Second graders are enthusiastic, curious little balls of energy. They have mastered the basics, and their quest for more knowledge is infectious. Whether you are new to teaching second grade or have been in the classroom for years, it is important to have the resources you need to stay organized, while enhancing the learning environment for your active little learners. We have collected the best tips for teaching second grade from real teachers via our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group and beyond to help you make this school year the best one yet!
Getting Your Classroom Ready
1. Create an inviting classroom
Need ideas to take your classroom to the next level? We’ve gathered real-life second grade classrooms for you to browse!
2. Gather all the supplies
Not sure what supplies you need for your second grade classroom? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this list of essential second grade classroom supplies.
3. Pick an inspiring theme for your classroom
Image source: Schoolgirl Style
Classroom themes our second grade teachers love include: butterflies, black paper with polka dots, chevron, sock monkeys, owls, orange and teal, minions, and superheroes.
4. Find teacher deals on the cheap
Stores with serious discounts on classroom items recommended by our Facebook followers include Target, dollar stores, Mardel, Walmart, local teacher supply stores, Staples, Michaels, Jo-Ann, Oriental Trading, Amazon, NAEIR.org, NationalSchoolProducts.com, and TeachersPayTeachers.com.
Here are some other tips from second grade teachers on finding deals:
- “Office Depot will match prices plus give an additional discount.” —Kitty R.
- “Don’t be afraid of seeking donations. I once got a case of copy paper donated by a grocery store.” —Carmen B.
- “Yard sales are a great place for prize-box toys and for games for your rainy day closet.” —Sandie N.
Plus, be sure to check out our BIG List of Dollar Store Hacks for Teachers.
5. Try different classroom layouts
Long gone are the days of straight rows of desks lining the classroom. Throw out your seating chart and try one of these ideas instead.
6. Put together an irresistible classroom reading nook
Your second graders are well on their way to becoming readers, so make this time extra special for them by setting up one of these awesome reading nooks.
7. Fill your classroom library with these classic second grade books
Teaching second grade involves a lot of reading! Here are 60 of our favorite books.
8. Get a jump start on lessons
Teacher planning and prep time are precious! It makes life a lot easier when you can purchase existing lessons, bundles, books, and pages. And why not support other teachers while you do it! Check out our favorite Teacher Pay Teachers sellers for teaching second grade.
9. Set up and share an Amazon Classroom Wish List
Teachers spend an insane amount of money out of pocket each year buying classroom supplies. Spend less of your own money to enhance your classroom and curriculum with the Amazon Classroom Wish List feature. This is an amazing and easy way for parents and other members of the community to help you out. Other websites offering wish lists and registries include Target, Oriental Trading, and GiftYou.
10. Stock up on educational toys and games
Second graders absolutely love hands-on activities, especially when they can do them with their classmates. There are plenty of ways to incorporate educational toys into the curriculum to liven things up, while still sticking to those standards. These games are perfect for centers, indoor recess, and free-time choice activities.
The First Days of School
11. Revisit The First Days of School: How To Be an Effective Teacher
I always refer back to some pages and checklists in Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong’s indispensable book The First Days of School: How To Be an Effective Teacher at the beginning of each school year. There is a reason it is still a bestseller and is in its fifth edition. You probably still have a copy from your teacher training courses. But if not, grab the latest edition on Amazon. The ideas, tricks, and tips are perfect for teaching second grade, and all grades in general.
12. Introduce yourself creatively
Make day one memorable by introducing yourself in a creative way, such as sending postcards over the summer. Here are 36 creative ideas.
13. Get to know each other with icebreakers
Get the kids mixing and moving as they get to know one another. Here are lots of great icebreaker ideas, including a link to fun Would You Rather …? scenarios.
Create a Classroom Community
14. Draft a class constitution
Image source: Kreative in Life
After learning about the Constitution, students can apply their knowledge by creating their own class constitution called “We the Kids”!
15. Establish a culture of kindness
Print these free downloadable posters to remind your students that kindness matters most of all.
16. Build your students’ social-emotional skills
Teaching second grade means building SEL skills. Use these read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.
17. Use transition times for mental health check-ins
Incorporate quick mental and emotional health check-ins with students as a regular part of your classroom routine. Use transition time wisely with these short, mindful activities.
18. What does a “model citizen” look like?
Image source: K–2 Is Splendid
After discussing what makes a good citizen, construct a “model citizen” on poster paper for your classroom. Students can write their ideas about the great qualities a model citizen should have and stick them on the poster to complete the picture.
19. Incorporate Kagan strategies for community building
Kagan is a scientific research-based program focused on student engagement. Kagan strategies help educators build a caring and kind environment to help all types of learners thrive.
20. Encourage good behavior—without giving out treats
Set your expectations very clearly from the start. Start off by reading about classroom management, dive into our second grade classroom management tips, and then check out these fun ideas for keeping your students on track without breaking the bank.
Ideas for Language Arts
21. Incorporate daily writing prompts
We’ve gathered 25 writing prompts that you can download and use to have your second graders practice their writing skills.
22. Use anchor charts to teach reading comprehension
Check out 49 of our favorites for teaching second grade here.
23. Use digital research tools to write reports
Research skills are super important, but they can be quite a challenge to teach to second graders. PebbleGo is a research tool specifically designed for K-3 students, and it covers topics in science, social studies, and more. Check out how I made these animal reports happen using age-appropriate research tools with my students.
24. Then show off that research using digital workspaces
Go a step further from written reports by using digital workspaces in your classroom. PebbleGo Create is a kid-friendly program that kids love. If you don’t have a subscription, any digital slide-presentation program will do just fine. See how I used PebbleGo Create with my second graders to make visual interpretations of our animal reports.
25. Incorporate fun reading comprehension activities
Second graders are some of the most enthusiastic readers out there. They are transitioning from the basics into readers looking for meaning. As they build upon their comprehension skills, they are beginning to make connections to themselves and the world at large. These 26 second grade reading comprehension activities will help your students dig deeper into texts on their own as well as with their peers.
26. Introduce chapter books to your students
Help your second graders transition from picture books and easy readers to chapter books. Start by reading aloud a chapter book from a popular series like The Magic Tree House. Your more advanced readers will be able to read these on their own at the beginning of the year, while some will transition midyear. Once second graders gain the confidence to move to the other side, there is no turning back!
27. Get those graphic novels out
Like it or not, graphic novels are here to stay. So get onboard if you haven’t already! Second graders of all reading levels absolutely love them. Lower-level readers gain confidence since they are a step up from picture books, while higher-level readers enjoy having pictures to go along with “bigger kid” books. If you already are stocked up on the popular Dog Man series, here are 16 similar graphic novel series ideas for your stash.
28. Fire up your little storytellers’ imaginations
Image source: Education.com Strips
Create a story jar and let second graders’ imaginations roam.
29. Introduce your second graders to small-moment narratives
Image source: Buggy for Second Grade
Break down the process with this handy anchor chart and then watch them go to town writing.
30. Teach annotation with “thinkmarks”
Image source: Monica Jasso/Pinterest
Encourage students to actively engage as readers by printing or having students create “thinkmarks” they can use to annotate text as they read.
31. Make alphabet picture books
Different editions could include parts of speech, antonyms, synonyms, and homophones, etc. Create a class library of these! It’s a great way to showcase student learning.
32. Have fun with literacy centers
33. Make phonics fun
Phonics is the foundation for reading success. Breaking words into their constituent sounds helps kids understand and build their literacy skills, bit by bit. Check out these 26 phonics activities for teaching second grade.
Ideas for Math
34. Teach time creatively
Image source: Elementary Nest
Students can draw different times on a dry-erase clock—just a Hula-Hoop taped on your whiteboard. Or try one of these other 23 methods for teaching how to tell time.
35. Solve a word problem of the day
Opening your daily math lesson with a math word problem of the day is an excellent way to set the stage for learning. Word problems are difficult for young learners to grasp, even when the mathematical operation portion of the problem is basic. Incorporate these second grade math word problems one day at a time at the start of your math block to build confidence, critical-thinking skills, and a learning community.
36. Build a number of the day
Image source: Turnstall’s Teaching Tidbits
Students can build the number of the day by selecting the correct numerals, words, and units.
37. Play math games
Here’s a big list of math games that are just right for second grade.
38. Watch math videos
Making math more engaging for kids can be difficult. But teaching math will be anything but boring when you introduce students to some of our favorite subtraction and addition videos on YouTube.
39. Teach shapes
Learning shapes is one of the earliest concepts we teach kids. Shapes ready them for geometry in the years ahead, but it’s also an important skill for learning how to write and draw. Get started with these shape activities.
40. Read books about math
Young mathematicians can have a hard time understanding abstract math concepts. Enhancing your lessons with books about math will help your students make connections while having fun in the process. Motivate your students while introducing new concepts, reinforcing ideas, and talking about all things math!
41. Let your students lead
Second grade teacher Stacey S. shares, “I give my kiddos about 10 minutes to complete morning math problems. Then I choose a student to come up to ‘teach’ the first problem by sharing strategies and solutions. That student asks if everyone agrees or disagrees and chooses another student for the next problem, if everyone agrees. If there is disagreement with his answer, they discuss alternatives. The students are in charge for the first 30–45 minutes of the day! My favorite time of the day!”
42. Write in math journals every day
Image source: Smiling & Shining in Second Grade
With math journals, students learn to solve mathematical problems using pictures and words. Check out free entry examples on the blog, which focuses on teaching second grade.
43. Use hands-on activities and manipulatives
Help students learn those tricky math concepts by incorporating hands-on activities and manipulatives whenever possible. Start by trying these ideas for teaching graphing, place value, and solving word problems. There are plenty of other great ideas for teaching second grade on our website, including fun holiday-themed activities!
Ideas for Science
44. Get hands-on with science
Science is the perfect subject for kids to get down and dirty. Try these 50 second grade science projects for inspiration.
45. Try daily STEM challenges
These STEM challenges are designed with your second graders in mind. Try one each day or each week to get them thinking outside the box.
46. Teach the plant life cycle
Plant life cycle is always a fun science unit. You get to talk about growing, planting, and nature. Plus, students love digging in and getting their hands dirty when they plant a seed themselves. Try these plant life cycle activities.
47. Teach states of matter with this simple demonstration
Image source: Education.com
Conduct this hands-on experiment to help students recognize and understand the different states of matter.
48. Conduct gummy bear experiments
In the category of snackable tips for teaching second grade … watch what happens when you soak gummy bears in liquid over a period of days. Find the full experiment—complete with freebie handout—on The Second Grade Shuffle blog.
49. Take a virtual field trip
Advances in technology have paved the way for virtual field trips, which have proven themselves to be a game-changer. They are a great way to expose students to faraway places and even places in their own backyard. Check out this list of 40 amazing virtual field trips to get started. No permission slips needed!
Ideas for Social Studies
50. Teach an early lesson on economics
Second grade teacher Jacqueline Q. recommends, ”Set up a classroom economy! I give my students plastic ‘banks’ from the dollar store. They earn money for specific things throughout the day: one penny for copying down homework, 10 cents here and there. Just keep it consistent and don’t overuse it. Otherwise, they’ll be ungrateful for those random dimes and want quarters instead. On Fridays, they get to go shopping!”
“My Classroom Economy is a great resource for help getting started,” adds Renee J.
51. Introduce your second graders to American symbols
This awesome mini-book is FREE!
52. Learn about heroes
53. Celebrate holidays and other special days
Second graders love any reason to celebrate. Who doesn’t? This calendar of holidays and special days will give you a variety of monthly celebrations. You will also find links to activities, lesson plans, resources, books, and more for each event listed. You can even download this year’s updated calendar to keep on hand.
Ideas for Classroom Organization
54. Buy a new teacher planner
55. Rock that new teacher planner
Read these tips for keeping your day, week, and year beautifully organized.
56. Manage work submissions with clothespins
Image source: 2nd Grade Stuff
Having students clip their papers will help quickly distinguish who handed in homework and who hasn’t.
57. Use an uncommon organizing method for the Common Core
Create separately labeled folders for each standard, then file activities that align with each standard in the appropriate folders. Genius!
Image source: Teaching in Oz
58. Avoid nameless homework
Image source: Spectacular 2nd Grade
When students highlight their names before handing in work, you’ll never receive a name-free paper again!
59. Make informal assessments easy with these exit slips
Image source: First Grade Nest
Create a “Show What You Know” board. Use speech-bubble-shaped whiteboards for kids to write their lesson takeaways on, or have them write on sticky notes and stick them on their designated bubbles. As a follow-up class activity, students can look at everything their classmates learned!
60. Use a teacher cart
This handy teacher cart has so many uses. From the start, it gives you extra storage space. Use it to organize classroom supplies, centers, or just about anything you can think of. It even has wheels, so you can keep it in place to help organize your classroom, bring materials with you around the room, or take it on the go if you travel around campus. A win-win for everyone!
Ideas for Classroom Management
61. Have a procedure for everything
“It’s really important, in second grade, that you have procedures for everything! My first year, I had procedures for the big things but not the smaller things, and that was a mistake. Tattling and drama were big in my class. Not starting off with a policy and procedure for addressing it took from instructional time initially.” —Donella H.
62. Post your students’ morning routine
Having a routine posted that is illustrated and easy to see will help your second graders remember how to start each day independently.
63. Set up cues to keep class noise down to a low roar
Image source: First Grade & Flip Flops
Use a chart like this to help students understand when to use different voice levels. Use cues like “spy talk” to signal when voices are getting too loud. Make a class goal of going from a five to a three. For more great ideas, see 24 Attention-Getters for the Classroom.
64. Get the wiggles out
Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with awesome second grade brain breaks.
65. Use music in your classroom
There are many creative ways to use music when teaching second grade. Music is a great way to mark transitions, teach multiplication facts, or set the tone for quiet reading time. Check out these kid-friendly Pandora stations. There are also plenty of instrumental channels and kid-friendly channels on SiriusXM radio, along with similar streamable playlists on services like Apple Music and Spotify. The Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star series has a number of great lullaby versions of some of the greatest rock bands on the planet, providing perfect background music during independent work. Have some fun and play some of your favorite artists too!
66. Build positive relationships with parents
Here are 10 tips for making working with parents the easiest part of your job.
67. Have students write this fun Who Am I? paragraph for Back-to-School Night
Image source: Smiling in Second Grade
Students can describe and draw themselves. Then parents can guess which child is theirs during Back-to-School Night festivities. Lifting the drawing will reveal a picture of the student holding their name.
What are your top tips for teaching second grade? Come share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. WeAreTeachers HELPLINE is a place for teachers to ask and respond to questions on classroom challenges, collaboration, and advice.
Plus, check out our guide to the second grade classroom.