Lower School Curriculum Guide
Second graders are becoming more responsible, independent problem solvers, and demonstrate increasing engagement in their work and their developing skills across the curriculum. Addressing the social and emotional needs of each child is an essential aspect of our day, which complements our strong academic program. In order to be successful both academically and socially, second graders do their best when equipped with a set of social skills. With teacher guidance, students explicitly learn social skills through a combination of lessons and activities revolving around the Responsive Classroom philosophy. Second graders continue to practice the Lower School acronym C.A.R.E.S: Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. They become increasingly aware of others around them and are able to learn from one another. Interest and empathy for others is fostered not only in the classroom, but also through related service projects.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Visual Arts
- Modern Language
- Physical Education
A significant part of the reading program in second grade involves the building of independence. Students are encouraged to initiate and refine their independent reading choices by exploring books from a variety of genres. In second grade we begin to move from learning to read, to reading to learn – we read for pleasure, information, and research. Through these avenues, sustained individual reading time increases. Students have the opportunity to apply reading skills through silent reading, partner reading, and also engage in discussions regarding the books they read. In addition, second grade homework includes reading every weeknight for approximately 20 minutes. This regular practice provides children with a chance to share their reading growth with adults at home.
We expand and further develop fundamental reading strategies through Reader’s Workshop, which includes whole group and small group instruction, mini lessons, and one-on-one conferences. Recognizing that a wide range of reading abilities exist within any grade level or age group, reading at the appropriate levels ensures students’ success. Teachers monitor and guide the reading of each child. In “Reader’s Workshop,” children hone reading skills by increasing their sight vocabulary, self- correcting miscues, applying phonics, and increasing fluency, just to name a few. The program also provides students with an opportunity to reflect and respond to literature in order to build upon their comprehension skills. Children will make predictions and draw conclusions. They will also anaylyze characters, summarize plot, and visualize important aspects of the story. Book discussions and peer chats are a great way to discover how others view a story or to extend different ideas about literature.
In second grade, students are exposed to the organizational tools and planning required to write a narrative with a focused topic. Students engage in prewriting activities through the use of graphic organizers and quick outlines. Our program emphasizes the importance of planning and revising. Our goals are to challenge the students to expand their ideas, to create focus within a topic, and to foster confidence in writing. The students learn to become more aware of correct spelling and punctuation. Although skills vary and progress at different rates, second graders become more confident writers.
Students engage in a carefully sequenced multisensory approach to learn reading, spelling, and handwriting. The program includes explicit phonics lessons, an instructional scope and sequence, oral reading exercises, decoding skills, and spelling strategies. Our goal is to give our students the tools to read fluently, write effortlessly, and spell with ease.
The second grade math program, Singapore Math, relies upon a concrete, pictorial, and abstract process that has our students first working with tangible materials, and then exposing them to a pictorial representation of the mathematical concept before moving onto more abstract numbers, notations, and symbols. This program emphasizes the communication of mathematical ideas, encouraging students to reflect upon the strategies they use to solve problems, and to share these strategies with their peers. With teacher guidance, students select the most efficient and accurate strategy for solving a task.
Students start the year solidifying their understanding of place value within whole numbers by counting, reading, and writing whole numbers to the hundreds place. They use place value models and number discs to represent numbers, and they begin to write three digit numbers in expanded form. Students also compare and order numbers within 1000.
Second graders review the part-whole concepts of addition and subtraction and practice using addition to find a whole and subtraction to find a part. Mental math addition and subtraction strategies are reviewed, and students transition away from adding two-digit numbers in a horizontal format to using a standard vertical algorithm for addition and subtraction for numbers up to three digits. Students practice mental math strategies to reflect their flexibility with numbers and their understanding of place value and number sense.
Second graders’ initial experiences with multiplication and division emphasize a deep understanding of the operations. They use repeated addition, pictures, arrays, and counters to represent different multiplication and division scenarios. When exploring division, two different types of problems are introduced: sharing (finding the number of objects in each group) and grouping (finding the number of groups made.) Once conceptual understanding of the operations is evident, students begin to study and commit multiplication facts to memory. Second graders learn multiplication and division facts for 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, and 10’s, and then spend the remainder of the year studying money, fractions, and time.
Second graders extend the study of community to examine the shore areas of the Long Island Sound. We visit the Long Island Sound for a first hand experience of the many creatures and their habitats to discover what impact the surrounding area has on these waters. Each student will study a particular Long Island Sound animal. As researchers, second graders read and listen for information, take notes, organize material, and present their research papers. Activities throughout this study encourage students to discuss and build a sense of respect and responsibility for the environment and to learn their roles as global citizens. Second graders are passionate about this topic! We capitalize on their enthusiasm by leading students through a public purpose project to educate others on the importance of preserving the Long Island Sound.
The Immigration unit further builds upon the students’ study of community in first grade. Students expand their understanding of diversity and develop a sense of historical empathy when learning what it means to be an immigrant, to face their hardships, and to understand the sacrifices the immigrants made in leaving their homelands and arriving in a new country. Second graders learn about the “push and pull” factors that brought and continue to bring immigrants to the United States as well as the many contributions they have made. The students will learn about our country’s motto: E Pluribus Unum as well as the requirements for citizenship in our country.
Each year the Lower School art program has an overarching theme for its curricular focus in conjunction with the Choice Based art philosophy. The curricular theme for second grade will be “Art and the Beauty of Nature.” The lessons will be about observation, artists who are inspired by nature, such as Georgia O’Keefe and Andy Goldsworthy, and projects where art and science overlap. Students will be studying photographs of snowflakes, observing the symmetry of insects, and examining the colors of the sky at sunrise versus sunset, to name just a few topics.
Sometimes the lessons at the start of class will focus on the curricular theme, while at other times the focus will be on a material or technique within a certain medium. After each lesson, students will then have the choice to work on art inspired by the project or an original creation from the centers around the room. The second grade program builds on the concepts and skills developed in the earlier grades: drawing, painting, collage, Inventor’s Workshop and clay. In addition, the students will learn how to sew in fiber arts and use iPads for basic photography. Students will continue to develop a sense of themselves as artists and develop their own styles as they try new materials and hone their emerging skills. In conjunction with their classroom studies, students will create a mixed media piece inspired by their studies of the Long Island Sound environment. Second graders reflect on their artistic process by taking photographs of their artwork using Artsonia with the apps on the iPads, and they learn basic photo-editing skills as well as how to add titles and artist statements.
The eight Studio Habits of Mind are incorporated into daily life and language in order for students to learn true artistic behavior. Those habits include envisioning observation, expression, developing craft, stretching and exploring, engaging and persisting, reflecting on their work and understanding art worlds.
The second graders learn how to safely use computers and other technology as an academic tool to enhance their learning experiences. Our project-based curriculum is deeply integrated and collaborative with the child's homeroom and specials classes. These collaborative projects help each child to gain an understanding of how they can use technology to develop, refine, and teach curricular concepts. We also do a considerable amount of work that is more autonomous to the computer lab. These stand-alone assignments encourage the students to problem solve and develop resilience in working with technology. Throughout the year, the second graders use a typing tutorial to develop their touch-typing skills. To enrich their Long Island Sound research, they create graphs to compare characteristics of their research animals. They also create maps showing important topography of the Sound. Finally, the students practice their keyboarding, formatting, and editing skills by creating rhyming poems that personify attributes of their Long Island Sound animals.
In programming a drawing of a city skyline and by creating flag designs, the students explore symmetry and fractions. They build a 3D rendition of a skyline tower and use word processing skills to share the architectural choices they made to create it. The second graders finish the year by using the Keynote application to tell the story of a friend or family member who immigrated to this country. While building skills through independent and collaborative work, each child is gaining a deeper understanding of how technology can support their learning.
The Lower School Spanish and French programs provide opportunities for language acquisition. Students are exposed to the language through developmentally appropriate activities and contexts via stories, role-plays, songs and rhymes, games, videos, and other strategies. Attention is paid to the four language skills: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Listening always precedes speaking, and reading precedes writing. We seek to foster the students’ awareness and appreciation of the native speakers’ cultures in and out of the classroom. The class meets twice for forty-five minutes every six-day cycle.
In the second grade, the vocabulary and texts used in class relate to the children’s immediate world, such as: family, home, school, and pets. Basic items of vocabulary are introduced through opening and closing class routines, such as calendar or round-robin question and answer activities.
The Lower School library is a place of inquiry and discovery for all who use it. Students visit the library on a regular basis so that they can explore their own interests; be introduced to new stories, concepts, information and ideas; and discover who they are as readers and thinkers. Second graders take a closer look at the literature available in the library collection by participating in an author study. They also begin to use the library more independently by learning how to use the OPAC (online public access catalog) in order to locate books of interest. Other online tools are incorporated to allow students to begin practicing good digital citizenship in a safe and controlled setting.
The library program is also designed to support the second grade curriculum. Students are exposed to literature and nonfiction materials that expand on the topics that are presented in their classroom and during specials, such as Long Island Sound animals and immigration. Inquiry-based activities and projects are developed according to these units of study, which help students to build their research skills. Every library class also includes the opportunity for children to use the library independently. During this time, students decide for themselves the books they want to read and/or take home to borrow.
Second grade music concentrates on taking previously learned vocal and rhythmic skills and using them to read and write music. Students learn traditional songs from around the world that encompass the notes of the pentatonic scale (do, re, mi, sol, la). The repertoire also engages students in more challenging rhythmic motives. Proper vocal development is critical. Pitched and un-pitched Orff instruments are used to build rhythmic, note reading and group playing skills, while giving students the experience of self/group accompanied songs. By the end of second grade, students have a general knowledge of the pentatonic scale on the musical staff. Second grade students learn about composers and their compositions by analyzing rhythm, form, and melody of many well-known works.
The second and third grade program focuses on maximizing the learning experience using activities, which incorporate locomotor, manipulative and gross motor skills, movement patterns, and spatial awareness both in the gymnasium or on the fields. Through a variety of sports and games, character building and social skills that include active listening, cooperation and teamwork, respect for self and other, and good sportsmanship are consistently emphasized. The teachers include the Lower School’s Responsive Classroom philosophy to create an inclusive and supportive atmosphere. The goal of the second grade program is to develop the students’ skill levels while encouraging them to feel positive about themselves and their participation in physical activity. The activities are varied to tap the myriad talents of our students and to stretch their abilities. In addition to the instructional units covered in class, students will participate in community events such as the American Heart Association’s “Kids’ Heart Challenge,” the “Fun Run” that kicks off Wildcat Weekend in the fall, and the Lower School Field Day in May.
The students explore a broad range of topics with “hands-on activities” while reinforcing the scientific method and related process skills that were previously introduced. As often as possible, the children’s study of physical science, earth science, and life science is coordinated with and complements their homeroom social studies, language arts, and math curricula as well as their experiences in art, library, and computer. The children begin the year by studying the plants, animals, and habitat of the Long Island Sound. They will observe these elements and then recreate animals using robots, which they build and program with a partner. The children then learn to use the metric system to determine weight, capacity, and length. The students will use these skills to assist them with learning about the states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases. Students become chemical engineers learning how important following the “recipe” (scientific procedure) is for scientists. At the end of the year, the children will learn how electricity works by making light from wire, light bulbs, and batteries.