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2nd grade English Language Arts tips: Here's how to help your student

Here's how you can help your second-grader master the basics of reading and writing outside of the classroom.

Hoping to help your second-grader with reading and writing skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.

Continue reading with your child

Your child's reading skills are improving steadily and they can now read on their own, but continue to read aloud with them regularly. As you read, stop to discuss what you've read and ask them questions about the content. Don't ask them obvious questions that are spelled out explicitly in the text, such as what color shirt a character was wearing. Instead, prompt them to think about the reasons behind the action. Ask them why a character did something specific or what they think the lesson of the story is so far. These aren't necessarily questions with wrong or right answers. The most important thing is to prompt them to think analytically about what they are reading.

Take turns reading through a book

Your child can practice shared reading with a parent, sibling, or friend. They can read one page and the partner can read the next page. The goal here is to take turns and help each other with words the reader may not know. Each reader must follow along while the other one is reading. This activity helps build fluency, which is very important to becoming a strong reader.

Play audiobooks in the car

If you're planning a car ride of more than a few minutes, consider playing an audiobook. Children model their tones while reading aloud based on the ways in which they hear adults read, and oral fluency is an important skill that begins to develop very early in a child's literacy development.

Encourage questions!

Encourage your child to ask for help when they don't understand a word and help him to try to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words. If a character in a story is described with words that your child does not recognize, work with them to figure out their meaning from other clues in the text, rather than simply providing them with a definition. Children are praised and rewarded so much for showing off what they know, so make sure to praise them for asking about things your child doesn't know. Show them that you also don't understand all the words you come across and demonstrate how you figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word.

Explore different writing styles

Encourage your child to develop their writing abilities and to tailor their writing to different purposes and audiences. Demonstrate how you do this in everyday life. Explain what you're doing as you write a work-related email, reading aloud as you write it and explaining how you're going to use capital letters and be a bit formal in your style. Or, if you’re just jotting a quick reminder note to your spouse to leave on the kitchen counter, explain why you're taking a much more familiar tone.

Incorporate non-fiction books

Make sure to incorporate non-fiction books into your child's reading list, such as books about how plants grow or how machines operate, depending on their interests. If they're interested in dinosaurs and other animals, appoint him the family "animal detective" and have them present a new animal to the family every week.

Use writing skills for birthday invitations

Birthday parties can be a wonderful occasion to make writing fun. Your second-grader can join in the festivities by creating their own invitations to send to friends and family. With your help, they can draw a picture and write the important information about the party: Whose party it is, where and when it will be held, and how to RSVP. Pick out some paper together and either print out the invitations on a computer or make handwritten versions. And don't forget to add stickers and glitter! Your child will love being part of the action.

Encourage creative writing

Encourage your child to get creative with their writing. Encourage them to write a short play, story, or comic book. This helps nurture your child's creativity and also fosters writing ability.

Play word games on the go

Word games are a great way to help your child appreciate the magic of language, and playing with language can start him on the right path toward good writing. Here's one idea to try with your second-grader: When you're driving in the car, taking the bus, or walking in your neighborhood, ask them what they see. Beginning with one of their words, try adding another word that starts with the same letter, like "ferocious fire hydrant" or "tiny tree." See if you can expand by adding more and more words, like "twenty-two tiny tulip trees."

Play letter match

Another easy word game to play at home, in the car, or even just waiting in line is "letter match." Select a category, such as animals, foods, or places. Call out a letter of the alphabet and give your child 10 seconds to think of an item in that category. It's then your turn to think of another item in the category that begins with the same letter. Keep going until one of you misses. So if the category is "animals" and the letter is B, your child might guess bear, then you might guess beaver, then buffalo, and so on. This is a great game for siblings to play with each other. This not only helps your child learn words and think quickly, but also helps condition them for the pressure and anxiety your child will experience during timed testing.

Make a game of using new words

Make a game out of broadening your child's vocabulary. Choose five unfamiliar new words for them to learn each week and see how often everyone in the family can use those words in everyday conversation. This will help improve your second-grader's vocabulary, reading comprehension and speaking skills.

To find out what your second-grader will be learning in English Language Arts class, check out our second grade English Language Arts skills page.

TODAY Parenting Guide resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Joyce Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University; Pamela Mason, Program Director/Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Barbara Stripling, Senior Associate Dean, Syracuse University; Elfrieda "Freddy" Hiebert, President and CEO, TextProject; Linda Gambrell, Professor, Clemson University; and Nell Duke, Professor, University of Michigan, and align with the Common Core State Standards.