Whether you’re teaching second grade for the first time or you’re a longtime vet, we’ve got you covered! We’ve collected 50 of the best tricks and tips for teaching 2nd grade from our teacher friends on the WeAreTeachers Helpline, our favorite bloggers, and inspiring articles here on WeAreTeachers. If you need ideas for your second grade classroom, you’re in the right place!
Setting up Your Classroom Space
1. Pick an inspiring theme for your classroom.
Themes our second grade teachers love include: butterflies, black paper with polka dots, chevron, sock monkeys, Dr. Seuss, owls, orange and teal, minions, and superheroes.
SOURCE: Schoolgirl Style
2. 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, 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.
Be sure to check out 75 Brilliant Dollar Store Hacks for the Classroom.
3. 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.
4. Consider alternative seating.
Bean bags, saucer chairs, and pillows make for inviting alternatives to traditional desk-and-seat formations. Get 13 more ideas here.
SOURCE: Setting Up for Second
5. Set your classroom up to support literacy.
Creating a literacy-rich environment takes careful planning. Emphasize skills and content with these tips.
Creating a Classroom Community
6. Draft a class constitution.
After learning about the Constitution, students can apply their knowledge by creating their own class constitution called “We the Kids!”
SOURCE: Kreative in Life
7. Create a culture of kindness.
Read How Full is Your Bucket? (For Kids) and brainstorm a list of bucket-fillers together to inspire acts of kindness in class.
SOURCE: Simply Second Grade
8. Build your students’ social-emotional skills.
Use these read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.
9. 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 about the great qualities a model citizen should have and stick them on the poster to complete the picture.
SOURCE: K–2 is Splendid
10. Encourage good behavior—without giving out treats.
Set your expectations very clearly from the start. Read “What is Classroom Management?” Then, check out these fun ideas for keeping your students on track without breaking the bank.
11. 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.
12. Post your students’ morning routine.
Having the routine illustrated and easy to see will help your second graders remember how to start each day independently.
SOURCE: The Colorful Apple
13. Make lining up easy!
Make a line of painter’s tape that students can use to line up quickly and easily every day. Eventually, pull up the tape to show your second graders that they can line up perfectly on their own!
SOURCE: Soaring Through Second
14. Set up cues to keep class noise down to a low roar.
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, read “27 Good Attention-Getters for Quieting a Noisy Classroom.” Or, try out the free Too Noisy App recommended by Elementary Nest!
SOURCE: First Grade and Flip Flops
15. 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.
16. Get the wiggles out.
Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with awesome three-minute brain breaks from Minds in Bloom.
17. Use music in your classroom.
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.
18. Read to them every day.
Here are 50 awesome 2nd grade books, including read-alouds and independent texts, for your class to read.
19. Use anchor charts to teach reading comprehension.
Check out 25 of our favorites here.
20. Teach with superheroes.
Your second graders will never forget that verbs are action words once they meet Vicky Verb, action hero extraordinaire.
SOURCE: Second Grade Smarty
21. Create an inviting reading nook.
Who wouldn’t want to snuggle up and read in one of these cozy spaces?
22. Give your students a voice!
With Kid Blog, students can write their own blogs and express themselves—safely!
“I love Kid Blog!” —Andrea M.
23. Fire up your little storytellers’ imaginations.
Create a story jar and let their imaginations roam.
Research is part of the Common Core standards for second grade. Here, teachers share excellent tips for approaching this seemingly complex topic.
25. 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.
SOURCE: Buggy for Second Grade
Be sure to use this helpful guide to help kids distinguish those small moments from larger contexts.
SOURCE: Buggy for Second Grade
26. Teach annotation with “thinkmarks.”
Encourage students to actively engage as readers by printing or having students create “thinkmarks” they can use to annotate text as they read.
SOURCE: Simply 2nd Resources
27. Track the writing progress of each of your second graders.
Use this pencil chart to help students keep track and recognize the steps of the writing process.
SOURCE: Second Grade Style
28. 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. —Swimming into Second
29. Creatively teach time.
Students can draw different times on a dry-erase clock—just a hula hoop taped on your whiteboard.
SOURCE: Elementary Nest
30. Build a number of the day.
Students can build the number of the day by selecting the correct numerals, words, and units.
SOURCE: Turnstall’s Teaching Tidbits
31. 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.
SOURCE: Second Grade Style
32. Let your students lead.
“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!” —Stacey S.
33. Write in math journals every day.
With math journals, students learn to solve mathematical problems using pictures and words. Check out free entry examples on the blog.
SOURCE: Smiling & Shining in Second Grade
34. Use rhymes to make math more fun.
Remembering how to subtract will be much easier with this cute poem!
SOURCE: The Colorful Apple
35. Teach the water cycle with this fun experiment.
Demonstrate how it rains with water, blue food coloring, and shaving cream. Then create a colorful report about the water cycle.
SOURCE: Simply Second Grade
36. Teach states of matter with this simple demonstration.
Conduct this hands-on experiment to help students recognize and understand the different states of matter.
37. Conduct gummy bear experiments.
In the category of snackable tips for teaching 2nd 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 this blog.
SOURCE:Second Grade Shuffle
38. Set up centers to teach STEM.
Kids will love rotating through fun stations like the tinker workbench, building station, nature table, and more!
39. Teach an early lesson on economics.
”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!” —Jacqueline Q.
“My Classroom Economy is a great resource for help getting started.” —Renee J.
40. Introduce your second graders to American symbols.
This awesome mini-book is FREE!
SOURCE: Happy Teaching First: A First and Second Grade Blog
41. Learn about heroes.
Read biographies about famous people in history. Match books to holidays, like Presidents’ Day or Black History Month.
Teacher tips for staying organized.
42. Rock your teacher planner.
Read these tips for keeping your day, week, and year beautifully organized.
43. Manage work submissions with clothespins.
Having students clip their papers will help quickly distinguish whose handed in homework and who hasn’t.
SOURCE: 2nd Grade Stuff
44. 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!
Source: Teaching in Oz
45. Avoid nameless homework.
When students highlight their names before handing in work, you’ll never receive a name-free paper again!
SOURCE: Spectacular 2nd Grade
46. Make informal assessments easy with these exit slips.
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!
SOURCE: First Grade Nest
47. Find better uses for everyday objects.
Keep markers organized at stations and cooperative groupings with water bottle ice cube trays.For loads more classroom organization tips, read 50 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for Classroom Management.
SOURCE: Flamingo Fabulous
Bridging the Gap Between Home and School
48. Build positive relationships with parents.
Here are ten tips for making working with parents the easiest part of your job.
49. Welcome parents into your classroom.
Read this for tips for getting the most out of parent volunteers.
50. Have students write this fun Who Am I? paragraph for Back to School Night.
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.
SOURCE: Smiling in Second Grade
What are your top tips for teaching 2nd grade? Come in 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.
Looking for another grade level? You can find all of our 50 Best Tips series here.
If you’re looking for a more efficient method of grading papers and assessing student progress, you’ve come to the right place. On this page (which has been adapted from The Cornerstone book), you’ll learn tips and tricks to help you gauge student progress quickly and easily.
Using simple and consistent markings
Choose your color for grading and use it exclusively. I use red because it stands out well and makes it clear to parents and kids what I have written vs. what they have written (my kids often correct their own papers using blue pens). Red is the traditional teacher color, and I think that some of us as adults are kind of scarred from seeing red marks on our papers as kids. However, a young child hasn’t had those types of experiences and therefore there are no negative connotations. I also use red ink for all of my stamps, so my kids associate red with positive messages, too.
I think seeing numerous corrections can be intimidating in any color, so it’s more important to focus on what types of marks you are making on the paper. Be sure to use simple, quick markings, and be consistent with them. For example, I don’t make big Xs by or circle wrong answers, I just draw a slash through the problem numbers.
Try not to make more work for yourself. I once knew a teacher who wrote the correct answers next to wrong ones on EVERY student paper. That’s great for the kid and parent (assuming they actually read each paper) but it took her a half an hour just to grade a set of spelling tests! Another teacher I know circles the correct answers and leaves the incorrect ones alone. This helps build student confidence and makes marks from the teacher a good thing (the more, the better!) rather than a bad thing. I love this concept, but again, I wouldn’t do it for the whole class because it is too time-consuming.
Keep papers from piling up
Try not to let students’ ungraded work sit out on your desk: until you’re ready to grade, leave it in the file trays where kids turned it in. Messy piles accumulate so quickly! If you have a good filing system, it should take less than ten seconds to find any stack of ungraded student work in your filing trays. Use the ideas in Chapter 4 of The Cornerstone book (which is about Avoiding the Paper Trap), so there will be no more confusion about what’s already been entered into the computer grade book, what’s has been graded and what hasn’t, etc.
Don’t let papers go ungraded for more than a week, tops. This is easier said than done! However, more than once I have been in the middle of grading a tedious math worksheet when I realized I had already tested the kids on the material. What’s the point of grading the practice class work at that point? It was too late for me to assess whether or not the kids were getting it, and because I never provided them feedback on how they did, it’s possible that a number of them had used the assignment to practice incorrect strategies. It was a waste of time for me and them.
Finding time to grade
In the past, I’ve set aside certain times of the day to grade papers, such as during students’ Morning Work, while the kids used math centers or completed cooperative projects (and therefore were being pretty independent), or right after dismissal. Every day during the predetermined time, I tackled whatever papers the kids had created since the day before. This was a very effective way to make sure that papers never piled up, and was manageable because my students completed most of their written work in workbooks and journals which are not graded.
I know other teachers who stay after school one day per week to catch up on their grading, and that works well for them. However, when I stay late to work on tedious tasks, I find that I have less enthusiasm and energy the next day in the classroom. For my own sanity, I get my grading done during the school day.
Taking papers home to grade
Although I’ve never regularly taken papers home, I do have an organized file folder system for transporting and keeping track of papers that I prefer to grade at my house. Sometimes I’ve used three folders for each subject (class work, homework, and tests); other years I just had one folder for each subject. Additional folders can also be useful:
- Already graded—to be entered in computer:I kept my grades electronically and put papers in this folder until the grades were entered.
- Already in computer—to be filed:I would empty this folder into the basket of papers for students to take home.
- To review/redo with class:When there were a lot of errors I wanted to go over, I placed the papers in this folder.
- Incomplete:These would be stapled to weekly evaluations on Friday as weekend homework.
- Make-up work:I normally graded make-up work every two weeks and kept it in this folder until I was ready to correct them.
- No names:I filled this file if I was going to try to find the papers’ owners later or give kids a chance to claim them.
Tips for grading student writing quickly
I realize it can be difficult (and time consuming) to think of original, carefully-worded, and encouraging comments for students, so I created this 21 page PDF of Feedback Comments for Student Writing. It contains hundreds of comment suggestions you can use for written feedback. The comments can also be used to guide your conversations during writing workshop and writing conferences, and to describe student writing for portfolio assessments, progress reports, report cards, or in parent conferences.
Often, you can also simplify the grading process for students’ writing. I use one trait (or single trait) rubrics to help refine my writing instruction, help students better understand characteristics of effective writing and how their work is assessed, and simplify the scoring process.
The idea is simple: since we teach traits of effective writing individually, why not assess traits individually sometimes, too? Not every piece of writing needs a full assessment, and one trait rubrics make it easy for teachers to give meaningful feedback quickly without spending hours grading essays. Additionally, assessing student writing is a subjective process that is often a mystery to students and parents: using a straightforward rubric with only 3 or 4 criteria makes it clear why an assignment earned the grade it did. It also prevents you from downgrading a paper by weighting one aspect of good writing too heavily. Concentrating on only one trait makes it easier for the teacher to fairly assess a student’s skills in a particular trait.
The system is beneficial for students, too. It can be overwhelming (especially for younger children, reluctant writers, and English language learners) to try to concentrate on all aspects of great writing at one time. Knowing that they’ll only be assessed on a single trait helps students narrows their focus and makes the task more manageable.
You can read more ideas in my blog post, 10 time-saving tips for grading student writing.
Tips for quickly assigning formal grades
Use a slide chart grading aid (easy grader).
This little device allows you to have any number of problems or questions in an assignment and calculates the grade. The easy grader prevents you from having to choose a basic number of questions for an assignment, such as 20, in order to make each question worth 5 points each. With a grading aid, having 27 or 34 questions is no problem. You can buy these for about $5 at teacher supply stores, or download a free one from my site. The quickgra.de website will calculate the same way for free online.
Grade an assignment on criteria for multiple subject areas.
If you assign a reading passage with questions about living organisms, you can take reading AND science grades from the same assignment. A population graph activity may provide you with social studies AND math grades. At the top of students’ papers, write the subject area and grade for each, e.g., ‘Rdng- B, Sci- A’.
Collect grades from several workbook pages at a time.
This is a useful strategy for grading assignments in workbooks when children aren’t supposed to rip the pages out. It works best when you need the grades for documentation purposes and don’t need them for information on student progress. Collect the workbooks and record grades all at once for several assignments by flipping to the page numbers that students completed. You can even have students fold down the page corners to help you find them more easily. This process is much more efficient than collecting workbooks or journals after every single assignment. If for some reason you must do it that way, have students stack their workbooks while they’re still open to the right page so you don’t have to flip through them.
When grading multi-page assignments, grade the first page for each student, the second page for each student, and so on, rather than grading the entire test for one student at a time.
This is an invaluable tip that I learned years back, and it has saved me countless hours. When grading one page at a time, you tend to memorize the answers, making it easier to spot errors. If there are a lot of problems on each page, write the number the student got wrong at the bottom of the page, such as –0 or –3, and then after you have graded the whole stack, go back through and count up how many each student got wrong by looking at the minus-however-many that you wrote at the bottom of the pages.
Use accurate student papers instead of making answer keys.
After the first quarter of the school year, you’ll have a pretty good idea about which students will have the right answers on their papers. If you don’t have an answer key for an assignment, check two or three of those students’ papers against each other first, and find one that is basically correct. Mark corrections for any mistakes on the paper, then use it to check all other students’ work against. This is much quicker than making an answer key, and if you photocopy the child’s paper, you can save it and use it for the key again the following year.
Make an answer key transparency.
For lengthy assignments or those you plan to use for several years, make photocopies of bubble sheets (like those used on standardized tests—check the back of your teacher’s guides) and have your students fill in the bubbles instead of writing answers on the test or blank paper. Make an answer key on a blank transparency using a permanent marker. When you are ready to grade, place the transparency over a student’s paper and count how many bubbles don’t match up between the student’s sheet and the answer transparency. I grade my students’ Scholastic Reading Inventory tests this way and can get through an entire class set (45 questions each) in less than 10 minutes.
Tips for keeping a grade book and averaging grades
Give letter grades instead of percentages.
Not every school district allows this, and not all teachers like the idea, but this will save you so much time! Essentially, instead of having to calculate the exact percentage a child earned, such as 84%, you just write “B” in your grade book. This makes it much easier to glance over your grades and see how a child is doing and also how well the class as a whole scored on a particular assignment. At the end of the marking period, average the letters out mentally, or if the grade isn’t immediately clear, assign each letter a point and average it that way (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1). If your report cards don’t allow for plusses and minuses to be given, this makes even more sense. Grading isn’t rocket science in elementary school—don’t make your job unnecessarily difficult.
Only use weighted grades if your district mandates that you do so.
Have every assignment count equally, instead of weighting tests to be equal to 50% of students’ overall grades, homework as 25%, and so on. This will save you massive amounts of time at the end of the quarter.
Simplify the way you calculate homework grades.
At the end of the quarter, I simple go through and count up how many assignments were missing. If there were 42 homework assignments given in a marking period and a child did not turn in 3, she gets a 39/42 and the computer automatically translates that into a letter grade and percentage out of 100. If your district requires you to assess homework separately for report cards, then that’s your grade. If your district expects homework to be included in each subject area’s average, you may be able to use the same homework grade for every subject, rather than differentiate with a reading homework grade, math homework grade, etc. After all, children are either doing homework or they’re not, and that choice will usually impact their grades in all subjects equally. Also, if you rarely give social studies, science, or health homework, combining all the homework assignments ensures you will have a homework grade in every subject.
Use a digital grade book.
I was hesitant to start this method because I thought it would be a pain to have to record grades and then enter them in the computer, but if you back up your files, you don’t have to keep a paper grade book at all! A computerized grade book allows you to pull up a child’s average at any point (such as when a parent calls), and at the end of the quarter, all you have to do is print out the grades.