Observations From Second Grade

Second grade provides students with an exciting invitation . . . an invitation to truly dedicate themselves to the language learning that defines us all: listening and speaking, reading and writing. Young students are entering a world of literacy and thinking. A focus has come full circle and we now ask our children to concentrate on listening, an aspect of language arts with which children seem to have the most experience. Good listening, though, is difficult for many children.

Reading, writing, and speaking can be measured. In a sense, there is a product involved.

·       How many pages did you read? How many new words did you record as you read?

·       Did you write a topic sentence? How many details to you have to support your topic sentence?

·       Do you participate in class discussions? Do you speak loudly and clearly? Can you support your verbal answers with reasons?

Listening provides a different challenge. Often, listening is the component through which good reading, writing, and speaking becomes possible. Good and careful listening helps our children become better readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers.

          Children can be challenged to sharpen their listening skills at home as well as at school. Conversation with your child may be the easiest way to practice listening, with a natural “give and take” required for good conversation. Engage your child by asking questions that require more than a single word answer. Start the conversation with, “What was the most interesting thing you learned?” or “What part of your day was the most fun?” Continue the conversation by asking for reasons and explanations.

Of course, keep reading to read to your child! He or she may be able to read his or own stories, but the joy of a shared story between adult and child can provide a chance for your child to practice listening and quality conversation. Taking a break from reading gives your child time to think about an intriguing plot or character, and perhaps reflect on how he or she may connect to an event or feeling in a story.

Practice in reading and writing, speaking and listening can help children to become powerful thinkers. Students who are no more than seven or eight years old can begin to think about their own thinking, and as Dr. Seuss said, “Oh, the thinks you can think of . . .”

Our second graders are learning about their own responsibilities as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners just as they have developed early literacy skills in kindergarten and first grade. The timing is perfect: our second grade children, new to learning, will employ language strategies and demonstrate the qualities of interested, responsible, and life-long learners.

“The thinks you can think of,” said Dr. Seuss, “if only you try.”

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