Teaching 2nd Grade – 50+ Tips & Tricks From Teachers Who’ve Been There

Second graders are enthusiastic, curious little balls of energy. They have mastered the basics, and their quest for more knowledge is infectious. Whether you are new to teaching second grade or have been in the classroom for years, it is important to have the resources you need to stay organized, while enhancing the learning environment for your active little learners. We have collected the best second grade tips from real teachers via our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group and beyond to help you make this school year the best one yet!

Table of Contents

Getting Your Classroom Ready

1. Create an inviting classroom

Need ideas to take your classroom to the next level? We’ve gathered real-life second grade classrooms for you to browse!

2. Gather all the supplies

Not sure what supplies you need for your second grade classroom? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this list of essential second grade classroom supplies.

3. Pick an inspiring theme for your classroom

Example of themes for a second grade classroom.

Image source: Schoolgirl Style

Classroom themes our second grade teachers love include: butterflies, black paper with polka dots, chevron, sock monkeys, owls, orange and teal, minions, and superheroes.

4. 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.

Here are some other tips from second grade teachers on finding deals:

  • “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.

Plus, be sure to check out 100+ Brilliant Dollar Store Hacks for the Classroom.

5. 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.

6. Put together an irresistible classroom reading nook

Your second graders are well on their way to becoming readers, so make this time extra special for them by setting up one of these awesome reading nooks.

7. Fill your classroom library with these classic second grade books

Books for teaching second grade: The Camping Trip, Our Friend Hedgehog, Wen Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox, The Buddy Bench, Julian at the Wedding

Teaching second grade involves a lot of reading! Here are 60 of our favorite books.

8. Get a jump start on lessons

Teacher planning and prep time are precious! It makes life a lot easier when you can purchase existing lessons, bundles, books, and pages. And why not support other teachers while you do it! Check out our favorite Teacher Pay Teachers sellers for second grade.

9. Set up and share an Amazon Classroom Wish List

"Create a Classroom Wish List!" on blue background with school supplies for teaching 2nd grade

Teachers spend an insane amount of money out of pocket each year buying classroom supplies. Spend less of your own money to enhance your classroom and curriculum with the Amazon Wish List Feature. This is an amazing and easy way for parents and other members of the community to help you out. Other websites offering wish lists and registries include Target, Oriental Trading, and GiftYou.

10. Stock up on educational toys and games

Collage of educational toys for teaching 2nd grade

Second graders absolutely love hands-on activities, especially when they can do them with their classmates. There are plenty of ways to incorporate educational toys into the curriculum to liven things up, while still sticking to those standards. These games are perfect for centers, indoor recess, and free-time choice activities.

The First Days of School

11. Introduce yourself creatively

Make day one memorable by introducing yourself in a creative way, such as sending postcards over the summer! Here are 30 creative ideas.

12. Get to know each other with icebreakers

Go Fishing Icebreakers printable with colored fish for teaching 2nd grade

Get the kids mixing and moving as they get to know one another. Here are lots of great ideas, including a free download of this fun icebreaker activity.

Create a Classroom Community

13. Draft a class constitution

Example of second grade constitution classroom management.

Image source: Kreative in Life

After learning about the Constitution, students can apply their knowledge by creating their own class constitution called “We the Kids”!

14. Establish a culture of kindness

Free kindness posters with hand holding confetti for teaching 2nd grade

Print these free, downloadable posters to remind your students that kindness matters most of all.

15. Build your students’ social-emotional skills

Teaching second grade means building SEL skills. Use these read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.

16. What does a “model citizen” look like?

Model citizen example for teaching 2nd grade.

Image source: K–2 Is Splendid

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.

17. Encourage good behavior—without giving out treats

Set your expectations very clearly from the start. Start off by reading about classroom management, dive into our second grade classroom management tips, and then check out these fun ideas for keeping your students on track without breaking the bank.

Ideas for Language Arts

18. Incorporate daily writing prompts

We’ve gathered 25 writing prompts that you can download and use to have your second graders practice their writing skills.

19. Use anchor charts to teach reading comprehension

Anchor chart examples for teaching 2nd grade

Check out 40 of our favorites here.

20.  Use digital research tools to write reports

This student is pondering which category to explore on the PebbleGo animal homepage.

Research skills are super important, but they can be quite a challenge to teach to second graders. PebbleGo is a research tool specifically designed for K-3 students, and it covers topics in science, social studies, and more. Check out how one teacher made these animal reports happen using age-appropriate research tools with her second graders.

21. Incorporate fun reading comprehension activities

Reading comprehension activities for teaching 2nd grade including "Toss around a story ball" with a beach ball that says, "Were" and "Why" and "Make a shutter book" with a folded paper book illustrated by a student

Second graders are some of the most enthusiastic readers out there. They are transitioning from the basics into readers looking for meaning. As they build upon their comprehension skills, they are beginning to make connections to themselves and the world at large. These second grade reading comprehension activities will help your students dig deeper into texts on their own as well as with their peers.

22. Introduce chapter books to your students

Magic Treehouse book series for teaching 2nd grade

Help your second graders transition from picture books and easy readers to chapter books. Start by reading aloud a chapter book from a popular series like The Magic Tree House. Your more advanced readers will be able to read these on their own at the beginning of the year, while some will transition midyear. Once second graders gain the confidence to move to the other side, there is no turning back!

23. Fire up your little storytellers’ imaginations

Storyteller story strips in glass jar for teaching 2nd grade

Image source: Education.com Strips

Create a story jar and let their imaginations roam.

24. Introduce your second graders to small-moment narratives

Anchor chart for small moment writing when teaching 2nd grade

Image source: Buggy for Second Grade

Break down the process with this handy anchor chart and then watch them go to town writing.

25. Teach annotation with “thinkmarks”

Thinkmark anchor chart for teaching 2nd grade.

Image source: Simply 2nd Resources

Encourage students to actively engage as readers by printing or having students create “thinkmarks” they can use to annotate text as they read.

26. 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.

27. Have fun with literacy centers

Example of literacy center activities for teaching 2nd grade

We love this big list of ideas for grades K-2.

28. Make phonics fun

Phonics is the foundation for reading success. Breaking words into their constituent sounds helps kids understand and build their literacy skills, bit by bit. Check out these 20 phonics activities!

Ideas for Math

29. Teach time creatively

Second grader drawing clock on whiteboard.

Image source: Elementary Nest

Students can draw different times on a dry-erase clock—just a Hula-Hoop taped on your whiteboard. Or try one of these other 15 methods for teaching how to tell time.

30. Solve a word problem of the day

math problem of the day for teaching 2nd grade

Opening your daily math lesson with a math word problem of the day is an excellent way to set the stage for learning. Word problems are difficult for young learners to grasp, even when the mathematical operation portion of the problem is basic. Incorporate these second grade math word problems one day at a time at the start of your math block to build confidence, critical-thinking skills, and a learning community.

31. Build a number of the day

Student hand with notes and numbers.

Image source: Turnstall’s Teaching Tidbits

Students can build the number of the day by selecting the correct numerals, words, and units.

32. Play math games

Examples of math games for teaching 2nd grade

Here’s a big list of math games that are just right for second grade.

33. Watch math videos

Making math more engaging for kids can be difficult. But teaching math will be anything but boring when you introduce students to some of our favorite subtraction and addition videos on YouTube.

34. Teach shapes

Learning shapes is one of the earliest concepts we teach kids. Shapes ready them for geometry in the years ahead, but it’s also an important skill for learning how to write and draw. Get started with these shape activities.

35. Let your students lead

Second grade teacher Stacey S. shares, “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!”

36. Write in math journals every day

Page from a second grade math journal.

Image source: Smiling & Shining in Second Grade

With math journals, students learn to solve mathematical problems using pictures and words. Check out free entry examples on the blog.

37. Use hands-on activities and manipulatives

"22 Place Value Activities Make Math Learning Fun" with examples for teaching 2nd gradde

Help students learn those tricky math concepts by incorporating hands-on activities and manipulatives whenever possible. Start by trying these ideas for teaching graphing, place value, and solving word problems. There are plenty of other great ideas on our website, including fun holiday-themed activities!

Ideas for Science

38. Get hands-on with science

Science is the perfect subject for kids to get down and dirty. Try these 25 second grade science projects for inspiration.

39. Try daily STEM challenges

These STEM challenges are designed with your second graders in mind. Try one each day or each week to get their minds thinking outside the box.

40. Teach the plant life cycle

Plant life cycle is always a fun science unit. You get to talk about growing, planting, and nature. Plus, students love digging in and getting their hands dirty when they plant a seed themselves. Try these plant life cycle activities.

41. Teach states of matter with this simple demonstration

Blue ice and water for teaching 2nd grade science experiment.

Image source: Education.com

Conduct this hands-on experiment to help students recognize and understand the different states of matter.

42. Conduct gummy bear experiments

Gummy bear experiment for second grade classroom.

In the category of snackable tips for teaching second 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 The Second Grade Shuffle blog.

43. Take a virtual field trip

Examples of virtual field trips for teaching 2nd grade, including "Watch the jellyfish at the Monteray Bay Aquarium" and "See bison and Old Faithful"

Advances in technology have paved the way for virtual field trips, which have proven themselves to be a game-changer. They are a great way to expose students to far-away places, and even places in their own backyard. Check out this list of 31 amazing virtual field trips to get started. No permission slips needed!

Ideas for Social Studies

44. Teach an early lesson on economics

Second grade teacher Jacqueline Q. recommends, ”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!”

My Classroom Economy is a great resource for help getting started,” adds Renee J.

45. Introduce your second graders to American symbols

American Symbols Booklet cover.

This awesome mini-book is FREE!

46. Learn about heroes

Read biographies about famous people in history. Match books to holidays or other commemorations, like Presidents’ Day or Black History Month.

47. Celebrate holidays and special days

The Big List of Holidays and Special Days to Celebrate at School

Second graders love any reason to celebrate. Who doesn’t? This calendar of holidays and special days will give you a variety of monthly celebrations. You will also find links to activities, lesson plans, resources, books, and more for each event listed. You can even download this year’s updated calendar to keep on hand.

Ideas for Classroom Organization

48. Rock your teacher planner

Read these tips for keeping your day, week, and year beautifully organized.

49. Manage work submissions with clothespins

Organization with clothespins for missing assignment work in classroom.

Image source: 2nd Grade Stuff

Having students clip their papers will help quickly distinguish who handed in homework and who hasn’t.

50. 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!

Image source: Teaching in Oz

51. Avoid nameless homework

Highlighters in a mug so students mark their name before turning in.

Image source: Spectacular 2nd Grade

When students highlight their names before handing in work, you’ll never receive a name-free paper again!

52. Make informal assessments easy with these exit slips

Exit slip bulletin board for teaching in 2nd grade classroom.

Image source: First Grade Nest

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!

54. Use a teacher cart

Collage of teacher cart ideas with multiple color styles and uses

This handy teacher cart has so many uses. From the start, it gives you extra storage space. Use it to organize classroom supplies, centers, or just about anything you can think of. It even has wheels, so you can keep it in place to help organize your classroom, bring materials with you around the room, or take it on the go if you travel around campus. A win-win for everyone!

Ideas for Classroom Management

55. 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.

56. Post your students’ morning routine

Having a routine posted that is illustrated and easy to see will help your second graders remember how to start each day independently.

57. Set up cues to keep class noise down to a low roar

Noise level chart with 0-4

Image source: First Grade and Flip Flops

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  24 Good Attention-Getters for Quieting a Noisy Classroom.

58. Get the wiggles out

Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with awesome second grade brain breaks.

59. Use music in your classroom

There are many creative ways to use music when teaching second grade. 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. There are also plenty of instrumental channels and kid-friendly channels on SiriusXM radio, along with similar streamable playlists on services like Apple Music and Spotify. The Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star series has a number of great lullaby versions of some of the greatest rock bands on the planet, providing perfect background music during independent work. Have some fun and play some of your favorite artists, too!

Other Ideas

60. Build positive relationships with parents

Here are ten tips for making working with parents the easiest part of your job.

61. Have students write this fun Who Am I? paragraph for Back-to-School Night

Who am I second grade assignment

Image source: Smiling in Second Grade

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.

What are your top tips for teaching second grade? Come 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.

Plus, check out our guide to the second grade classroom.

50+ Ideas, Tricks, and Tips for Teaching 2nd Grade