How Is My Second Grader Doing in School?

How Is My Second Grader Doing in School?

by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Dottie Raymer

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Overview

How Is My Second Grader Doing in School? by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Dottie Raymer

As the parent of a second grader, you may be asking yourself:

When will my child learn to spell?
Why isn't my child bringing home math papers?
What can I do to make sure my child knows everything he should?

Perhaps you've been told by your child's teacher that your second grader is doing fine. But what does "fine" really mean, and how can you be sure that your child's academic growth will continue?

Be your child's best teacher. Find out what your child knows, what your child needs to know, and how to work with your child to ensure success in school.

Inside, there is a wealth of fun, easy-to-do activities designed to teach your child important skills. The time you spend together will foster a love of learning that will remain with your child in the years to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684854397
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 10/19/1999
Edition description: First Fireside Edition
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 7.42(w) x 9.26(h) x 0.62(d)

Read an Excerpt

Developmental Overview

by Nancy Richard

Ah, the second grader. Quiet and contemplative. Sober and serious. Does this sound like anyone you know? Perhaps and perhaps not. It is important to remember that in any grade, children will range in age, and that even within that age, each child has an individual rate of growth as well as an individual pattern of growth. Some children grow fast; others, more slowly. All children in the second grade will not be exactly alike, nor will they learn in the same way. Every child is unique. Because of school laws, however, most second graders will be seven to eight years old at the beginning of the school year and eight to eight and a half at the end. The curriculum of second grade is geared toward children of this age, and the behavior of this age sets the tone for the classroom. Good teachers at this age level understand and work with the difficulties of the age, but they also use the strengths of the age to help children learn.

Intellectual Prowess

Unlike their carefree and rather careless first grade selves, second graders are thinkers and analyzers. When you ask, "How did you get that answer?" a second grader will answer, "I did it in my head," or "My brain just told me," or "I figured it out."

Seven- to eight-year-olds reveal a new and deeper intellectual dimension: the ability to reflect on things, reach conclusions, and find logical solutions. They love categorizing animals, bugs, fish, and even rocks, which they never

seem to tire of collecting. They love learning anything new: magic, science, experimenting. They're curious about how things work. They ponder, consider, and weigh things. Oncasual observance, this may look like idle daydreaming, but it is really thoughtful reflection, a new and powerful tool for problem-solving.

Language

While second graders are talkers, and some are so dependent on conversation that they seem to talk all day long, they are also listeners and, especially, questioners. They are interested in the precision of language. They want to say things just right and want others to say things right also. You may find your second grader correcting your use of language. Consider this a sign of his newly acquired intellectual prowess. You may also notice his use of lots of adjectives as well as an expanded vocabulary of adverbs such as "unfortunately" and "definitely."

If you listen carefully, you'll hear another new development in your second grader's language: the use of words like "upside down" and "sideways." His mind is now capable of turning things around, of indicating a shift in position. When he was younger, a cup was simply a cup whether it was upside down or not, but at seven to eight years old he will name it with precision: "an upside-down cup." This same ability to shift things in his mind shows up in the second grader's ability to identify left and right on another person. He can now understand and deal with opposites. In mathematics, this new ability enables him to comprehend subtraction, to count backwards, and to work with simple equations.

On the not-so-bright side, the language of seven- to eight-year-old children is also riddled with negativity and expressions of inadequacy: "I can't. I quit. The teacher didn't show me how. We haven't had that yet. I don't like it." This negativity is connected to the not-so-sunny emotional makeup of the second grader. At around seven to eight years of age, most children go through an introspective, fearful stage of disequilibrium, or imbalance.

Emotions

You will be impressed with your second grader's newfound maturity this year. After the exuberance of first grade, your seven- to eight-year-old's quiet perseverance and thoughtfulness will be welcome. Second graders can be moody, sulky and self-conscious, however. They may complain they have no friends, that you favor their siblings, or that you pick on them. They may complain that the teacher doesn't like them and doesn't treat them fairly. They may cry over the slightest criticism or over a real or imagined slight or meanness on another's part. In addition to crying, children at this age often release their tension by biting their fingernails, twisting their hair, and chewing on their collars and sleeves. They incessantly fiddle with anything at hand -- a pencil, an eraser, a stone, or a bottle cap. They seem to need to be surrounded by things. They take things to the table, take things to bed, and take everything they can stuff into their backpacks to school.

As a parent, you may need to develop a new touch. Humor, superficial praise, and exaggerated affection, which were so successful in first grade, are not welcome now. The wacky teasing that delighted your first grader can be devastating to the sensitive second grader. Keep in mind that your child is not trying to be difficult. Sulking and complaining are simply characteristic of the age. Let your child know that you are on his side.

Worries and Fears

Children of this age are worriers. At school, they worry that their work will not be good enough, that they won't have time to finish, or that they'll make a mistake and be ridiculed. They worry that nobody likes them, that the other kids will make fun of them, that they'll have no one to play with. You can help your second grader to feel emotionally safer by discussing these concerns openly. "What would happen if you make a mistake?" "What could you do if you don't understand how to start your work?" "What would you do if you couldn't find a friend at recess?"

Second graders are curious about death and are worried about all the possible causes. In school, they write about death, especially under the guise of the death of pets or other animals. They are usually concerned not about their own death but about yours. Second graders are very family-oriented. What they really need to know is who would take care of them if you weren't around.

Parents are sometimes surprised at how much second graders worry about things that are happening in the world. With TV in everyone's living room, the world is small. Second graders can worry about war, famine, the ozone layer, or AIDS. This is probably a good year to limit, or at least monitor, television viewing.

You probably remember a time in your child's preschool years when he was afraid of monsters, especially of monsters in his bedroom. Perhaps you acknowledged those fears and bought some "monster spray." Or perhaps you put a sign on the door: No Monsters Allowed! Maybe you bought your child a stuffed animal that scared monsters away, or told him about his guardian angel, who would protect him against monsters.

Many fears of seven- to eight-year-olds are just as irrational as those preschool fears. You still need to acknowledge the fear. However, instead of brushing or pretending the fear away, try to give your child a way of confronting it. If you second grader is fretting about the plight of dolphins, show him how to write to the Would Wildlife Federation or Greenpeace for information about ways he can help. If he's obsessing about pictures he has seen of starving children, help him contact Oxfam International or UNICEF. Give your anxious second grader a way to feel that he can make a difference. If night fears return, as they often do, create a soothing bedtime routine.

Writing about fears is one of the ways children can work them out. Other ways are available through art, drama, and especially free play. Free play is underestimated in its contribution to healthy development. Free play reinforces children's social, organizational, and physical skills and emotional well-being. Free play is also probably the single best arena in which children can flex their creative and intellectual muscles.

Encourage free play by limiting the amount of time your child spends in front of the television and the computer. Let your child have time to be bored. Don't jump in with suggestions. Provide props, such as dress-up clothes, large crates, and junk from a yard sale. One second grader designed and sewed hats for all her friends, using a box of felt given to her by a neighbor. A stethoscope or some Band-Aids will help a child work out a fear of going to the hospital.

Privacy and Sociability

Second graders are much more settled down in school than they were in first grade. While they'll sometimes work in a group, they prefer to work with one other child or alone, using their own implements at their own desks. They will write their names on anything allowed, establishing their right of ownership. They tend to be loners, and they often create a privacy shield by piling up their books around their working area. This is probably a good strategy, since they are easily distracted.

At home they try to find a quiet corner, a room or place of their own. They need a place to keep their things protected from younger brothers and sisters. You often find the seven- to eight-year-old reading under a table or making a tent on the bed in order to establish some privacy for reading or rumination.

Second graders are extremely sensitive to the feelings and attitudes of others, but they often lack social graces of their own. Major pastimes are tattling, alibiing, and blaming. According to them, someone is always being mean to them. The problem is that friendships shift very quickly at this age. Often the best friend today is the worst enemy tomorrow. It is a good idea for teachers and parents to avoid getting caught up in these squabbles and to help the child think of what might work better next time. The chances are things will look quite different to the child tomorrow. This advice, of course, does not pertain to any abusive acts, which do need immediate intervention by adults.

An especially distressful event that begins in second grade and continues into third, and one that does need intervention by teachers and parents, is the

exclusion of certain children by others and the formation of clubs. Clubs are really cliques, which are forerunners of middle school behavior. The "who's in, who's out" behavior involved in forming clubs is very hurtful to the child who is left out, and it does not encourage empathy on the part of the insiders. It is a hard lesson to learn that those children who are "inside" today may be "outside" tomorrow.

Perfectionism

Second graders do love to work, but a quality that both helps and hinders them in this endeavor is the need to be correct, the need to be right, the need to be perfect. This perfectionism comes out in many ways. They do things over and over again, trying to get them right. And do they use those erasers! With their heads and eyes way down and close to their work, they write, erase, write, erase, write, erase. They often wear holes in their papers, which they tape up in exasperation, striving for a quality in their work that always seems to elude them. You can help them strive for one kind of perfection when they are writing: either correct spelling or correct punctuation or good handwriting, but not more than one at a time.

The Sense of Time and the Need for Closure

Most second graders have difficulty orienting themselves in time. They are just beginning to feel the sense of how long something will take, but they have no real grasp on it. At the same time they have an obsession with finishing everything: their reading, their TV program, their homework. If a definite ending place has not been established for them, they tend to go on and on until they are exhausted and cranky. For this reason, transitions from one chore to another can be tricky, and your child may need your assistance.

It is helpful if you establish some kind of closure for your child -- for example, "Read three pages in your book tonight," or "Your writing for today will be finished after you've done four sentences." Simple reminders about chores are helpful, too: "We'll eat dinner right after your TV program," or "When your homework is in your backpack, you can take your bath." One advantage of books written on a second grade level is that they provide a stopping place at the end of each chapter.

To help them keep oriented in time, second graders like schedules. They like to know what's going to happen during the day or the week. Even if the schedule isn't adhered to, the plan is comforting. Some second graders like marking off days on the calendar. Others like to make lists of things to do and cross off items as they complete them.

Because of this difficulty with time, second graders are afraid morning after morning that they will be late for school. A predictable morning routine

will help, as will your assurance that you will get your child to school or to the bus stop on time. If your child walks to school, you may want to tell him what time he will have to leave home each day and show him that time on a clock.

Learning

A sense of achievement is very important to second graders. They know when they've succeeded, when a job is well done. They don't like the shallow praise that first graders thrive on, but they do need your encouragement. When working with your child, choose one thing to comment on in a positive and encouraging manner. You might say, for instance, "I especially like all the bright colors you used in your painting," or "Those subtraction problems you're doing look hard." Faber and Mazlish's book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, has an excellent explanation of the difference between praise and encouragement.

The vision of the second grader may be narrowly focused. They often pull things closer to their eyes in an attempt to figure them out. In fact, they often look nearsighted as they work with their heads at an angle, practically lying on top of their papers and desks. Because of their increased absorption in close work, second graders tire easily and need alternating periods of more physical activity. If you notice your second grader rubbing his eyes or blinking, or even if you see his muscles trembling, it is probably nothing to worry about. These are common outlets for the tension of children of this age, especially after an extended period of close work. However, if you notice that your child consistently has difficulty seeing the television screen or road signs, do consult your pediatrician. If your child is expected to copy from the blackboard at school and is having difficulty, make sure you speak with the teacher. This task is too hard for most second graders. Even though many will make an admirable stab at it, most children can't make the visual shift from near to far vision and back again that is necessary to this process.

Most of those young characteristics that are seen in kindergarten or first grade, such as making letters from the bottom up, and making numbers and letters backwards, are naturally worked out by the middle of second grade. If your child is still displaying any of these characteristics, it is the time to determine whether it indicates overall youngness or if there is a learning problem that can be solved or at least compensated for. This is especially important if reading is not coming along as expected. If your child is having difficulty with academics at any time during the second grade year, don't hesitate to check with the teacher.

Copyright © 1998 by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Table of Contents

Introduction
Developmental Overview, by Nancy Richard
Questions and Answers About Second Grade
How to Use This Book
Parent Observation Pages
Assessment Guide
Reading Exercises
Reading Comprehension
Phonics
Word Study
Sight Words
Fluency

Writing Stages and Exercises
Reading and Writing Enrichment
Math Exercises
Number Sense
Place Value
Estimating
Addition and Subtraction Facts through 18
Addition and Subtraction with Larger Numbers
Money
Time
Measurement
Fractions
Geometry
Problem Solving
Multiplication and Division Readiness

Math Enrichment
Working with Your Childs Teacher

Index

Activity Pages

Sight Word Phrase Cards
0-99 Grid
Place Value Patterns

Introduction

Seven- to eight-year-olds reveal a new and deeper intellectual dimension: the ability to reflect on things, reach conclusions, and find logical solutions. They love categorizing animals, bugs, fish, and even rocks, which they never seem to tire of collecting. They love learning anything new: magic, science, experimenting. They're curious about how things work. They ponder, consider, and weigh things. On casual observance, this may look like idle daydreaming, but it is really thoughtful reflection, a new and powerful tool for problem-solving.

Language

While second graders are talkers, and some are so dependent on conversation that they seem to talk all day long, they are also listeners and, especially, questioners. They are interested in the precision of language. They want to say things just right and want others to say things right also. You may find your second grader correcting your use of language. Consider this a sign of his newly acquired intellectual prowess. You may also notice his use of lots of adjectives as well as an expanded vocabulary of adverbs such as "unfortunately" and "definitely."

If you listen carefully, you'll hear another new development in your second grader's language: the use of words like "upside down" and "sideways." His mind is now capable of turning things around, of indicating a shift in position. When he was younger, a cup was simply a cup whether it was upside down or not, but at seven to eight years old he will name it with precision: "an upside-down cup." This same ability to shift things in his mind shows up in the second grader's ability to identify left and right on another person. He can now understand and deal with opposites. In mathematics, this new ability enables him to comprehend subtraction, to count backwards, and to work with simple equations.

On the not-so-bright side, the language of seven- to eight-year-old children is also riddled with negativity and expressions of inadequacy: "I can't. I quit. The teacher didn't show me how. We haven't had that yet. I don't like it." This negativity is connected to the not-so-sunny emotional makeup of the second grader. At around seven to eight years of age, most children go through an introspective, fearful stage of disequilibrium, or imbalance.

Emotions

You will be impressed with your second grader's newfound maturity this year. After the exuberance of first grade, your seven- to eight-year-old's quiet perseverance and thoughtfulness will be welcome. Second graders can be moody, sulky and self-conscious, however. They may complain they have no friends, that you favor their siblings, or that you pick on them. They may complain that the teacher doesn't like them and doesn't treat them fairly. They may cry over the slightest criticism or over a real or imagined slight or meanness on another's part. In addition to crying, children at this age often release their tension by biting their fingernails, twisting their hair, and chewing on their collars and sleeves. They incessantly fiddle with anything at hand -- a pencil, an eraser, a stone, or a bottle cap. They seem to need to be surrounded by things. They take things to the table, take things to bed, and take everything they can stuff into their backpacks to school.

As a parent, you may need to develop a new touch. Humor, superficial praise, and exaggerated affection, which were so successful in first grade, are not welcome now. The wacky teasing that delighted your first grader can be devastating to the sensitive second grader. Keep in mind that your child is not trying to be difficult. Sulking and complaining are simply characteristic of the age. Let your child know that you are on his side.

Worries and Fears

Children of this age are worriers. At school, they worry that their work will not be good enough, that they won't have time to finish, or that they'll make a mistake and be ridiculed. They worry that nobody likes them, that the other kids will make fun of them, that they'll have no one to play with. You can help your second grader to feel emotionally safer by discussing these concerns openly. "What would happen if you make a mistake?" "What could you do if you don't understand how to start your work?" "What would you do if you couldn't find a friend at recess?"

Second graders are curious about death and are worried about all the possible causes. In school, they write about death, especially under the guise of the death of pets or other animals. They are usually concerned not about their own death but about yours. Second graders are very family-oriented. What they really need to know is who would take care of them if you weren't around.

Parents are sometimes surprised at how much second graders worry about things that are happening in the world. With TV in everyone's living room, the world is small. Second graders can worry about war, famine, the ozone layer, or AIDS. This is probably a good year to limit, or at least monitor, television viewing.

You probably remember a time in your child's preschool years when he was afraid of monsters, especially of monsters in his bedroom. Perhaps you acknowledged those fears and bought some "monster spray." Or perhaps you put a sign on the door: No Monsters Allowed! Maybe you bought your child a stuffed animal that scared monsters away, or told him about his guardian angel, who would protect him against monsters.

Many fears of seven- to eight-year-olds are just as irrational as those preschool fears. You still need to acknowledge the fear. However, instead of brushing or pretending the fear away, try to give your child a way of confronting it. If you second grader is fretting about the plight of dolphins, show him how to write to the Would Wildlife Federation or Greenpeace for information about ways he can help. If he's obsessing about pictures he has seen of starving children, help him contact Oxfam International or UNICEF. Give your anxious second grader a way to feel that he can make a difference. If night fears return, as they often do, create a soothing bedtime routine.

Writing about fears is one of the ways children can work them out. Other ways are available through art, drama, and especially free play. Free play is underestimated in its contribution to healthy development. Free play reinforces children's social, organizational, and physical skills and emotional well-being. Free play is also probably the single best arena in which children can flex their creative and intellectual muscles.

Encourage free play by limiting the amount of time your child spends in front of the television and the computer. Let your child have time to be bored. Don't jump in with suggestions. Provide props, such as dress-up clothes, large crates, and junk from a yard sale. One second grader designed and sewed hats for all her friends, using a box of felt given to her by a neighbor. A stethoscope or some Band-Aids will help a child work out a fear of going to the hospital.

Privacy and Sociability

Second graders are much more settled down in school than they were in first grade. While they'll sometimes work in a group, they prefer to work with one other child or alone, using their own implements at their own desks. They will write their names on anything allowed, establishing their right of ownership. They tend to be loners, and they often create a privacy shield by piling up their books around their working area. This is probably a good strategy, since they are easily distracted.

At home they try to find a quiet corner, a room or place of their own. They need a place to keep their things protected from younger brothers and sisters. You often find the seven- to eight-year-old reading under a table or making a tent on the bed in order to establish some privacy for reading or rumination.

Second graders are extremely sensitive to the feelings and attitudes of others, but they often lack social graces of their own. Major pastimes are tattling, alibiing, and blaming. According to them, someone is always being mean to them. The problem is that friendships shift very quickly at this age. Often the best friend today is the worst enemy tomorrow. It is a good idea for teachers and parents to avoid getting caught up in these squabbles and to help the child think of what might work better next time. The chances are things will look quite different to the child tomorrow. This advice, of course, does not pertain to any abusive acts, which do need immediate intervention by adults.

An especially distressful event that begins in second grade and continues into third, and one that does need intervention by teachers and parents, is the exclusion of certain children by others and the formation of clubs. Clubs are really cliques, which are forerunners of middle school behavior. The "who's in, who's out" behavior involved in forming clubs is very hurtful to the child who is left out, and it does not encourage empathy on the part of the insiders. It is a hard lesson to learn that those children who are "inside" today may be "outside" tomorrow.

Perfectionism

Second graders do love to work, but a quality that both helps and hinders them in this endeavor is the need to be correct, the need to be right, the need to be perfect. This perfectionism comes out in many ways. They do things over and over again, trying to get them right. And do they use those erasers! With their heads and eyes way down and close to their work, they write, erase, write, erase, write, erase. They often wear holes in their papers, which they tape up in exasperation, striving for a quality in their work that always seems to elude them. You can help them strive for one kind of perfection when they are writing: either correct spelling or correct punctuation or good handwriting, but not more than one at a time.

The Sense of Time and the Need for Closure

Most second graders have difficulty orienting themselves in time. They are just beginning to feel the sense of how long something will take, but they have no real grasp on it. At the same time they have an obsession with finishing everything: their reading, their TV program, their homework. If a definite ending place has not been established for them, they tend to go on and on until they are exhausted and cranky. For this reason, transitions from one chore to another can be tricky, and your child may need your assistance.

It is helpful if you establish some kind of closure for your child -- for example, "Read three pages in your book tonight," or "Your writing for today will be finished after you've done four sentences." Simple reminders about chores are helpful, too: "We'll eat dinner right after your TV program," or "When your homework is in your backpack, you can take your bath." One advantage of books written on a second grade level is that they provide a stopping place at the end of each chapter.

To help them keep oriented in time, second graders like schedules. They like to know what's going to happen during the day or the week. Even if the schedule isn't adhered to, the plan is comforting. Some second graders like marking off days on the calendar. Others like to make lists of things to do and cross off items as they complete them.

Because of this difficulty with time, second graders are afraid morning after morning that they will be late for school. A predictable morning routine will help, as will your assurance that you will get your child to school or to the bus stop on time. If your child walks to school, you may want to tell him what time he will have to leave home each day and show him that time on a clock.

Learning

A sense of achievement is very important to second graders. They know when they've succeeded, when a job is well done. They don't like the shallow praise that first graders thrive on, but they do need your encouragement. When working with your child, choose one thing to comment on in a positive and encouraging manner. You might say, for instance, "I especially like all the bright colors you used in your painting," or "Those subtraction problems you're doing look hard." Faber and Mazlish's book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, has an excellent explanation of the difference between praise and encouragement.

The vision of the second grader may be narrowly focused. They often pull things closer to their eyes in an attempt to figure them out. In fact, they often look nearsighted as they work with their heads at an angle, practically lying on top of their papers and desks. Because of their increased absorption in close work, second graders tire easily and need alternating periods of more physical activity. If you notice your second grader rubbing his eyes or blinking, or even if you see his muscles trembling, it is probably nothing to worry about. These are common outlets for the tension of children of this age, especially after an extended period of close work. However, if you notice that your child consistently has difficulty seeing the television screen or road signs, do consult your pediatrician. If your child is expected to copy from the blackboard at school and is having difficulty, make sure you speak with the teacher. This task is too hard for most second graders. Even though many will make an admirable stab at it, most children can't make the visual shift from near to far vision and back again that is necessary to this process.

Most of those young characteristics that are seen in kindergarten or first grade, such as making letters from the bottom up, and making numbers and letters backwards, are naturally worked out by the middle of second grade. If your child is still displaying any of these characteristics, it is the time to determine whether it indicates overall youngness or if there is a learning problem that can be solved or at least compensated for. This is especially important if reading is not coming along as expected. If your child is having difficulty with academics at any time during the second grade year, don't hesitate to check with the teacher.

Copyright © 1998 by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

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