopying), to managing a learning station, to listening to kids read. Parent helpers are also needed for field trips. If you have a special talent you're willing to share, make it known. I had one parent come in to do a clay project with my class that was fired in the kiln and everything. Just ask... I never turn down help!

What was the biggest challenge for your child?

5forjulie: Getting used to routine and liking school in the beginning. My son hated school the first month and I found out that because he said something wrong and was laughed at by his classmates that made it tough in the beginning. He also liked to do his work his own way and didn't listen to the teacher. This was also the year of taking standardized tests.

Thanks so much to the 2nd grade teachers and moms who helped us present this valuable Back to School information.

Since schools and activities vary depending on the district and where you live, tell us what the 2nd grade experience like for you and your big kid!

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