Second and third graders are growing into independent learners. Many children enter second grade as an emergent readers and writers and leave third grade reading novels and practically writing them as well. In math and science studies, students are moving from concrete to abstract thinking. They are at the stage when fairness is of the highest value, and so they strive to work for change where they perceive injustice both in the classroom and in their lives outside of school. The teachers’ task at these grade levels is to guide kids in their discoveries of the world beyond our walls.
A walk through the day
Prairie Creek’s second and third grade classrooms—the Cranes, Egrets, and Meadowlarks—work together during several parts of the school day. Our days generally begin with independent work time and a Morning Meeting. This gathering is a way to greet each other, go over the goals and agenda for the day, and spend some time in song or play.
Math time also occurs during the morning hours. Our math program includes Foundation Math, which focuses on computation and number sense. The children travel between classrooms during Foundation Math time so they can focus on the skills that each are mastering. Math time also includes Exploration Math, which often connects to the current theme study and involves more problem-solving math.
Our morning ends with DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) quiet time. In second and third grade we are fostering independent reading. We work on fluency and comprehension skills during DEAR time, as well as phonemic awareness and spelling through a program called “Words Their Way.”
The afternoons vary with each classroom, but typically include theme studies and research as well as Writers’ Workshop. Each class creates and explores many themes throughout the year. Sometimes we work on a theme with all three classes in unison, and sometimes parts of independent themes overlap. Our themes usually have a social studies or science focus, and as a rule integrate literacy and research skills. These themes develop in response to the kids’ interests and are crafted collaboratively between teachers and students. In recent years themes have explored Composting, American History, The Underground Railroad, Engineering, Astronomy, Flight, Poetry Writing, and so much more. The children share their learning in many different ways—writing books, composing plays and presentations, and hosting community-wide culminating events.
The social curriculum continues to be a crucial part of the 2-3 school day. It is as important as the academic curriculum. At Prairie Creek we believe that how children learn is as important as what they learn. At this age children are developmentally more aware of themselves and others. This can lead to difficulties in navigating social situations. During the first six weeks of school, we focus primarily on building classroom community, developing self-awareness, and learning how to care for one another and ourselves. This continues throughout the year in large and small group settings. Through the Habits of Mind the children become more aware of how they and their classmates learn. We also use role-play and read-aloud stories to spur discussions about the conflicts and compromises that arise in our lives together.
As the school year unfolds, the third graders in our classrooms demonstrate leadership and caring with their younger classmates. By year’s end the second graders are eager and ready to carry on that role as they look forward to entering the third-grade year and welcoming in the new second graders. Always in the Cranes, Egrets, and Meadowlarks classrooms, there are ample opportunities for partner learning that benefit both ages and foster beautiful friendships as the children grow.