2nd Grade Curriculum

Welcome to second grade! Overall, second grade is the “age of reason” because it is a particularly special time of growing independence and problem-solving skills. We have a lot of unique learning experiences for our young investigators inside and outside the classroom. We launch our first study, Bridges, in October. This unit challenges the children to look closely at the city around them to uncover the ways our communities are connected physically and culturally. The streets of New York City become an extension of our classroom as the children explore the systems and structures that connect us all. We invite family members with expert knowledge to come into our classroom to enrich our learning. Studying New York City over time is an encompassing topic that can take many different directions!

Literacy Instruction: A Balanced Approach

We approach literacy instruction in a balanced way, using a variety of reading and writing curricula and instructional techniques to teach skills in literacy best. For reading instruction, we use the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project (TCRWP) Reading Workshop, where students learn how to read through real, authored (authentic) books. TCRWP goals in second grade include reading with sufficient accuracy, fluency (how reading sounds out loud), and comprehension (understanding what has been read).

Students also participate in book clubs for some units. Book club time is a time of day where our second graders have meaningful conversations about the characters in their books. Each book club consists of four to five students working within one series. Our readers learn the importance of taking notes about their character traits to be prepared for club time. TCRWP’s Reading Workshop also includes other instructional elements such as guided reading, shared reading, and 1:1 reading conferring. During these times, teachers work with readers in small-groups or 1:1 to improve their reading skills.

To address phonological awareness and spelling, we use Wilson Fundations – a research-based, direct phonics instruction literacy program where students study the different spelling patterns in English and learn to spell them conventionally by the end of the school year. By the end of second grade, students should be able to spell all short-vowel patterns correctly and conventionally, add suffixes (-ed, -ing, -s vs. -es, etc.) to words appropriately, demonstrate knowledge of long-vowel patterns such as vowel-consonant-e (“home” or “safe”), and establish solid knowledge of double vowel spelling patterns (ai/ay, ee/ea/ey, etc.).

We teach writing skills like planning, drafting, editing, organization, and revision through TCRWP Writers Workshop, where students work independently and in partnerships to help strengthen their own authored writing pieces. Second graders learn writing strategies from the units of study and also look at mentor authors and make decisions about what craft moves they are ready to emulate in their writing.


In second grade, we believe cursive handwriting plays an important role in writing fluency development and in solidifying spelling patterns. These beliefs are based in recent research around cursive handwriting, and below is a summary of some information - paraphrased from the NYC Department of Education Professional Learning Series, Teaching Cursive Writing:

Three fundamental questions around handwriting instruction have been asked:

  • Does explicit handwriting instruction lead to improved legibility and fluency?
  • Does explicit handwriting instruction lead to improved writing skills?
  • Do explicit activities to improve motor skills enhance handwriting?

Research suggests that explicit handwriting instruction showed statistically significant results in greater legibility and fluency. In other words, students who received instruction in handwriting demonstrated significant gains in legibility and in the rate in which they could produce writing. This was true for both the quality and the length of writing. Several researchers have found a connection between cursive writing and performance and in accurate spelling. Motor memory is a component of word knowledge. Research has indicated that developing spelling memory may be easier when words are written in a continuous flow in cursive vs. when words are printed in physically separated letters.

Some question whether cursive is still relevant in the digital age and if keyboarding is more appropriate. Evidence reveals an advantage for handwriting using pen and paper in the lower grades (Grades 2 – 6) for the amount written, rate of word writing, and the number of ideas expressed. Handwriting by pen requires writing with a single hand, which activates the opposite side of the brain. Keyboarding requires bimanual letter production and communication to and between both sides of the brain. Because the fibers that support communication across both sides of the brain do not fully mature until adolescence, there could be an advantage to writing by single hand in early development.

Second graders first learn lowercase letters, uppercase letters next, and the connectives along the way. Second graders are given the option to print or write in cursive after learning and being exposed to reading and writing in both forms. Research suggests this is the best way to teach handwriting – expose without making a mandate. Since beginning teaching cursive handwriting, teachers have found great increases in student writing fluency, amount of writing students can produce in one sitting, and significant increases in spelling pattern solidification that cannot be the result of other instructional moves.

Mathematics Instruction

We use Everyday Mathematics as our core math instruction. Everyday Mathematics is a research-based mathematics program by the University of Chicago that has been engineered to make sure all students have opportunities to succeed in math. Second graders connect math to everyday situations, work through challenges with and without peer support, and develop depth of knowledge by building connections among mathematical concepts, procedures, and applications. The core mathematical concepts for Grade 2 are:

  • Representing and solving problems involving addition and subtraction within 100
  • Understanding place value and number operations in base-10
  • Estimating and measuring lengths in standard units of measurement
  • Working with time and money
  • Representing and interpreting data
  • Reasoning with shapes and their attributes.

Everyday Mathematics also includes math games that are played frequently to help introduce and reinforce these mathematical concepts. Try asking your second grader how to play Addition Top It or Salute!

Brooklyn Bridge Study

Second graders learn about the geographic landscape of New York City and the bridges in our five boroughs. Students study New York City’s unique geographic features through map investigations and research work in non-fiction texts about our city. We study the building of the Brooklyn Bridge as a case-study into how New York City changed because of population increases.  We read a fun book called You Wouldn’t Want to Work On the Brooklyn Bridge! to learn about this enormous, seemingly impossible project. 

By the end of the study, second graders can explain why Brooklyn and New York (they were two separate cities at the time!) needed a suspension bridge, and some fun facts they learn about bridge building along the way. For this study, we partner with a Manhattan-based group called Salvadori Center which comes into the school and teaches our second-graders about the built-environment. During Salvadori class time, we learn about and build different kinds of bridges and work in groups to build them from paper and other materials – like arch bridges, suspension bridges, and truss bridges.  Our final project is to work as a class to build our very own model of a six-foot long suspension bridge.

Urban Farms and Garden Study

Second graders investigate why and how gardens develop in different (urban, rural, and suburban) environments. During this study, we visit community gardens and design and plant our own vegetable gardens at PS 452. Students identify and compare the physical structures of a variety of plant parts and observe plant life cycles and life spans. This unit can take many directions depending on student interests. In years past include a case study of High Line Park and a case study of rooftop farming in Brooklyn.