Meet your new independent reader and writer! Simple words and sentences are now small potatoes to your second grader; she's on her way to building fluency and developing greater comprehension. In math, she's mastering addition and subtraction and solving more challenging word problems. You'll see more homework this year (maybe a lot more, depending on the school and the teacher) but you can make it fun. "Don't make it a fight or they'll get turned off," advises Susan Quinn, a reading specialist and elementary school teacher at Saint Brendan School in the Bronx, New York. Don't force homework too early in the day -- let your child relax and play when she gets home -- but don't wait till too late, either, or she'll be too tired. Talk to your child's teacher right away if your child is struggling with any skills. "This is the time to get extra help and nip it in the bud early," Quinn says. Throughout this year, your child will be building upon the skills she learned in first grade while being introduced to new ones. Here are the important learning milestones children will typically achieve in second grade, with tips for helping your child stay on track.
At School: Kids will identify and correctly use nouns and verbs, recognize simple prefixes and suffixes, and identify simple multiple-meaning words.
At Home: Help your child get his own library card. Expose him to a wider variety of books and genres and try out different children's magazines. Whether your child reads independently or with you, it's important to ask him about what he's read and to encourage him to retell stories. Share stories about your family and your family history or make up stories together. Play a homonym game by taking turns to think up pairs of words that sound the same but have different meanings, such as "deer" and "dear," or ask your second grader to think up words that have multiple meanings, such as "lie" or "fair," and talk about the differences. Continue to take turns. Your second grader will likely need some help coming up with words, so give him clues and prompts as you play.
At School: By the end of second grade, kids will be able to write a basic story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. They will also be able to edit and revise their writing to make it clearer and to correct errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.
At Home: Encourage your child to write stories that have a logical sequence, with a small problem and a resolution. Encourage her to reread her work to make it clearer. Help your child make her own book by folding pieces of paper in half and stapling them in the middle. She'll love writing her own story and drawing pictures to illustrate it. Ask her to help write the grocery list, thank-you notes, or letters to relatives, and have her read aloud everything she's written for homework. "If they wrote sentences at home for homework, they have to be able to read them," Quinn says.
At School: In addition to counting, reading, writing, and ordering sequential numbers up to 1,000, second graders will be able to add and subtract two-digit numbers more quickly and accurately. They will learn to add and subtract whole numbers up to three digits, and will hone their understanding of place value with three-digit numbers when adding and subtracting. Second graders will also solve multistep addition and subtraction word problems, and gear up to learn simple multiplication, which will be an important third grade skill.
At Home: Keep pointing out everyday math to your child. Look for word problems in real life: If your child wants to buy a new toy for five dollars, but has only two dollars, ask him how much more he'll need.
At School: Second graders will measure length to the nearest inch or centimeter. They will be able to describe geometric shapes and classify them according to the number and shape of faces, edges, and vertices (corners).
At Home: Bring out the measuring tape and have your child measure parts of her body (waist, arm, foot, head) and compare the lengths to those of a sibling or friend. Have her identify the differences in inches and centimeters. During breakfast, ask her to count the number of faces, edges, and vertices on a cereal box and then ask, "Do all cereal boxes have the same amount?" Go on a "symmetry hunt" at home and have your child find symmetrical shapes on the carpet, bed sheets, bathroom tiles, or other places. Look for and analyze 3-D shapes, such as marbles and oranges (spheres), soup cans and jelly jars (cylinders), and building blocks and cardboard boxes (cubes). You can even have her draw 2-D shapes (a circle) on a piece of paper then match it to a corresponding 3-D shape (a sphere).
At School: Kids this age will tell time to the nearest quarter hour, and will understand relationships and units of time, such as the amount of minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a month. They have a better grasp of when things happened or will happen.
At Home: Once your child understands the quarter hour, talk about 5-minute intervals, pointing out when the clock says five after, ten after, and so on. Keep track together of the time he spends watching TV, playing computer games, and doing homework each day. Write the times down and compare the amounts. Consider giving your child his own wristwatch (analog or digital) to give him the extra dose of incentive he needs to master the intricacies of telling time.