On opening day of second grade, teachers typically face two sets of students: those who read well independently and those who appear not to know how to read at all. Most of the second group seem to have forgotten—during a summer with no reading practice—what they learned during the first grade. Others failed to learn properly in the first place. As quickly as possible, the second grade teacher ’s job is to figure out which children are which and to ensure that all gain or regain the first grade accomplishments.
A major task, then, is to ensure that all students understand the alphabetic principle—and then move on. Teachers can start with short regular words such as “pot,” “pan,” and “pat,” moving on to more complex patterns and words, always with the goal of helping children see the larger logic and regularities of the alphabetic system at work. In third grade, this instruction should extend to spellings and meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and root words.
Beyond securing, or resecuring, these skills, the second and third grade curricula have two major goals:
to help children build automatic word recognition, spelling skills, and reading fluency.
to improve comprehension by building knowledge of words, language structures, attitudes, and conscious strategies required for understanding and using text.
The main goal of this book is to help prevent reading difficulties in young children. For this reason, emphasis has been given to the prekindergarten years, kindergarten, and first grade—a formative and influential time for language, literacy, and reading development.
Certainly, the kinds of activities described in previous sections of this book should be continued and integrated into existing teaching materials—and adapted to the needs of students. In particular, students who are still struggling with the alphabetic principle and decoding skills will benefit from activities described in the first grade section—with adaptations and content for second or third grade.
However, by the time children reach second grade, they have already built up personal histories of successes or failures with reading. In addition, teachers are well into a district-mandated curriculum or published program, and they are expected to continue with the scope and sequence that they have started. For these reasons, it is more difficult for us to offer broad generalizations about what teachers should and shouldn’t be doing. That is why this section does not