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2nd grade English Language Arts skills: Find out what you need to know for your student

In second grade, your child will deepen their understanding of letters, sounds and words.
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Want to help your second-grader master the basics of English Language Arts? Here are some of the skills your child will be learning in the classroom.

Reading & writing

Understanding new words

Understand many new words and use strategies for determining the meaning of unknown words.


  • Use what they understand about a sentence to figure out the meaning of an unknown word or phrase in that sentence (use context clues to determine the meaning of a word).
  • Use an understanding of prefixes to figure out what words mean (e.g. happy/unhappy, tell/retell).
  • Use what is known about individual words to understand compound words (birdhouse, bookshelf, notebook)
  • Continue to build vocabulary related to science (phase, inquiry, etc.), social studies (population, culture, etc.) and math (equal, sum, graph etc.).

Read unfamiliar words with phonics

Use phonics and word analysis skills to read unfamiliar words.


  • Know the difference between “short” and “long” vowels in regularly-spelled one-syllable words – for example: short a (hat) versus long a (rain); short e (bed) versus long e (feet); short i (sit) versus long i (find); short o (dot) versus long o (go); short u (bug) versus long u (cute).
  • Recognize common irregularly spelled words (words that are not written the way they sound) like answer, talk and friend.
  • Read words with common prefixes (un-, re-) and suffixes(-less,-ful) like reuse and useless.
  • Know sounds of common vowel ‘teams’ and letter pairings, ay as in away, ee as in seed, oa as in boat, oy as in boy, etc.

Paying attention to details

Pay close attention to the details in a text, getting information from the words, illustrations, and graphics. Ask and answer questions such as who, what, when, where, how and why to demonstrate understanding.


Who is telling this part of the story? Where does the story take place? What can we learn about the setting of the story from this illustration? How is this story similar to another that we have read? Why did the main character react that way? What, in the text, makes you think so?

What is the main idea of this article? How do you know? What does this diagram show us? Why is this issue important?

Retelling stories

Retell stories, fables, and folktales from many cultures (including different versions of the same tale), and explain their central message, lesson, or moral.

Identifying the main idea

Identify the main idea of informational texts (articles, books about science or social studies topics, etc.), as well as the focus of each paragraph in the text.

Locating key facts and info

Use text features (e.g. captions, bold print, indexes) to locate key facts and information.

Read with purpose and understanding

Read 2nd grade text with purpose and understanding.

Engaging with a variety of texts

Actively engage with a variety of rich and challenging texts to build a foundation of knowledge in literature, science, social studies, and other subjects.

Some sample texts for second-graders:

  • “Who Has Seen the Wind?” by Christina G. Rossetti
  • "Sarah, Plain and Tall" by Patricia MacLachlan
  • "Poppleton in Winter" by Cynthia Rylant
  • "From Seed to Plant" by Gail Gibbons
  • "A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder" by Walter Wick

Capitalization and punctuation

Use basic rules of English capitalization and punctuation.


  • Capitalize holidays (Fourth of July) and the names of people and places, (Dallas, Texas, Main Street).
  • Use commas in the greetings and closings of letters.
  • Use apostrophes to form common contractions (can’t, won’t, don’t), and to form possessives (the dog’s dish, the school’s rules).

Writing structured stories

Write a story with a clear beginning, middle and end and descriptive details.

Writing informational pieces

Write an informational piece which introduces a topic, explains points using facts and details, and ends with a concluding statement or section.

Writing an opinion piece

Write an opinion piece which introduces a topic or text, states an opinion clearly and explains the reasons for the opinion.

Researching a topic

Work with others to research and write about a topic.

Using technology

Use technology to produce and share writing, with guidance and support from adults.

Listening & speaking

Complete sentences

Practice speaking in complete sentences, using basic rules of spoken English. With prompting, refine, expand, and rearrange sentences to express ideas more clearly.


“They lose their leaves.”; “The trees lose their leaves every fall”; “Every fall, when the weather grows colder, deciduous trees lose their leaves.”

Participating in conversations

Participate in conversations about topics and texts being studied, listening carefully to the ideas of others and asking and answering questions in order to gather more information or deepen understanding of the topic.

Explaining key information

Recall and explain key information and ideas from media presentations or books read aloud.

For tips to help your second-grader in English Language Arts class, check out our second grade English Language Arts tips page.

TODAY's Parenting Guide resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts and align with the Common Core State Standards.