Whether you’re teaching second grade for the first time or you’re a longtime vet, we’ve got you covered! We’ve collected 50 of the best tricks and tips for teaching 2nd grade from our teacher friends on the WeAreTeachers Helpline, our favorite bloggers, and inspiring articles here on WeAreTeachers. If you need ideas for your second grade classroom, you’re in the right place!
Setting up Your Classroom Space
1. Pick an inspiring theme for your classroom.
Themes our second grade teachers love include: butterflies, black paper with polka dots, chevron, sock monkeys, Dr. Seuss, owls, orange and teal, minions, and superheroes.
SOURCE: Schoolgirl Style
2. Find teacher deals on the cheap.
Stores with serious discounts on classroom items recommended by our Facebook followers include: Target, dollar stores, Mardel, Walmart, local teacher supply stores, Staples, Michael’s, Jo-Ann, Oriental Trading, Amazon, NAEIR.org, NationalSchoolProducts.com, and TeachersPayTeachers.com.
“Office Depot will match prices plus give an additional discount.” —Kitty R.
“Don’t be afraid of seeking donations. I once got a case of copy paper donated by a grocery store.” —Carmen B.
“Yard sales are a great place for prize-box toys and for games for your rainy day closet.” —Sandie N.
Be sure to check out 75 Brilliant Dollar Store Hacks for the Classroom.
3. Try different classroom layouts.
Long gone are the days of straight rows of desks lining the classroom. Throw out your seating chart and try one of these ideas instead.
4. Consider alternative seating.
Bean bags, saucer chairs, and pillows make for inviting alternatives to traditional desk-and-seat formations. Get 13 more ideas here.
SOURCE: Setting Up for Second
5. Set your classroom up to support literacy.
Creating a literacy-rich environment takes careful planning. Emphasize skills and content with these tips.
Creating a Classroom Community
6. Draft a class constitution.
After learning about the Constitution, students can apply their knowledge by creating their own class constitution called “We the Kids!”
SOURCE: Kreative in Life
7. Create a culture of kindness.
Read How Full is Your Bucket? (For Kids) and brainstorm a list of bucket-fillers together to inspire acts of kindness in class.
SOURCE: Simply Second Grade
8. Build your students’ social-emotional skills.
Use these read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.
9. What does a “model citizen” look like?
After discussing what makes a good citizen, construct a “model citizen” on poster paper for your classroom. Students can write their ideas about the great qualities a model citizen should have and stick them on the poster to complete the picture.
SOURCE: K–2 is Splendid
10. Encourage good behavior—without giving out treats.
Set your expectations very clearly from the start. Read “What is Classroom Management?” Then, check out these fun ideas for keeping your students on track without breaking the bank.
11. Have a procedure for everything.
“It’s really important, in second grade, that you have procedures for everything! My first year, I had procedures for the big things but not the smaller things, and that was a mistake. Tattling and drama were big in my class. Not starting off with a policy and procedure for addressing it took from instructional time initially.” —Donella H.
12. Post your students’ morning routine.
Having the routine illustrated and easy to see will help your second graders remember how to start each day independently.
SOURCE: The Colorful Apple
13. Make lining up easy!
Make a line of painter’s tape that students can use to line up quickly and easily every day. Eventually, pull up the tape to show your second graders that they can line up perfectly on their own!
SOURCE: Soaring Through Second
14. Set up cues to keep class noise down to a low roar.
Use a chart like this to help students understand when to use different voice levels. Use cues like “spy talk” to signal when voices are getting too loud. Make a class goal of going from a five to a three.For more great ideas, read “27 Good Attention-Getters for Quieting a Noisy Classroom.” Or, try out the free Too Noisy App recommended by Elementary Nest!
SOURCE: First Grade and Flip Flops
15. Use Class Dojo for classroom management.
“I LOVE it. It was highly motivating for my second graders. I use it as a reward system. My parents love getting notifications that their child was recognized for something they were doing right!” —Angie S.
16. Get the wiggles out.
Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with awesome three-minute brain breaks from Minds in Bloom.
17. Use music in your classroom.
Music is a great way to mark transitions, teach multiplication facts, or set the tone for quiet reading time. Check out these kid-friendly Pandora stations.
18. Read to them every day.
Here are 50 awesome 2nd grade books, including read-alouds and independent texts, for your class to read.
19. Use anchor charts to teach reading comprehension.
Check out 25 of our favorites here.
20. Teach with superheroes.
Your second graders will never forget that verbs are action words once they meet Vicky Verb, action hero extraordinaire.
SOURCE: Second Grade Smarty
21. Create an inviting reading nook.
Who wouldn’t want to snuggle up and read in one of these cozy spaces?
22. Give your students a voice!
With Kid Blog, students can write their own blogs and express themselves—safely!
“I love Kid Blog!” —Andrea M.
23. Fire up your little storytellers’ imaginations.
Create a story jar and let their imaginations roam.
Research is part of the Common Core standards for second grade. Here, teachers share excellent tips for approaching this seemingly complex topic.
25. Introduce your second graders to small-moment narratives.
Break down the process with this handy anchor chart and then watch them go to town writing.
SOURCE: Buggy for Second Grade
Be sure to use this helpful guide to help kids distinguish those small moments from larger contexts.
SOURCE: Buggy for Second Grade
26. Teach annotation with “thinkmarks.”
Encourage students to actively engage as readers by printing or having students create “thinkmarks” they can use to annotate text as they read.
SOURCE: Simply 2nd Resources
27. Track the writing progress of each of your second graders.
Use this pencil chart to help students keep track and recognize the steps of the writing process.
SOURCE: Second Grade Style
28. Make alphabet picture books.
Different editions could include parts of speech, antonyms, synonyms, and homophones, etc. Create a class library of these! It’s a great way to showcase student learning. —Swimming into Second
29. Creatively teach time.
Students can draw different times on a dry-erase clock—just a hula hoop taped on your whiteboard.
SOURCE: Elementary Nest
30. Build a number of the day.
Students can build the number of the day by selecting the correct numerals, words, and units.
SOURCE: Turnstall’s Teaching Tidbits
31. Play Addition Jenga.
Write (or label) addition problems on the Jenga pieces. As students play the game, they solve the problems on each piece they pull.
SOURCE: Second Grade Style
32. Let your students lead.
“I give my kiddos about 10 minutes to complete morning math problems. Then I choose a student to come up to ‘teach’ the first problem by sharing strategies and solutions. That student asks if everyone agrees or disagrees and chooses another student for the next problem, if everyone agrees. If there is disagreement with his answer, they discuss alternatives. The students are in charge for the first 30–45 minutes of the day! My favorite time of the day!” —Stacey S.
33. Write in math journals every day.
With math journals, students learn to solve mathematical problems using pictures and words. Check out free entry examples on the blog.
SOURCE: Smiling & Shining in Second Grade
34. Use rhymes to make math more fun.
Remembering how to subtract will be much easier with this cute poem!
SOURCE: The Colorful Apple
35. Teach the water cycle with this fun experiment.
Demonstrate how it rains with water, blue food coloring, and shaving cream. Then create a colorful report about the water cycle.
SOURCE: Simply Second Grade
36. Teach states of matter with this simple demonstration.
Conduct this hands-on experiment to help students recognize and understand the different states of matter.
37. Conduct gummy bear experiments.
In the category of snackable tips for teaching 2nd grade … watch what happens when you soak gummy bears in liquid over a period of days. Find the full experiment—complete with freebie handout—on this blog.
SOURCE:Second Grade Shuffle
38. Set up centers to teach STEM.
Kids will love rotating through fun stations like the tinker workbench, building station, nature table, and more!
39. Teach an early lesson on economics.
”Set up a classroom economy! I give my students plastic ‘banks’ from the dollar store. They earn money for specific things throughout the day: one penny for copying down homework, 10 cents here and there. Just keep it consistent and don’t overuse it. Otherwise, they’ll be ungrateful for those random dimes and want quarters instead. On Fridays, they get to go shopping!” —Jacqueline Q.
“My Classroom Economy is a great resource for help getting started.” —Renee J.
40. Introduce your second graders to American symbols.
This awesome mini-book is FREE!
SOURCE: Happy Teaching First: A First and Second Grade Blog
41. Learn about heroes.
Read biographies about famous people in history. Match books to holidays, like Presidents’ Day or Black History Month.
Teacher tips for staying organized.
42. Rock your teacher planner.
Read these tips for keeping your day, week, and year beautifully organized.
43. Manage work submissions with clothespins.
Having students clip their papers will help quickly distinguish whose handed in homework and who hasn’t.
SOURCE: 2nd Grade Stuff
44. Use an uncommon organizing method for the Common Core!
Create separately labeled folders for each standard then file activities that align with each standard in the appropriate folders. Genius!
Source: Teaching in Oz
45. Avoid nameless homework.
When students highlight their names before handing in work, you’ll never receive a name-free paper again!
SOURCE: Spectacular 2nd Grade
46. Make informal assessments easy with these exit slips.
Create a Show What You Know board. Use speech-bubble-shaped whiteboards for kids to write their lesson takeaways on or have them write on sticky notes and stick them on their designated bubbles. As a follow-up class activity, students can look at everything their classmates learned!
SOURCE: First Grade Nest
47. Find better uses for everyday objects.
Keep markers organized at stations and cooperative groupings with water bottle ice cube trays.For loads more classroom organization tips, read 50 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for Classroom Management.
SOURCE: Flamingo Fabulous
Bridging the Gap Between Home and School
48. Build positive relationships with parents.
Here are ten tips for making working with parents the easiest part of your job.
49. Welcome parents into your classroom.
Read this for tips for getting the most out of parent volunteers.
50. Have students write this fun Who Am I? paragraph for Back to School Night.
Students can describe and draw themselves. Then parents can guess which child is theirs during Back to School Night festivities. Lifting the drawing will reveal a picture of the student holding their name.
SOURCE: Smiling in Second Grade
What are your top tips for teaching 2nd grade? Come in share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. WeAreTeachers HELPLINE is a place for teachers to ask and respond to questions on classroom challenges, collaboration and advice.
Looking for another grade level? You can find all of our 50 Best Tips series here.
With the start of school, the struggle to do homework has begun. My oldest daughter is in 2nd grade and the homework is minimal right now. I have read the instructions from her teacher, telling her that her teacher expects them to do their homework on their own and the parents check it. She will not listen.
I should also mention that she is the youngest in her class with an Aug 31st birthday. She does fine on her testing and marks, and this is why we have continued to put her forward every year. We live in Tokyo and she attends The American School in Japan. The school is big on holding back children but we have not done so because we haven't wanted to separate her from her friends. I am wondering now though when we move back home to Texas next year if we should seriously consider retaining her.
Just this morning she was filling in her Reading Journal and she is asking me to tell me the letters in the author's name. Is she just lazy to look at the book for herself? Is she just wanting my undivided attention? Does this have to do with maturity?
This becomes a yelling session for me...it doesn't help that I am pregnant too.
I am so frustrated and I want her to want to do her homework and "like" school.
I know I could do a reward chart of some sort but for whatever reason those do not seem to last with my daughter.
Everything is a negotiation with her.
What I can do to make this easier?
I hear your frustration. It feels to you like your daughter should be able to handle her homework and just have you check it, and you can't understand why she's asking you for so much help.
There is a wide range of how independent a second grader is in doing homework. You are right that this is partly a maturity issue, and holding your daughter back when you return to the US might be helpful. (Obviously, you'll need to think about how you explain that to her so that she doesn't feel it has anything to do with her intelligence or performance. It should only have to do with the Japanese versus U.S. school systems.)
It is not at all unusual for second graders to need parents to provide a lot of hand-holding and structure. I always advise parents to sit near their children during homework time, doing paperwork of their own. If you need to tend to other children or make dinner, it is best to set up homework time in the kitchen near you. My teenagers still do their homework in our family room, so that as I make dinner, I am in the same room with them. While they are now very self-disciplined and manage their own work, I am happy to be available if they want to ask me a question, have me read over a paper, or simply because my presence helps keep them focused on their work instead of succumbing to the lure of Facebook or incoming cell phone texts.
I hear that the teacher wants the child to "do" the homework and then have the parents check it. Obviously, you shouldn't do the homework for your daughter. If you observe your daughter, though, you may well see that she needs your help to begin, to stay focused, to understand the directions, to organize the work, etc.
Many young kids need fairly constant interaction with parents while they complete their homework, not to "do" it, but to keep them on track. Some kids seem to need the parents' "embrace" verbally as they work just to sustain them while they do these new and not always pleasant tasks. Most likely the parent's presence soothes the child's natural anxiety, giving them an anchor while they venture into a demanding new realm. This helps the child use their higher level executive functions to stay on track.
Regardless of the reason, offering structure and support is definitely an appropriate way for parents to support kids of all ages in doing their homework. If she has difficulty in understanding the material, you can certainly work with her on it, but in that case it is also a good idea to let the teacher know what you're seeing so she can be sure your child is learning at school.
You asked specifically about spelling the author's name for your child. It certainly seems a simple task that shouldn't require parental help: looking at the spine of the book, and writing the name in her reading journal. But of course for her, it probably is laborious, one letter at a time. Before they are skilled in the mechanics of writing, it's hard for many kids to maintain the flow of their thoughts while they write. If they also have to struggle with spelling, writing becomes a chore, which is not a desirable outcome. If she feels like writing is difficult, she will do as little as possible of it, and of course what you want is for her to love reading and writing so much that she can't wait to get to her reading journal. This feeling positively about her homework is all part of her "liking" school, which is what we all want for our kids.
In this case, it isn't a test to see if she can spell the author's name, so there is certainly nothing wrong with helping your child to spell the name of the author, especially when she is so young. I know it seems like she could do it herself, and I know that many experts advise you not to do anything your child could do herself. But when we help our kids in little ways that they specifically solicit, it is clear to them that we love caring for them, and they internalize that feeling of being loved, and of having backup to help them when things feel tough. That lays the foundation for knowing she can tackle obstacles because we are there if she needs support, and this is a foundation of resilience, self-esteem and happiness. I'm not saying that we should bend over backwards to do things for our kids that they can do for themselves. I am saying that if your daughter asks you for help with something that you can easily help her with, it is good for your relationship, and actually helpful to her development, for you to extend the help rather than refuse.
Of course, there are limits. If you didn't know the author's name, and had to walk across the room to look at it, then you can't help her easily, and you would just tell your daughter that (kindly of course). It would be harder for her to look at it and write it than to have your help, but no big deal, and she certainly wouldn't expect you to walk across the room to look at it when it was in front of her. That presumes, though, that she has a full cup emotionally.
If she doesn't, she might have a meltdown when you kindly tell her you can't help her with this task at this moment. If she has a meltdown, that's good -- she's showing you the accumulated tension around homework, or around whether you're really available to meet her needs, or maybe around something we don't even know about, like what happened on the playground at school. Summon up your compassion, hold her while she cries, and tell her you are always there for her and she is safe. When she's done crying, she'll either fall asleep (in which case sleep is what she most needs at that moment) or more likely, she'll be relaxed and happier, able to tackle her homework with renewed fortitude. Sometimes we all need a good cry to let out our worries, so we feel stronger and not so fragile.
I hear how frustrated you are. I am also hearing that your daughter needs a lot from you. I suspect that being pregnant while mothering two children makes you wish that your oldest was more mature than she actually is. Seven year olds still need a lot of "holding" from their parents -- not just physically, but also psychologically. If she is not getting as much as she needs (and every child is different), then she will almost certainly extract it from you in other ways, such as in this homework encounter you describe.
I realize that you may be frustrated with the level of her need, and sometimes it may take all of your willpower to control your impatience and breathe deeply instead of yelling. But it really does matter, because for you to respond by yelling at her about her homework backfires completely, as I suspect you know. It certainly doesn't leave her with a positive association about her schoolwork.
But more importantly, it ratchets up the likelihood that your daughter will continue to needle you for attention. Researchers have found that every negative interaction in a relationship requires five very positive interactions to set things right again, so every time we yell at our kids we throw the relationship out of whack for awhile and give ourselves lots more work!
Being pregnant with two young children is no picnic. But our kids' appropriate developmental needs don't go away just because we get pregnant again. Your daughter will continue to mature, thank goodness, and she will eventually do her homework completely by herself. But that will be in high school, not before, and even then you will need to ask appropriate questions, like "How's your homework situation tonight? How's your paper going for History class?"
So your daughter will need plenty of support and empathy from you for the next five years, as will your middle child, while you also have a new little one. These next five years will shape your daughter's entire future, because after this you'll have much less input into her homework, and the peer group will have much more influence than you do on most aspects of her life. At that point, repairing these rifts in your relationship will get a lot harder, so the die is essentially cast.
If you'll allow me to offer you a prescription, I would like to suggest that you find a way to put your own self-care on the front burner a bit more. What matters in parenting is not so much what we do, but how we make our kids feel about themselves. And we can't make them feel good about themselves if we don't love caring for them. That is pretty hard to do if we don't make sure to care well for ourselves. Do whatever you need to in the way of self-care on an ongoing basis so that you regularly replenish your own internal resources. You'll need them to be the parent you want to be in the months ahead.
Blessings to you and your children,
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
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