Stories and Legends
Fables, legends, nature stories, and folktales provide the story material for the second grade curriculum. Animal and other fables illustrate one-sided qualities and difficulties found in man's nature (laziness, greed and cleverness, etc.). Juxtaposed to the fables are legends of saints and holy people, portraying virtues such as strength, courage, hope, and compassion that can live within the children's imaginations as they begin to exercise social judgment.
Circle activities continue to be an important part of the morning. Singing and speaking are further developed through the introduction of longer and more complex poems, songs, and speech exercises. Movement exercises are incorporated to help integrate the different midlines of the body (left/right, forward/backward, upper body/lower body) and help address issues including proprioception and others associated with the lower four senses (movement, balance, touch, and life). Teachers work to achieve this integration in varying ways. Often classroom activities involve body geography, crawling, spatial orientation, and creating obstacle courses. Math work often involves using rhythmic/limbic coordination with recitation.
The children gradually become more actively engaged in creating compositions with the teacher's lead and perhaps with others or on their own. Some dictation may be given, and the children may write simple, practical letters such as thank you notes, birthday cards, and invitations. Attention is given to cultivating phonemic awareness. Word families and rhyming words may be created verbally, and then modeled in plasticine and beeswax. In addition, vowel and consonant digraphs and diphthongs, consonant blends, and some word endings may be introduced and practiced. Some teachers may begin grammar instruction with an imaginative approach to naming, activity, and describing words. Many others wait for third grade. Likewise, some teachers include some work with punctuation, especially capital letters and periods, knowing this will be revisited in third grade.
Reading from the blackboard and main lesson books continues. The class may read, as a group, from teacher-created books containing familiar verses, poems, and stories. They may also begin to read aloud to themselves and with partners from I Can Read books. Teacher-created reading groups may be established, using both skill-level and mixed-level groups.
Some teachers introduce cursive writing near the end of the year. At Highland Hall, the second grade is responsible for enacting a Michaelmas play about St. George and the Dragon in September. Most classes also perform a play in the spring, usually drawn from the curriculum.
Mathematics work in second grade begins with a review of first grade material, especially the qualities of numbers and the four processes. Manipulatives may be utilized. The children learn to carry out more complicated operations with the four processes. Mental math work is a regular feature. Carrying, borrowing, and place value form the basis for new skills in working with numbers. Multiplication tables are approached in various ways -- through rhymes, rhythms (clapping, stomping and tapping), singing, and word problems. By the end of second grade teachers have generally introduced the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 tables. Estimation may be brought at the end of the year.
The artistic element weaves throughout the curriculum, enlivening all the educational work and encouraging the appreciation of beauty. Painting lessons continue weekly; color experience is the goal, allowing the colors to contract, expand, and move in relation to each other. Specific techniques may be introduced and free renderings occur on a regular basis. Form drawing lessons may include running and rhythmical forms, especially helpful in laying the foundation for cursive writing. The forms become more complex. Some teachers utilize clay exercises that, over a weekly period for three to five months, follow a process of metamorphosis that incorporates working with symmetry.
In their study of music, kinder lyres are often used; children explore degrees of loudness and softness, among other things. The pentatonic flute is usually played several times a week. Teachers may use songs already familiar to the children or write original pieces. Flute playing helps develop finger dexterity and a sense of class cohesion. By the end of the year many children play individually or in small groups in front of the class.
Teachers use different approaches for helping the second grade class to develop socially. Show and tell, morning sharing times, and class meetings are a few times when issues are addressed. Community service projects are examples of some of the ways the children explore their relationships with each other and with the wider community.