Grade 2

Second graders are the “big kids” in their pods. Our looping model encourages strong relationships among students and adults, as children work with the same teachers and classmates from first grade. In second grade, students gain independence; they have more opportunities to read on their own, to engage in extended projects, and to reinforce skills and knowledge. Mandarin Chinese brings a new set of sounds, a new form of print and vibrancy to the classroom. Social studies units encourage students to apply knowledge about New Haven to historical and cultural comparisons: Questions based on “now and then” and “here and there” provide frameworks to consider how our community has changed, or stayed the same, and how it is similar to, or different from, a faraway place.

Social Studies

Student projects displayed on a table in a classroom


The year begins with an expansion of the local community study that began in Kindergarten. Students’ concept of “community” soon expands to include the New Haven area, with local explorations to investigate the features of our city. From the top of East Rock, children consider the city with a new perspective, which helps to inform beginning studies of maps, distances and landforms. They then embark on a cultural or historic study to compare and contrast “here and there,” or “now and then.” In alternating years, the comparison is either to an African community or the indigenous people of the northeast woodlands. Throughout the curriculum, lessons about identity, multicultural diversity and social justice enhance the children’s learning.



A teacher and group of students in a field and garden

First and second graders approach the world through a multicultural and multidisciplinary lens, with the science and social studies programs providing the structure around which writing, art, music, drama and literature are developed in the classroom. Specific science topics include organisms and their habitats; air and weather; soils; liquids and solids; and balance and motion. Individual and group research projects occur frequently. Classroom investigations and local ecological explorations—including a pond study and observations of live specimens—develop the children's abilities to observe, classify, question, experiment, record and analyze, as well as to increase their environmental awareness.

Language Arts

A group of students reading outside

In second grade, students gain independence in their reading. While continuing to reinforce decoding and phonics skills, classes focus on comprehension and meaning. Small reading groups balance skill instruction and oral expression. Continuing from first grade, the visual literacy program encourages observation and descriptive vocabulary. Read-alouds often include longer chapter books that are shared over many days. Children’s writing also extends for longer periods and includes more opportunities for revision and editing. In second grade, students use non-fiction books for research and prepare reports to share what they have learned. Teachers encourage children to expand their vocabulary using words they have learned from books and content-area lessons. Folktales and traditional literature offer a chance to explore literary elements and cultural themes.


A group of students working together at a table in a classroom

Second graders extend their understanding of place value to numbers into the thousands. They compute with three- and four-digit numbers with and without regrouping and begin to perform mental computations. Lively activities encourage automatic recall and reinforce the fun of math as students achieve comfort and familiarity with common patterns, facts and operations. Students learn about multiplication as repeated addition, and division as repeated subtraction. They learn to tell time to the nearest 15-minute interval and begin to use fractions to name parts of a whole, a set or a line. They investigate geometry through two- and three-dimensional shapes and begin to explore the earliest processes of algebraic thinking and the “grammar” of mathematical symbols.


A teacher working with students in an art classroom



Second grade art project often reflect the themes and environments of the science and social studies curriculum. The children draw, paint and construct, using a variety of materials and connecting their work with language arts, math, science and social studies. The children study the arts of Native America and Africa in alternate years. Materials and techniques from historical and cultural traditions are integrated into drawings, textural projects, and mixed-media works. Projects are often motivated by the reading of stories or poetry. The children are taught to care for and respect art materials.



A choir instructor and a group of students singing in a gymnasium


Second graders work on basic musical skills, learn to read and write music and continue to develop a joy of singing, dancing and playing together. They review familiar concepts and learn a variety of songs, play parties, singing games, rhymes and dances. We explore music through American folk song, learning melodic elements, including the pentatone (do, re, mi, sol, la) and rhythmic elements (ta, ti-ti, ta-ah and rest). We connect to the classroom curriculum by hearing and learning music of Native America and of different countries in Africa. Additional musical concepts are woven into our music lessons such as form, listening, singing canons, performing ostinati, pitch matching and group singing. We also continue to develop social skills by working with partners and cooperating in groups.



Two students working together in a drama theater


Second grade drama classes build on the skills of observation and imagination that were introduced in previous years. Children use all of their senses to immerse themselves in dramatic situations. Some lessons challenge students to identify sounds and then create imaginary settings in which those sounds would be heard. Other activities involve envisioning larger scenes, with children working together to create scenarios.


Physical Education

Two students walking together in a physical education class

Second graders continue practicing and improving their muscular control, balance and stamina. Each unit contains a “challenge” in the form of a goal to achieve through fun games and new ways of fine-tuning techniques. Beanbag tossing, “elbow tag,” jump ropes, scooters, parachutes, juggling, hula hoops, rugs and obstacle courses all become part of the fun. Children refine skills through simulations such as “guarding the castle,” “astronaut drills,” “frog pond,” “giants, elves and wizards,” and “island hopping.”


A librarian sitting with a group of students next to a wall of books

Second grade students begin to use the nonfiction collections in a more purposeful way. They learn to locate specific information in a book by using the index or table of contents. They become more adept at understanding genres of literature and learn about the various awards given to exemplary works. A highlight of the year is voting for a selection in one category of children’s literature.

World Language - Chinese

A line of students holding up a Chinese dragon

Second graders are introduced to the sounds of Mandarin Chinese experientially, just as native-speaker children naturally acquire their first words. Chinese classes are often full of rhymes and kinesthetic activities that require children to understand and produce the language orally. Students learn to greet others, introduce themselves and acquire vocabulary around everyday topics such as numbers, family, colors, sports, body parts and fruit. The goal is for children to use words from each thematic unit in meaningful sentences. Writing of Chinese characters is introduced in order for students to experience the unique Chinese writing system. Major Chinese holidays are celebrated through activities that are a part of traditional Chinese culture.


A group of students around a computer in a classroomSecond graders continue to use iPads in their classrooms in addition to larger desktop machines. Digital citizenship and computer literacy activities include lessons about internet safety and online responsibility. Children use computers to aid in the writing process as well as for creative pursuits in making short movies and publishing stories. Teachers regularly locate useful websites to bring information and virtual experiences into the classroom.

In early spring, Kindergartners tap Foote’s sugar maples to learn about making sap into syrup. The unit combines science, math, social studies and language arts, ending with a celebratory sap boil and pancake breakfast.

Meet Beth Mello

Beth Mello
Assistant Head of School

Beth Mello oversees the school's curriculum development; diversity, inclusion and social justice initiatives; and faculty professional development.

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