Second Grade

Second Grade Curriculum


The second grade curriculum is organized and based upon current learning theory and research. It is consistent with brain research that stresses the importance of patterning and integration in lesson planning and instruction.  Although language arts, science, and math are viewed as distinct subject areas, correlations are made among these areas, and integration is applied when appropriate. Fundamental to the curriculum is the belief that children learn best when information connects to real life and natural world events, and is heavily dependent upon prior experiences.

Success Traits

The second graders are instructed both directly and indirectly in the nine success traits. Poetry, literature, art, music, and technology are used to illustrate and spark conversations about these traits. Classroom assignments are also planned to give the children opportunities for reflecting about these values, and children are encouraged to apply them to their daily lives.


In second grade, children are making the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Reading, writing, spelling, listening, and speaking are interconnected, and children are provided many opportunities for strengthening each skill. Phonemic awareness, decoding skills, reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and fluency are the five major areas of reading focus. Literature from a variety of genres, including fiction, mysteries, historical non-fiction, biographies, fairy tales, tall tales, legends, myths, and fables, is read throughout the year, and students are taught reading strategies that help to promote fluent, thoughtful readers with strong comprehension skills. The Scholastic reading series, as well as trade books, are used to teach the elements of each genre. Students read books from the various genres including: Freckle JuiceThe Flatfoot Fox Mystery Series, Molly’s Pilgrim, The Legend of the Poinsettia, The Wild Christmas Reindeer,  Snowflake Bentley, Cinderella, Lon Po Po, The Legend of Paul Bunyan, Icarus and Daedalus, and Charlotte’s Web. Our goals for second graders are to develop a love of literature as well as to read and comprehend material at a beginning third grade level or above.

Read Aloud

Read Aloud is a daily activity in second grade. Children are guided to recognize story elements and genre structures in a wide variety of books that correlate with the monthly genres including biographies, mysteries, and folklore as well as in books whose subjects relate to science and social studies topics. The Read Aloud is used as an opportunity to mentor young readers in the habits, values, and strategies of proficient readers, and to help them experience the benefits of thoughtful, reflective reading. There are Teacher Read Alouds, wherein the teacher reads a book related to the genre or Success Trait, and Student Read Alouds, wherein individual students or groups of students read selected books, plays, poems, or articles.


Students in the second grade engage in a variety of writing genres, addressing multiple audiences. Writing includes book reports, journaling, poetry, letter writing, and personal narratives, but expands further into informative, descriptive, comparative, and persuasive writing. Writing assignments require more detailed responses with a focus on sentence structure, grammar, and description. When writing fiction, students focus on story elements (character, setting, story problem, story solution) and paragraph construction (topic sentence, three supporting details, and concluding sentence). Students spend considerable time on the writing process (e.g., brainstorming, researching, writing a rough draft, editing, and writing a final copy). Teachers collect a portfolio of student writing for monitoring student progress throughout the year.


Children are taught how to spell words using English phonemes as well as irregular words. They learn strategies to help them spell difficult words, including pattern detection, looking for words within words, recognizing prefixes and suffixes, and using known words to spell the unfamiliar. Homework assignments are designed to help children practice word-building skills taught in the classroom. Words are selected from the children’s own reading material as well as the Frye and Dolch lists of frequently used words in the English language. Words also are derived from curricular content areas.

Grammar instruction is included as part of daily writing activities. By the end of second grade, students are expected to be proficient in the use of capital letters and commonly used punctuation marks. Second graders learn to recognize nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. They are exposed to homonyms, antonyms, synonyms and subject/verb agreement, as well as apostrophes in contractions and plurals, commas (e.g., words in a series), common abbreviations (e.g., days and months), hyphens (e.g., syllable divisions), and word affixes (e.g., prefixes and suffixes). The students are expected to apply learned grammar skills to their written assignments.


During the first semester of second grade, the students continue to practice and refine their D’Nealian manuscript writing skills. Hand positioning, posture, and pencil grip are monitored. In January, the cursive alphabet is introduced. Daily practice is given in the formation of letters, under-strokes, over-strokes and left-to-right progression. Children leave second grade fairly proficient in using cursive handwriting.


In second grade, students use materials drawn from multiple mathematical programs, including Envision Math (a Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley program), and Houghton-Mifflin. Students compute numbers, use manipulatives, and study real world applications to build mathematical concepts and skills, laying the foundation for more abstract reasoning. In numeration and counting, students read, write and compare numbers to three digits, and read and write numbers to four digits. Students identify place value up to four-digit numbers. Second graders extend their knowledge of addition and subtraction by performing operations with two and three-digit numbers. Students interpret data and mark predictions from graphic displays. In the measurement unit, they learn to select reasonable units of measure and compare customary units of measure. Students tell time to the nearest hour, quarter, and minute; measure length to the nearest inch; weigh objects, find temperatures and identify and use money values. In the geometry unit, students learn to identify plane and solid shapes as well as to identify and classify polygons.  Finally, they learn to use arrays for multiplication and division, memorize multiplication and division tables up to 10, solve multi-step word problems, and work with fractional amounts.


Second grade students are curious about the world around them. Teachers use hands-on experiments and STEM activities to help explain physical phenomena. Children are encouraged to observe, to compare, to predict, and to test their ideas. Measurement, recording of data, and the arrangement of findings in an orderly manner help the students to learn the process of science inquiry. Science topics fall within three broadly defined subject areas: Life Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science. Current Science units include:

Plant Growth: Students learn that plants have three basic external structures: roots, stems and leaves. Students observe and learn about the internal structures within leaves that allow plants to complete the process of photosynthesis.

Water Cycle: Students learn the vocabulary associated with the movement of Earth’s water. Evaporation, condensation, and precipitation are explored as they relate to weather systems. The types of crystals and their formations are topics of study.

Landforms: Students learn the terminology associated with the most common types of landforms as well as their characteristics. Archipelagos, plateaus, mesas, volcanoes, and peninsulas are all studied in terms of the forces that shaped them. The seven continents, the oceans of the world, the compass rose and cardinal directions are focuses of this unit.

Rocks, Minerals and Fossils: Children learn the Earth’s crust is composed of minerals and rocks and that rocks change form through the Rock Cycle. Students learn where fossils are found and how they provide information about changes in living organisms over time. Students study forces that shape the land and processes that act on the Earth’s surface to produce changes in landforms. Children identify the process of weathering and learn how it produces soil. In this unit, students identify the Earth’s resources and how these resources can be used, changed in form, and reused.

Classification of Animals: Students learn that animals have specific structural characteristics that enable scientists to classify them into groups. Mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, bees and reptiles are included in this study. As a culminating activity, students create an animal portmanteau report and illustration.  

Social Studies

In Social Studies, student instructional time is divided among geography, history, economics, government and civics, and cultures. Students learn about people and places in history and to identify and locate places on maps and globes. They learn about laws and rules that help people in a community work together for common goals. Students also learn about different customs of their friends and neighbors. The Social Studies program helps students develop competencies needed as citizens in a diverse, changing, and interdependent world. Current units include:

Our Flag and Other American Symbols: Students learn about the United States flag and its meaning as well as other symbols of the United States including the American eagle. Students read and study about monuments located in and around Washington D.C. as well as the United States. The children complete a report about a monument of their choice. They learn about the government of the United States including its three branches.

America and Its Colonies: Second graders are introduced to the daily life of colonists settling the New World. They study life in Jamestown, Virginia, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The class reads books such as Molly’s Pilgrim, Squanto, and Pocahontas to help them understand and appreciate colonial life. A trip to the Frederick plantation, Rose Hill Manor, is part of this unit and typically takes place in the fall. Students also participate in a Colonial Day workshop where they recreate colonial crafts including tin punch and candle making. The unit culminates with a Thanksgiving feast where students prepare stews, cornbread, butter and fruit salad and dress as Pilgrims and Indians in collaboration with kindergarten and first grade.

Christmas Around the World: Students become acquainted with Mexico, England and Germany during the month of December. They study the geography and culture of each country focusing on Christmas customs. Children complete hands-on activities for each country. Students are introduced to literature and poetry from each country including The Legend of the Poinsettia and The Night Before Christmas. Students prepare a research report on one of these countries and share the reports with their classmates.

Famous Americans: George Washington, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other well-known Americans are studied. The children complete a biographical project related to an American hero of their choice that includes highlighting the STJES Success Traits that correlate with the accomplishments of their chosen hero.

Holidays and Celebrations: Throughout the year, as holidays occur, their origin and traditions are discussed and celebrated. Activities such as creating timelines or reading Weekly Reader articles are examples of learning exercises for holidays such as Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, and President’s Day. In addition to individual holidays, students learn about monthly celebrations including African American History Month, National Hispanic Heritage History Month, etc. 

Global Education

Our second graders connect with other children throughout the world using collaborative technology tools and study the lives and culture of a different country. Each year, second-graders participate in the International Festival. One week in the new year is devoted to the study of a country. The selection of a country is made on a three-year cycle. During this time, children are immersed in the study of the selected country, with all classroom activities, literature and projects centering on that country. Second-graders are also taught a dance that is traditional to the country, and as a culminating activity, perform the dance at the International Festival.


Second grade Spanish students are able to use a repertoire of expressions and commands. They comprehend, use and react to polite requests and classroom expressions. Students continue building basic vocabulary in areas such as the days of the week and the months of the year. They identify seasons, learn the names for extended family members, and vegetables and fruits. They learn vocabulary associated with setting the table, meals, going to the supermarket and health. They are introduced to Spanish terms for rooms in a house and furniture; buildings, places and services in a city; professions and trades; zoo, farm and forest animals; nature, different ways people communicate and opposites. They count and write numbers from 0 to 40 and learn the vocabulary for telling time.  Students answer questions using more than two words and phrases. They reinforce written and oral skills by making and then reading aloud booklets and playing and singing. They investigate various holidays celebrated in Hispanic countries, such as Columbus Day, Day of the Dead and Posadas. During International Festival Week, students learn cultural aspects of their assigned country and its languages.


Lower school religion is a hands-on and tactile learning experience which reinforces in each class the fact that God loves everyone. Children move, sing, act, create, and most importantly, enjoy their time learning about God’s love for us all. In grades one, two and three, students study passages of the Bible that focus on their relationships with God and one another. Although each grade level is working with the same basic units, in a three-year cycle, activities and discussions are targeted specifically for the group’s developmental level. Children in second grade will play games and make artwork such as a beautiful tissue paper and glitter glue rainbow in honor of God’s Promise to Noah. In the Fall, grades one, two, and three study passages of the Bible that focus on Old Testament stories about judges and kings, the Prophets or the Pentateuch. In late Fall, they begin to celebrate the Christmas story. After Epiphany, they will study either Jesus as Healer, Parables or the Sermon on the Mount. During the late Winter and early Spring, students will focus on baptism, eucharist or worship. After celebrating Easter, students will learn about either the Church in the New Testament, the Book of Common Prayer, or Saints of the Church. Children will also explore God’s relationship with His people through reflection upon a variety of Max Lucado short stories. Religion classes end each year with a celebration of Pentecost, a “Birthday Party for the Church” and summer blessings on each child.


In general music in kindergarten through fourth grade, students explore four key areas of development; music performance, music literacy, music appreciation, and classroom and global connections. Students perform through singing, dancing, and playing of instruments. Students acquire and apply music literacy skills through development of musical vocabulary. Students listen and respond to music from a variety of cultural and historical sources. Students make connections between music, their world, and the greater global community through their singing, dancing, listening, and playing. Students have many opportunities to connect to and demonstrate the Traits for Success, particularly Courage, Persistence, Positive Attitude, and Attentiveness as they study and perform music.

Students in second grade strengthen their skills by singing a variety of songs with increasing tonal accuracy and independence. Second graders have a cross-curricular unit in patriotic themes and colonial songs and study the orchestra, using digital tools to discover instrument families. Students read, play, and compose rhythmic and melodic patterns using simple rhythms (quarter-eighth-half) and pitch relationships (so-mi-la). They play simple chord (bordun) and rhythmic accompaniments in class and during performances. Students identify and apply their understanding of tempo, dynamics, skips, steps, and leaps. Students explore and identify families of the orchestra. Students grow increasingly more comfortable with using music vocabulary to respond to music listening and respond through discussion, visual art, and writing. To demonstrate these skills, each student participates in the three performances annually including the Festival of the Arts. Students also complete performance-based assessments on or above grade level expectation.


Second grade students work in a variety of media including pencils, markers, pastels, watercolor, tempera etc. Children complete 2-D and 3-D projects. Second graders use oil pastels to create a picture after learning about impressionism. The curriculum provides the opportunity for children to learn and develop skills in drawing, painting, composition and crafting with more emphasis put on correct shapes, details and shading. The main rules of perspective and figure drawing are expanded upon. Demonstration and step by step explanation of how to complete projects are used to ensure children understand the project and how to complete it. The instruction about safe and proper use of equipment is a part of the lessons.

Physical Education

The second grade Physical Education curriculum continues to focus on the sequential development of the social, emotional and physical development of St. John’s students through physical activities. The joy of movement and play are important aspects as the children work to further develop their fine and gross motor skills. Activities are designed to promote fitness and individuals begin to develop an age-appropriate understanding of fitness concepts.  The value of a proper warm up and cool down will be covered. Students begin to recognize the relationship between effort and improvement as they further understand the benefits of physical activity.

Movement continues to be a focus of the curriculum. Students continue to challenge themselves with movement individually, with a partner and in group settings. Pathways, directions and transitions between movements are emphasized as the children become more proficient in their loco motor and non-loco motor skills. Students use these skills to participate in relay races, tag games, holiday games and obstacle courses.

Game situations allow the teachers to pay particular attention to the social development of our students and take advantage of teachable moments as they occur in the normal course of playing and movement. Skill-directed challenges and games help reinforce the traits for success and the importance of fair play and a positive attitude.  Risk taking is encouraged as students attempt new activities.

Throwing and catching activities emphasize accuracy as targets are introduced. Basic math skills are incorporated as students use dice and work to problem solve. Students are encouraged to use different kinds of equipment to develop movement, rhythm and fine and gross motor skills.

The Physical Education staff works with the classroom teachers to integrate activities from the classroom into the gymnasium. These include, but are not limited to: reptiles and Colonial game activities. Multicultural games are introduced to increase the students knowledge of global awareness.

St. John’s students are exposed to and experience a wide variety of activities that encompass shared experiences.  The Physical Education department organizes and supervises school events such as Community Building Day, International Festival, Blue Gold events, Buddy program and Field Days. Students are introduced to the knowledge necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.


During second grade, students develop an age-appropriate understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations, building on their first grade experiences. By the end of second grade, we expect St. John’s technology students to be able to work independently in all software programs that we use throughout the year, including operating the related peripherals (such as digital cameras), tools and menus. Second graders compose short paragraphs using the keyboard and are able to access Web information via hyperlinks.

They create short animations using programming software designed for young students, as well as short digital storybooks on subjects relating to classroom studies. Correct keyboarding form is introduced at this age, and informal practice is conducted. Mapping and timeline creation tools are two additional units second graders study.

Second graders also understand and practice ways of engaging the online community in a safe manner. This year, they begin to experience research in earnest and to learn to evaluate online resources. Their experience includes the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards for Students) categories of critical thinking and decision making, creativity, communication and collaboration, and finally basic research and information fluency.


By the second grade, students are locating books to assist them in school assignments as well as checking out easy reader and chapter books. Weekly library classes consist of a Read Aloud time using award winning picture books, fairy tales and works by renowned authors, followed by an opportunity for book selection. Librarians assist students in finding and checking out books from the various sections of the library that are of interest to them. Responsibility is stressed in use and care of materials.

Field Trips

Field trips are an important way for second-graders to experience learning in a very hands-on way. During the year, second grade visits Rose Hill Manor in Frederick and Robinson Nature Center in Howard County.  They also collaborate with the Fourth Grade for an in-house filed trip with the Rock and Gem Man.  These trips serve as enrichment activities to the curriculum.