Whether you’re teaching second grade for the first time this year or you’re a longtime vet, we’ve got you covered! We’ve collected 50 of the best tips and tricks from both our WeAreTeachers Helpline and around the Web. If you need ideas for your second-grade classroom, you’re in the right place!
1. 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 girl drama was big in my class and not starting off with a policy and procedure for addressing it took from instructional time initially.” —Donella H.
2. Create a class constitution.
After learning about the constitution, students can apply their knowledge by creating their own class constitution called “We the Kids”!
3. Consider alternative seating.
Bean bags, saucer chairs, and pillows make for inviting alternatives to traditional desk-and-seat formations.
4. Make lining up easy!
Use a line of painter’s tape that students can use to line up quickly and easily every day. Eventually, take out the tape to show your second graders that they can line up perfectly all on their own!
5. Use Class Dojo for classroom management.
“I LOVE it. It was highly motivating for my second graders. I use it as a reward system. My parents love getting notifications that their child was recognized for something they were doing right!” —Angie S.
6. Inspire class community.
Read the book How Full is Your Bucket (For Kids) and brainstorm a list of “bucket fillers” together to inspire acts of kindness in class.
7. Post your students’ morning routine.
Having the routine illustrated and easy to see will help your students remember how to start each day independently.
8. You’ve got mail!
“Sign up via Sign Up Genius to get your students involved with sending 49 postcards to one classroom in each of the 49 states in the U.S.!” —Neysa S.
9. Pick an inspiring theme for your classroom.
Here are some themes our second grade teachers love: butterflies, black paper with polka dots, chevron, sock monkeys, Dr. Seuss, owls, orange and teal, minions and superheroes. Schoolgirl Style is one of our favorite bloggers for classroom theme ideas!
10. Find teacher deals on the cheap.
The teacher Helpliners have spoken! Favorite stores for serious discounts on classroom items include Target, dollar stores, Mardel, Walmart, local teacher supply stores, Staples, Michael’s, Jo-Ann, Oriental Trading, Amazon, NAEIR.org, NationalSchoolProducts.com, and TeachersPayTeachers.com. “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.
11. Teach telling time.
Students can draw different times on a dry-erase clock by taping a hula hoop on your white board.
12. Build a number of the day.
Students can build the number of the day by selecting the correct numerals, words, and units.
13. Read to them every day with these second grade read-alouds.
Mr. Poppers Penguins and Socks are second grade classics!
14. Play addition jenga.
Write (or label) addition problems on the jenga pieces. As students play the game, they solve the problems on each piece they pull.
15. Prevent the mid-year crayon spills.
Tape the bottoms of all crayon boxes and never deal with exploding crayons again!
16. Check out Second Story Window.
“Second Story Window is an amazing second grade resource!” —Tanya C. It’s a website loaded with ideas for second grade teachers.
17. Teach verbs with a character they’ll remember.
How can your second graders forget that verbs are action words when they know Vicky Verb, action hero extraordinare?
19. Have students create a fun “Who Am I?” game for Back to School Night.
Students can describe and draw themselves, then parents can guess which is their child on Back to School Night. Lifting the drawing will reveal a picture of the student holding his or her name.
20. Get musical (for free)!
Play music for free in your room with these kid-friendly Pandora stations, like the Piano Guys and Mozart for Kids.
21. Have your students start the day!
“Have the students review the answers to morning math problems with the class! I give my kiddos about ten minutes to complete as much as they can and then I choose a student to come up to ‘teach’ the first problem by sharing strategies and solutions. That students 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!” —Stacey S.
22. Use a clip chart for behavior.
A clip chart is a way to visually make students aware of both their good and bad behaviors. “I use a clip chart with numbers in my second grade class. I make sure to point out good behaviors in students that one would think should have it way down. They really did develop buy-in and were proud getting to move their clips up. They learned that following classroom procedures was about them and not me. I helped them develop strategies to stay on track for following a procedure. I had success with it!” —Vicki A.
23. Or, reward good behavior simply.
“Work smarter, not harder! Catch kids being good and pass out tickets or something simple for you to handle so you can devote the majority of time to instruction and helping kids instead of more complicated classroom management systems.” —Cathy C.
24. Give your students a voice!
With Kid Blog, students can write their own blogs and express themselves—safely! “I love Kid Blog!” —Andrea M.
25. Remind students of their voice levels with a cute poster and rhymes.
Get kids excited to speak quietly with cues like “Spy Talk”. Make a class goal of going from a 5 to a 3!
26. Put an exciting spin on exit slips.
Create a “Show What You Know” board. Use speech bubble-shaped white boards for kids to write their lesson takeaways on, or have them write on post-its and stick them on their designated bubbles. As a follow-up class activity, students can look at everything their classmates learned!
27. Manage work submission with clothespins.
Having students clip their papers will help quickly distinguish who handed in homework and who didn’t.
28. Demonstrate how it rains with this fun experiment.
Show your second graders how it rains with water, blue food coloring, and shaving cream. Get the full “how-to” here.
29. Teach states of matter with this simple demonstration.
This states of matter experiment from education.com will help your students understand how temperature affects the states of matter.
30. Start a class economy.
”I gave my students plastic ‘banks’ from the dollar store. They earn money for specific things throughout the day: one penny for copying down homework, ten 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. On Fridays, they ‘go shopping’!” —Jacqueline Q.
“My Classroom Economy is a great resource for help getting started.” —Renee J.
31. What does a “model citizen” look like?
After discussing what makes a good citizen, construct a “model citizen” on poster paper for your classroom. Students can write their ideas of great qualities and stick them on the poster to complete the picture.
32. Conduct gummy bear experiments.
Watch what happens when you soak gummy bears in liquid over a period of days. Find the full experiment—complete with freebie handout—here on the Second Grade Shuffle.
33. Introduce your second graders to American Symbols.
This awesome book is FREE from Happy Teaching First: A First and Second Grade Blog.
34. Go interdisciplinary: art, writing, and science!
Describe and illustrate the steps of the water cycle.
35. What superhero power would you have?
Let your second graders imagine and write about what kind of superhero they would be!
36. Fire up your little storytellers’ imaginations.
From education.com: “Creativity and sequencing skills combine to create wild stories!” Get the full activity here.
37. Write in math journals every day.
Find a ton of prompts from Smiling & Shining in Second grade here.
38. Remembering how to subtract will be much easier with this cute poem!
39. Looking for some awesome second grade writing lessons, handouts, and units?
Look no further. This site has dozens of activities you can pull out and put to use.
40. Invite students to look at characters more in depth with this handy “character traits” chart.
Customize it to specific characters for each new book you read.
41. Introduce your second graders to small moment narratives.
Break down the process with this handy anchor chart, and then watch them go to town writing…
42. … and this helpful guide will help the kiddies distinguish those small moments from larger contexts.
43. Teach annotation with “thinkmarks”.
Encourage active engagement as readers by printing or having students create “thinkmarks” they can use to annotate text with as they read.
44. Track the writing progress of each of your second graders.
All you need is this adorable pencil chart and clothespins. Write student numbers on each clothespins, and then students can move them as they complete each step.
45. Make a picture alphabet book for parts of speech, antonyms, synonyms, and homophones.
Create a class library of these! It’s a great way to showcase student learning.
http://classroomcollective.tumblr.com/post/14926432373 via Pinterest
46. Uncommon common core organization!
We love this simple organizational idea. Create separate labeled folders for each standard, and then file activities that align with each standard in the appropriate folders. Genius!
47. “Where are we?”
Everyone at school will always know where your class is with this velcro sign.
48. When students highlight their names before handing in work, you’ll never receive a name-free paper again!
49. Keep markers organized at stations and cooperative groupings with water bottle ice cube trays.
50. Skip homework—go for classwork!
“I always do core lit during class. That way, when we discuss and ‘close read’ sections, we’re all literally on the same page. I can never be sure what does or doesn’t happen at home.” —Stacey T.
Looking for another grade level? You can find all of our 50 Best Tips series here.