Second grade

In second grade, students apply new confidence and new skills to an ever-expanding world that now extends beyond the confines of Gordon's campus. Along the way, they get a tangible sense of their own ability to make an authentic impact on the world around them.

In second grade, students have their own assigned desks for the first time, which include storage space for all their supplies, signalling a new autonomy—and new expectations around personal organization. This organization will be tested in the spring, as they draw together notes and artwork to create their first extended research paper on marine animals.

Second grade includes a year-long partnership with Save the Bay that grounds much of students' academic work in social and ecological issues that allow students to become advocates for positive change. Students host Save the Bay educators and scientists in their classroom to discuss their work, and, for their first-ever Gordon field trips, they visit Save the Bay sites to do some primary fact-finding of their own. This work is all firmly centered in a sense of the direct impact that students' choices can have on Narragansett Bay (and the Gordon pond and spring that feeds into it).

The second grade's work on the Gordon School Multicultural Picture Book Award is another connection between academic work and the world beyond Gordon. In a close partnership with classroom teachers, Gordon's librarian introduces students to the well-established world of children's book awards, and challenges them to create their own criteria for a multicultural picture book award. Students then dive into stacks of new picture books, evaluating them from a fresh perspective informed by their experience creating their own books in first grade, and their experience as valued members of a beloved community. It's a yearlong process with a long list of honorees, several of whom have received the honor in person during visits to campus.

In the hallways, second graders practice being courageous advocates by leading poetry breaks throughout April. In celebration of National Poetry Month, students select favorite poems, pair up, and visit classrooms and offices across the campus, interrupting lessons and meetings by offering to read some verses as a poetry break. The entire school listens graciously, but the challenge of approaching adults and older students is very real for most seven-year-olds. They're buoyed by their emerging confidence as readers, by their love of poetry, and by a community that is invested in their success.


Language arts

The second grade language arts curriculum integrates verbal and written expression into every subject area. The second grade reading program has three facets: instructional, when the emphasis is on decoding, fluency, and comprehension; independent, when students self-select literature to read independently; and read-aloud, curriculum-related literature that is chosen by the teacher. 

Children learn the fundamentals of sentence writing, and these are applied in original stories, book summaries, and journal writing. Emphasis on the writing process, student choice, and individualized instruction through the Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop model ensures that a solid foundation is laid for students to become confident and independent writers. Conventional spelling concepts are taught through phonetic pattern lists, games, oral dictation, and sentence writing. 

Both second grade classroom teachers are trained in the Orton-Gillingham Approach, a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals. 

Written language structure is taught through  the Framing Your Thoughts curriculum and focus primarily on sentence structure, learning sentence parts and how they function to create more complex and rich writing. Children begin to build upon their knowledge of conventional spelling concepts and sight words. 


In second grade, Gordon's Math in Focus curriculum requires children to think critically and abstractly about problems and their solutions and encourages curiosity, collaboration, and real world problem solving. In-depth lesson plans provide students with multiple approaches to concepts in order to reach mastery. Concrete, pictorial, and abstract activities are used to introduce and reinforce concepts. Students work both independently and cooperatively to develop a range of strategies to solve problems. Students continue to strengthen their addition and subtraction skills using real life problems that involve numbers up to one thousand. They are introduced to multiplication, division, fractions, measurement and bar modeling. Students are provided with differentiated material so that each student is challenged and supported appropriately. Hands-on games and activities are used to keep math fun and interactive.


In second grade, hands-on projects provide opportunities for children to gain a sense of ownership over their understanding. They observe, ask questions, and record results as they engage in the scientific method and investigate their world. They explore and observe various aspects of seeds, and they are introduced to terms such as “seed diversity,” “seed structure,” and “seed germination.” Second graders also construct knowledge about physics and states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases. Engaging in a variety of experiments and observations, they learn to identify different states of matter and grapple with ambiguous materials. Second graders demonstrate their learning by recording their information with drawings, written lists, and iPad booklets.

Second graders work on developing their skills and attitudes as young scientists completing lessons in robotics, earth science and engineering. During the robotics unit, students performed programming challenges with increasing difficulty. They use rotation sensors and timing sensors to direct their LEGO robots, and they design and build submersibles to retrieve submerged packages in water in a unit drawn from the Engineering is Elementary unit developed by the Museum of Science in Boston. 

Social studies

The second grade social studies curriculum is organized around the relationship between the child and the many communities of which they are a part. 

Morning meeting continues to be an important routine where students gain practice speaking, listening and asking questions and children have an opportunity to learn more about each other as an important aspect of empathy and building community.

Students are introduced to the five themes of citizenship—honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage—during their work on the multicultural picture book award. Students also become familiar with current day activists and leaders in the school community. This work is a part of every day in second grade, sparking relevant conversations in a variety of classroom and playground contexts.

Standing up for themselves, and advocating for others, are important parts of the second grade social studies curriculum. Second graders are encouraged to think beyond themselves to consider how they might create positive change in the broader community. Science work on animal habitats and how human activity can impact the health of the planet connects with the work of local nonprofit Save the Bay, enabling students to get direct experience in being stewards of the earth.

Developing social-emotional competency skills is a key aspect of daily life in second grade. Through programs called Open Circle and Responsive Classroom, the children learn to build friendly, supportive communities within classrooms. These approaches to classroom and school-wide management encourage the development of children’s responsible independence.


Students continue to build vocabulary through songs, games, stories and hands on activities as they explore cultures, literature and practice basic grammatical structures. Students practice their Spanish by writing and illustrating stories, performing skits, and communicating with their classmates and teacher in Spanish. They see how many families shift seamlessly between Spanish and English in books such as: “I love Saturdays" and "Domingo.” They hear their teachers communicating in Spanish with each other, and learn first hand from Spanish speakers who visit the classroom from both within and outside the Gordon community. 

Heritage Language
Gordon's Heritage Language program is for children in Nursery to fourth grade who come from Spanish-speaking households. Students meet with their Spanish teacher to share stories and play games in Spanish. The active and experiential learning environment hopes to develop a sense of affinity and community by having children share their stories and cultural traditions of Gordon's Spanish-speaking community. Heritage Language meets during the school day for Nursery to first grade, and after school in second, third and fourth grade.

Physical education

The Lower School physical education curriculum includes an introduction to fitness activities, locomotor and manipulative skill work, and cooperative games. Students engage in conversations about inclusivity, gender, gender roles, and the impact of gender stereotypes. The primary objectives of the physical education program in Lower School is to reinforce fitness and wellness goals that encourage healthy lifetime decisions and to provide opportunities for students to improve their psychomotor development. Each class presents students with appropriate warm-up, fitness, instructional and closing activities while also challenging children to become self-motivated, reflective and responsible regarding their individual participation. Ultimately, Lower School physical education students should become aware of their movement potential, move competently and confidently and learn to value healthy play in cooperative and organized settings.


In the Lower School, students continue to meet weekly with the librarian to explore the collection and discover the variety of genres, authors, and texts. Gordon's collection of multicultural fiction, nonfiction, multilingual, and bilingual books provide entry points for students of a variety of backgrounds, interests and experiences. Students are introduced to the language developed by literary historian Rudine Sims Bishop, in which books are described as windows, mirrors or doors, depending on how the reader identifies with the worlds depicted in each book.

The Joukowsky Family Library supports second graders as they continue their discovery of the world of fiction and non-fiction. During each visit, students meet in the Story Grove for a read-aloud period relating to topics being discussed in library or the classroom. Individual book selection of two titles per student focuses on supporting, sustaining and nurturing emerging readers and newly independent readers as well as confident readers. In addition to their scheduled library time, students visit the library with queries and requests for books that support grade level bilingual studies, multicultural literature, and research into such topics as the Narragansett Bay and its inhabitants. 


Second grade music builds on previous years. Children read, sing and compose rhythmic and melodic phrases using solfege and rhythmic syllables. They work on listening and moving to the steady beats of songs as well as responding to musical phrases. Musical games help students prepare or practice new musical elements. Students play patterns and decode melodies on xylophones and other Orff instruments. Students learn to sing and play in two-parts, using rhythmic ostinatos and singing in a round.

Second graders become confident musicians, learning to read, write, sing and play increasingly difficult songs and building an extensive repertoire of songs, games and folk dances. Rhythmically, students can read, write, compose and play simple rhythms of quarter notes, paired eighth notes, half notes and rests. Students explore rhythmic and melodic improvisation on drums, boomwhackers and xylophones. Second graders also learn to play multiple layers of rhythmic patterns on various instruments. Melodically, students can read, write, identify, sing and play do, re, mi, so and la patterns. Students explore musical form, and move and improvise while listening to several classical music examples. 

Visual arts

The Lower School visual arts program presents students with a series of experiences that develop their abilities in a range of media, skills, and concepts. In a studio environment that fosters creativity and independence, children are nurtured perceptually and aesthetically. They are taught skills in a variety of materials and techniques. The understanding of the elements and principles of design are developed as the basic formal ingredients for creating images and objects. Drawing from observation, memory and imagination requires looking for subtleties and details. An exposure to the works of artists in world history provides students with rich inspiration and knowledge of the artistic heritage of many cultures.

Second graders enjoy one-day art challenges to enhance skills in problem solving, creativity, and higher-order thinking. Color mixing concepts, proportion and observational skills are developed through still life collages, drawings, and paintings. Inspiration and content comes from a variety of people and places. Every student has their artwork presented in the annual art show.