Skills kids need going into second grade

Two children are writing on pieces of paper while a teacher watches.

At a glance

  • Kids entering second grade are expected to read short sentences or phrases.

  • Most kids start second grade knowing how to add numbers up to 20.

  • In second grade, kids are expected to think about how they approach solving problems.

Being ready for second grade involves more than just knowing certain facts. Second graders need to be able to think about how and why they’re solving problems. Your state’s academic standards outline the skills kids are expected to learn by the end of first grade in order to be prepared for second grade. Here are some of the big ones.

Skills to get ready for grade 2: English language arts and literacy

One way kids get ready for second grade is by continuing to work on connecting letters and sounds to make words. (This is sometimes referred to as phonological awareness.) Second graders use this skill to write short sentences. They also read stories and poems and learn to talk about what they read. Here’s a sample of the reading and writing skills kids are expected to learn by the end of first grade:

  • Show an understanding of the lesson in a story by asking and answering questions about it (who, what, where, when, why, and how)

  • Compare and contrast elements of different stories, including characters, settings, and major events

  • Explain how texts that tell stories are different from texts that provide information

  • Learn the basic rules of spoken and written English and use these rules to describe people, events, ideas, and feelings

  • Talk with others, using the rules of listening, asking questions, and waiting their turn to respond (like in class discussions)

  • Write in small groups as well as on their own about a single topic and provide a few facts or details about it

Learn more about trouble with reading and writing. And explore fun ways to increase phonological awareness, build reading skills, and encourage writing.

Skills to get ready for grade 2: Mathematics

By the time kids start second grade, they’re expected to know about whole numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, etc.) and place value in two-digit numbers (like knowing that the “2” in “24” means “20”). Kids begin grouping numbers into tens and ones by the end of first grade. They also use charts, tables, and diagrams to solve problems. Here are some other key skills kids need to be ready for second-grade math:

  • Add and subtract numbers up to 20 (like 10 + 10 or 20 ‒ 10)

  • Understand basic rules of addition and subtraction (like 6 + 2 is the same as 2 + 6)

  • Solve word problems and problems with one- and two-digit numbers up to 20 (See a video on how second graders solve word problems.)

  • Understand the meaning of the “tens” and “ones” places in two-digit numbers and learn to compare two-digit numbers using > (more than) and < (less than)

  • Recognize that the equal sign means both sides of the equation have the same value and know whether an equation is false (like 3 + 4 = 9)

  • Measure objects and put them in order by length

  • Read a clock and be able to tell the time to the nearest hour

  • Sort items into categories by shape, size, color, and function

Learn more about the different ways kids can get tripped up by math problems. Explore questions to ask your child’s school about math instruction and changes that can be made in the classroom to help struggling math students. Take a look, too, at how games can help kids work on math skills.

How to help your rising second grader

Kids develop at different rates. But if your child is having trouble, it’s better to speak up sooner rather than later. If your child is struggling to keep up in an academic area or can’t seem to stay focused, talking to the teacher can make a big difference. Together you can create a plan and keep track of your child’s progress.

Key takeaways

  • In second grade, kids are expected to answer questions like who, what, where, when, why, and how about what they read.

  • Understanding the “tens” and “ones” in numbers is important for second-grade math.

  • Working with your child’s teacher to keep track of progress is a good way to have a plan to help your child learn.


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