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  • Nursery through Grade 8 | Short Hills, New Jersey

Second Grade

Through the Second Grade's core curriculum, "Child and Universe," students place themselves in their families, in the wider community, and in the universe. Second graders are learning what it means to be a student, and to use their skills in order to further their learning and independence.

Core Curriculum

The Second Grade study, Child and Universe, begins with a focus on the children themselves – their interests, joys, and their connections to family, friends, school, and the rest of the community.  The child’s world is related to the greater universe by experiences with nature, as well as by observations and research about the sun and shadows, stars and constellations, and planets and our solar system.  In addition to the strong emphasis on science, children are exposed to myths and legends from diverse cultures that relate to the sun, moon, and stars.  Finally, exploration of the Earth and its physical features – continents, oceans, and biomes - brings the focus back to the child and their family.  Individual families are celebrated through family sharing, collections of family stories, and an international family feast which celebrates the diversity of our collective experience. 


Reading: Continuing Reading Workshop, Second Graders are engaged in a balanced literacy approach that values the development of reading skills and strategies for decoding and also encourages students to find joy, knowledge, and imagination in the books they read.  Second graders explore the different purposes of reading and are challenged to grow in their independence, stamina, fluency, and comprehension through small and large group instruction.  Students are often led in small guided reading groups in addition to their independent reading.

Writing: Second Grade continues to follow the Writing Workshop approach and engage in purposeful writing units throughout the year-such as a personal narratives, fictional stories and research-inspired topics. Poetry is integrated throughout our curriculum as students read, listen to, and write poetry all year. The second grade writing program also focuses on skills including spelling, handwriting, and grammar. They are also guided on the mechanics of writing including punctuation and organization.

Library: Second Graders dive more deeply into the genre of contemporary realism, reading and analyzing multiple books about a common childhood experience such as welcoming a new baby to the family or moving to a new home.  By comparing and contrasting how different authors tell a similar story, students make sophisticated inferences about character and start to draw conclusions about theme.  Students continue to develop their visual literacy as they expand from analysis of a picture book’s illustrations to analysis of a graphic novel’s artwork.  Second Graders learn how graphic novelists make specific choices about how to use panels, gutters, lettering, angles and framing, and speech/thought balloons to tell their story most effectively.  Second graders continue to learn how to think like a researcher as they use non-fiction books to check the accuracy of a picture book’s depiction of a particular biome.  By the end of second grade, students have become quite proficient at reading the library’s shelves and spine labels and are usually very comfortable browsing the library independently.


Science in Second Grade focuses on the elements of the universe – rocks, air, water, and light.  Topics covered include light reflection and refraction, sound, optical illusions, properties of water and other liquids, magnetism, air pressure, friction, and properties of rocks.  These topics are explored through simple experiments and hands-on activities with a partner, with a small group, or individually.  Each week the students summarize the topic in their science journal.  Each journal entry contains a written summary of the experiment as well as a labeled diagram.


Second Grade continues to follow the Everyday Math curriculum augmented by authentic experiences with math and problem solving and supplementary resources.  Concrete, meaningful activities like graphing the daily temperature, measuring shadows, counting UNICEF money, cooking using fractions, and constructing 3-D shapes enhance children’s number sense and foster enthusiasm for the power of math.  As they analyze results from these practical experiences, students synthesize and interact with numbers and data in a different way from the work they do in their Everyday Math journals.  At the same time, basic computational skills are emphasized. Children continue to practice addition and subtraction facts to gain fluency and confidence. Persistence and explanations of their reasoning begin to characterize the work the students are asked to do.


In Second Grade French class, the underlying teaching philosophy continues to be based on comprehensible input. The emphasis is on actively listening, understanding, and responding, as the children engage in simple conversations within the familiar contexts of their immediate environment. Through careful scaffolding of new and recycled words as well as ample repetition, the children acquire a foundation of basic vocabulary, and simple useful phrases.

Performing Arts

Music:  Our music goals in Second Grade are: to build upon the music literacy concepts of solfège, rhythm, and form (such as pentatonic scale, half notes); to delve into more sophisticated part work, using ostinatos; to apply this knowledge onto pitched and unpitched rhythm instruments; to engage in critical listening and creative movement using Holst’s The Planets and other works of the classical canon; and to continue our tradition of singing Far Brook songs, folk songs and playground games of North America and cultures around the world, in their original languages. Every student participates in the Lower School Philharmonic, where they explore tonal color through “soundscape” creation and practice complex layering of ostinatos and rhythm patterns, using body percussion and real percussion instruments. The Second Grade makes its formal ensemble debut in Morning Meeting and at Instrumental Night, an evening that features all the instrumental groups of the school. A unit on sidewalk games (clapping, jump rope, ball passing) of North America and from around the world connects with their core curriculum of “Child and The Universe”, allowing the students many opportunities of relating themselves to their ever expanding view of their world.

Dance: The second graders will work to develop skills already gained in previous years, working to develop original choreography in collaboration with others, and taking direction and critiques from the dance teaching artists. Working closely with the classroom curriculum, students will explore planets, stars and the solar system, creating movement based on improvisations that imagine the environments in each surrounding. The work created in the second grade will continue to build upon themes of cooperation, collaboration, self-reflection and personal artistry touched upon in the first grade, while challenging the students with the use of spatial patterning, unison and canon, and the creation of group tableaus.

Fine Arts

ArtIn Second Grade, students gain confidence in their use of tools and increase their independence in the classroom. Second grade’s core curriculum study of “Child in the Universe” presents a myriad of possibilities for visual expression. Students create their own concept of a large painted sun or develop a still life pastel drawing which indicates an understanding of light, shadow, and color theory. All observations are derived from nature and support experiential learning.

WoodshopStudents in Second Grade begin to start thinking more deeply about design and how it can solve problems. The students invent an imaginary planet and are tasked with designing a tree or plant that could survive on the planet, as well as the animals that would live there. The final project is prototyping a spacecraft designed to land on their planet’s surface. In addition, students create open ended projects throughout the year.


Second Grade students have sports 4 times per week for 30 minutes each class.  Skills continue to be refined as students build upon previous year’s skills. Team play is introduced and students learn the importance of being a part of a team.  A cognitive awareness of sportsmanship is taught and fair play becomes paramount.  The teaching of Character development begins and students understand why it is so important in sports as well as life.

Social & Emotional

Second Graders continue with the Open Circle curriculum, building upon and practicing the skills and strategies they learned in First Grade.  The essential social and emotional skills that are developed relate to five key areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Children further develop skills needed to be good learners and to form healthy positive relationships.

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