During my first six years of teaching, I taught first grade. I loved teaching first grade, but I had always heard that second grade was the dream grade to teach. When I moved across the state, I applied and got a second grade teaching position. I don’t know if it’s the “dream grade to teach” but second grade has been so much fun to teach. Do I like teaching second better than first? Yes! (Sorry firstie teachers!) There’s just something about second grade that is just absolutely magical. Are you new to teaching 2nd grade? Find out what I love about teaching 2nd grade and what you as a new or veteran 2nd grade teacher should remember while teaching this special group of kids.
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What I Love About Teaching 2nd Grade
As a 2nd grade teacher, you can take your students’ learning so far.
By 2nd grade, students should have the fundamentals of reading. Of course we know that not all children in our classrooms will be exactly on grade level. You may have 2nd grade students who will still need a great deal of support in the area of reading; however, most of your students should come to you with the ability to read very well. This means that you can really do a lot of fun and engaging lessons that are reading-heavy in all subjects, not just your core reading time. Additionally, you are able to challenge them more because they understand more. I loved seeing my students grow month by month.
2nd graders aren’t too cool for school yet.
Inevitably, as students get older they start to worry about what others think. Being popular and being cool starts to be important for many of them. In my experience, my second graders were right on the edge of crossing over to the “I think I’m grown” world. In 2nd grade, students are seemingly just as excited about school as they were in kindergarten. Unfortunately, the pressures of our changing education system have started to be kind of oppressive for our elementary babies. As teachers, we wish that we could just teach and refrain from trying to get our young students to be “college-ready” during every lesson or activity. I loved seeing my second grade students be vulnerable in front of their peers without feeling like others would think they were being uncool. They enjoyed reading their made-up stories about Super Piggy (yes, this was a real thing) and dancing to Go Noodle brain breaks. There’s just an innocence that still remains in second grade students that is nice to witness as a teacher.
Teaching 2nd grade does not include the pressures of standardized testing.
In my state, 2nd grade students do not participate in standardized testing; that happens in third grade. I know that every state and district are different, so this one may not apply. Not having to get my second graders prepared for end-of-the-year testing was something I greatly appreciated. I truly felt for our third grade teachers. They had the pressure of not only covering the 3rd grade standards but also…and I hate to say it…teaching the test. Now you might disagree with me on the fact that teachers teach to the standardized tests, but in my opinion, that’s what happens. How else do you get the students accustomed to the style of the test but to have them do several practice problems in the style of the test? Look…I could go on and on about this. Standardized testing is a couple of blog posts on its own, so let’s just say that 2nd grade, for me, graciously did not include standardized testing.
2nd grade students have the opportunity to be role models for younger students.
Whether you are in a K-3, K-5 school or some variation of that, your students are old enough to be the behavior models in your school. I always reminded my 2nd graders to do the right thing in order to to model the first graders and kindergarten students how they should carry themselves at school.
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2nd grade students are learning to be truly independent.
As a second grade teacher, you will appreciate how independent your students are. I found that I could give directions, ask them to get to work, and they would! They have a desire to be more independent and they don’t mind showing you that they can. Classroom stations ran smoothly because they didn’t need the extra help and attention that my first graders needed. They were able to read the directions in stations and execute stations as instructed. This freed me to have a good chunk of time with my small groups or conference with students.
Things to Remember About Teaching 2nd Grade
In first grade, students dip their toes in the water. In second grade, students go swimming.
In first grade, students are increasing their ability to learn to read and finessing their reading skills. In second grade, we’re ready to go! There’s a lot of a focus on reading comprehension and associated skills that will help students really make sense of what they’re reading and express their understanding of what they’re reading. We want them to be able to put their thoughts in paragraphs and essays. We want them to take the math skills that they learned in first grade and apply them to more difficult concepts.
Don’t assume that they automatically know certain things.
By 2nd grade, your students have been in school for quite some time. While they should know how to walk in a straight line, form all letters correctly, log into the computer, and more…don’t assume! I feel like 2nd grade is that one grade where the students aren’t brand new kinder babies but they aren’t quite mature 4th or 5th graders that kind of know what they’re doing most of the time. They still need a lot of repeated directions and modeling. They still need help staying organized and they still need reminders to write their name on their paper! Don’t neglect to review the rules and procedures of your classroom and the school at the beginning of the school year. They still need that!
Prepare them for the next grade but don’t overwhelm them.
Okay, back to the testing thing…ugh, I know. Although I didn’t have to get my second graders ready for standardized testing, admin did push the second grade teachers to collaborate with third grade teachers and start introducing the writing style that students would see next year on the test. Naturally, I didn’t really have a choice as to whether I could do it or not, but as a grade level, we decided that we would lightly touch on a few of the third grade style writing prompts but not put so much pressure on them to do it exactly right. Second grade, in my opinion, dives deeper into the skills that were introduced in first grade. Our babies had enough on their plates already, and while we wanted to prepare them for next year, we wanted them to also learn all they needed to learn during their second grade year.
Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.
As a 2nd grade teacher, you have to allow your second grade students to make mistakes. Always use their mistakes as teachable moments. In my district, second grade is when students receive letter grades on their report cards for the first time. My students (and parents) are either super excited or super upset when the first round of graded papers go home. I remind my students that a single grade does not determine their grade for the nine week grading period. When my students make less than stellar grades on assignments, I remind them about the importance of paying attention and participating in class. I also let them know that many of the things that they’re learning are brand new and will take time to understand sometimes. Allow your second graders to learn from missteps in behavior as well. If their behavior is not meeting your expectations, have a discussion with them about expected behaviors, what they can do to work on their behavior, and what you as their teacher can do to support them.
Give them responsibilities and hold them accountable.
Your 2nd grade students aren’t adults yet, but they can handle many responsibilities related to the classroom. Assign class jobs. If your students sit in table teams, allow a student at each table team to be a team leader. One of my students loved computers, so I made that student my computer helper. Any time a student needed help logging in or had computer trouble, I called upon my computer helper. In my post about classroom management for busy teachers, I talked about my go-getters. If my go-getters aren’t doing their jobs, we have discussions about how they can do their jobs more effectively. I’m not harsh, but I do let them know my expectations and I respectfully but firmly alert them if they aren’t meeting those expectations. Don’t be afraid to hold your 2nd grade students accountable. Create a classroom environment that fosters the type of teacher-student relationships where your students feel comfortable to be themselves but also understand that you, the 2nd grade teacher, run your classroom in a certain way and they have to get in line with that.
What are your tips for new second grade teachers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
- CALLING ALL FIRST AND SECOND GRADE TEACHERS! Join me and a great group of other fabulous 1st and 2nd grade teachers in my Facebook group, Taming First & Second Grade. We have great discussions and you can gain some much needed inspiration.
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