In your child’s classroom

Decoding and deriving meaning

Most children enter second grade with a solid grasp of reading fundamentals. Some children are still developing basic reading, while others are already reading fluently from chapter books. In second grade, your child will work on strategies to “decode” unfamiliar words so that she can learn to read with understanding, expression and confidence. These strategies include recognizing:

  • The sounds made by letters or groups of letters
  • Words that sound correct in the context of the sentence

“In addition to ‘decoding’ strategies, your child will also learn to derive meaning from the context of stories and make sense of what is being read,” notes Jane Ann Robertson, our consulting teacher and Arizona’s 2004 Teacher of the Year. “As your child learns to use all of these strategies, she will move into the world of the fluent reader!”

This year you can expect the teacher to help your child learn to identify plurals, contractions and compound words, as well as apply knowledge of prefixes, such as un, re and pre; and suffixes, such as er, est, and ful, to determine the meanings of words. Second grade is when these skills are simply introduced so don’t expect mastery yet.

Using the building blocks of language, your child will learn that groups of words make a sentence, sentences make a paragraph and paragraphs make a story. Your child’s teacher will consistently read literature that helps your child understand how an author paints a picture with words.

Your second-grader will begin to learn to paint her own pictures with words, and the results will no doubt be memorable!

Writing skills

Your child will improve her writing skills as she improves her reading. As a child, you may have practiced spelling, handwriting and punctuation as separate lessons before you began to write; your child will learn the mechanics as she writes her own stories. By the end of the year, she should be able to spell frequently occurring words correctly and write legibly, using capitalization and punctuation at the end of sentences.

What to look for when you visit

  • A variety of reading experiences to accommodate a range of skill levels and learning styles, including books read aloud by the teacher, independent reading and small-group activities
  • Writing, writing everywhere: labels for materials, attendance charts, a daily schedule, signs about classroom rules, posters about what the class is studying, and samples of student work
  • Children writing for different purposes and in different styles, from poems and fairy tales to nonfiction reports and descriptions of science experiments.
  • A classroom library that changes periodically to keep students enthusiastic about reading. Look for examples of fiction, nonfiction, poems, magazines, chapter books, picture books, menus and brochures.