Lower School

Grade 2

In grade 2, girls enter as developing readers and writers and mathematicians. In class, they apply their skills and learn to develop the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy. Initially, they are dependent on teacher direction, then tasks are slowly handed over for the girls’ independent application. Second graders have daily opportunities to take on different learning roles: for example, when one girl leads in an activity, she may support a leader in the next activity. Second grade is the year that girls turn a corner in their ability to access and use information. It is a year of inquiry and discovery, as the girls develop the skills to learn more independently.

The Curriculum

List of 11 items.

  • Curriculum Overview

    The second grade classrooms help girls develop specific skills in the following areas:
    • Creativity and innovation
      • Open-ended problem solving
      • Creative writing, use of graphics and illustrations
      • Artistic responses to learning

    • Communication and collaboration
      • Group brainstorming
      • Small group discussions
      • Turn and talk verbal rehearsal strategy

    • Critical thinking and problem solving
      • Independent and group problem solving
      • Discussions 
      • Project based STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Mathematics) experiences
  • Art

    In second grade, students will continue to build on the art experiences from first grade. We will refine our sculpting and manipulation of other three-dimensional materials. Art history will be introduced into the curriculum, including an intense exploration of the Impressionists and especially Mary Cassatt. Printmaking on the printing press will be introduced. Art occasionally joins the Classroom curriculum for special cross-disciplinary projects during the school year, allowing second graders to benefit from the enrichment and depth of an art-infused curriculum.

    Art Curriculum Units for Grade 2
    • Shape/Form: clay birds
    • Size/Scale: plaster marine forms
    • Color: Impressionist painters
    • Line: bookbinding
    • Surface: silk batik
    • Value: portraits inspired by Mary Cassatt
    • Design: printmaking
  • Computer Education

    The goal of the second grade computer program is to empower girls to make informed use of the computer as a responsive tool to meet the specific needs of their academic inquiries. Confidence and independent thinking grow as students work through their assignments. In the earliest grades, they learn to manipulate the hardware. In successive years, they come to embrace the computer as a learning tool, rather than as just a vehicle through which to play games.

    There are eighteen computers in the lab and every child is assigned her own computer, which she uses throughout the school year. The girls use software and the Internet for projects and reinforcement of the topics covered in the classroom in math, reading, science, and social studies.

    Unscheduled time in the computer lab and iPads allow teachers to fully integrate technology with their curricula.

    Second graders are scheduled for two 40-minute classes per week.

    Goals for second grade computer learning
    Students will build on their first grade experiences as their confidence level and expertise grow. Basic computer use becomes second nature. Students continue to develop a positive attitude toward computers as they further realize the value of the computer as a tool. Second graders are encouraged to be more creative and independent in their thinking and in their actions. Proper care and responsible use of the equipment continue to play a role. The software used with the second grade covers areas in language arts (reading comprehension, the writing process), math (math facts, time, money, addition, subtraction), social studies (map skills, physical features), and science (simple machines). Second graders will develop word processing skills through the use of programs such as PowerPoint, AppleWorks, and Microsoft Word.

    Sample units
    Word processing, drawing/painting, basic PowerPoint, safe and effective Internet searches, Internet research, academic skill reinforcement
  • Language Arts

    We believe that at this stage of development, language skills are powerful tools directly linked to self-confidence. Effective communication skills (speaking, listening, and non-verbal) enable girls to make connections and be contributing members of our second grade community and beyond. Reading and writing complement each other in their purposes of making meaning from authors and creating meaning as authors.

    The work of reading is to make meaning from text. Initially, a second grader reads as an individual, drawing on her personal experiences to understand and interpret text. Then, within a group of readers, she shares her personal connections to the text. In these conversations, each student’s understanding is enhanced and enriched by the experiences and comprehension of the text by her classmates. To accomplish this, we have multiple copies of books in a variety of genres: fiction, biographical nonfiction, historical fiction, poetry, and informational texts.

    The students will:
    • Participate in Guided Reading, small group experiences, partnership reading, and Self-Selected Reading (SSR)
    • Listen to, reflect upon, and discuss purposefully chosen Read-Aloud texts
    • Write Reading Responses to demonstrate their understanding of and connection to selected texts in words and illustrations
    • Engage in projects which extend their thinking and synthesize meaning from the text
    • Practice comprehension strategies
    • Learn to use a variety of reading strategies to read new words: phonics, syllables, prefixes, suffixes, words within words, context clues, read to the end of the sentence, and rereading
    • Borrow books from the Lower School and classroom libraries
    • Read for a variety of purposes using fiction and nonfiction texts

    In Writing Workshop, the students develop important understandings about the work of authors. We will study what authors say about themselves and their writing life. In focus lessons, we will read aloud and discuss the decisions writers make about words and punctuation. We will have time to write each day.   

    Other important parts of Writing Workshop include:
    • Reading as a writer
    • Studying the craft and structure of published authors/mentor texts in focus lessons: story in a story, close opposites, slowing a story down, making the ending of a story circle back to the beginning, intentional repetition of words and phrases, use of ellipses…
    • Writing through a process: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, publishing
    • Writing in a variety of genres: personal narrative, poetry, how-to, creative nonfiction
    • Recognizing the difference between what a story is about and how it is written—reading like a reader and reading like a writer
    • Writing for an audience, for a variety of purposes
    • Celebrating published pieces with different audiences
    • Reading and listening to writing to offer suggestions

    Spelling is integral to reading and writing. In second grade, students shift from temporary to standard spelling. We will utilize the following activities to support the learning of spelling patterns and use of standard spelling:
    • Weekly spelling word lists with an emphasis on spelling patterns
    • Direct instruction of the Fry High Frequency words
    • Word study and vocabulary notebooks
    • Word sorts
    • Dictionaries as reference tools
    Zaner-Bloser print manuscript, effective pencil grip, and cursive handwriting will be introduced.
  • Library

    Nonfiction provides the overarching theme for library class in second grade.  Students delve into how nonfiction is presented, learning about such text features as the index and headings. Students have the opportunity to conduct some very basic research toward the end of the year. Although these information literacy skills are the focus of the curriculum, providing rich story experiences is still an important component of the class.

    • To introduce the nonfiction genre
    • To look critically at how information is presented in nonfiction texts
    • To teach students how to begin to research a topic
    • To encourage a love of reading
    Retrieving information
    Literature appreciation
    The Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Program
    This is an annual program for students through grade 8 to read and vote for their favorite book from a selected list. Every year there’s a new list of titles. The list is divided into four sections based on grade level.   

    During the opening weeks of school, the books are presented to the students and they sign up for the titles they’re interested in reading. Participation is voluntary, and no additional work is required—it’s just a chance to borrow additional books.   The purpose of the program is simply to promote reading.

    Any student who reads (or listens to) at least three books on the list is eligible to vote. Voting takes place during the first two weeks of March. Once the votes are sent to Harrisburg and tallied, the book with the most votes is named the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award winner. The author of the winning book is notified. Authors love to win state awards because the award is chosen by children—the intended audience—rather than by adults.

    Students who participate in the program will receive a certificate at year’s end.

    You may view the list of Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards books on The Ellis School Library page or on the library portion of the second grade Haiku page.
  • Mathematics

    Students are given opportunities to develop 21st Century Skills in critical thinking, flexibility of thinking, tenacity, and communication as they work in content areas and STEM projects. Students have opportunities to explore a variety of mental and paper-and-pencil strategies to develop number sense. We encourage and support the students to be risk takers as they try out new strategies and skills to stretch their thinking. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are developed through hands-on activities and math games. Students engage in small group, open-ended explorations. Math homework and take-home math games provide regular connections to involve parents in their daughter’s learning process. In second grade, the girls will practice addition using the Otter Creek Institute’s “Mastering Math Facts” program. The purpose of this practice is to learn the facts to the level of automaticity, which means being able to answer a math fact instantly without having to stop and think about it. An example given by Otter Creek that is a good description of automaticity is, “Students who are automatic in decoding can’t help but read a word if you hold it up in front of them. Similarly, students who are automatic with their math facts can’t help but think of the answer to a math fact when they say the problem to themselves.”

    Content Areas:
    • addition and subtraction (two and three digit numbers)
    • introduction to multiplication and division
    • number stories
    • place value into the thousands
    • number relationships
    • patterns
    • measurement: linear, weight, liquid
    • telling and showing time to the nearest five minutes, elapsed time
    • counting money, making change, consumer math
    • geometry of polygons and lines
    • perimeter and area
    • fractions
    • estimation
    • probability
    • graphs
    • collect, order, and record data
  • Music

    Realizing their individual importance in contributing to group efforts, students will develop their knowledge of and skills in listening, reading, moving, and performing. Stressing independence and leadership in group endeavors builds confidence and leads students to realize that they can make music on their own. Many concepts and skills introduced in first grade are expanded and more detailed comprehension is expected.
    • Eurythmics
    • Vocal Technique / Performance, Lower School Musical
    • Vocal Preparation for Second Grade Play
    • Music of the Impressionistic Period
    • Classroom Instruments: Xylophones, percussion
    • Preparation for Closing Exercises
  • Physical Education

    The Physical Education program at The Ellis School is dedicated to the principle of a “sound body, sound mind.” Through team and individual sports, fitness activities and movement experiences, students will be encouraged to develop leadership, character, teamwork, motor skills, personal fitness, and graceful movement. All students are strongly encouraged to make physical fitness and wellness an integral part of their lives and hopefully the lives of others around them.

    • To help every student become aware of the importance of physical fitness in acquiring and maintaining total wellness.
    • To help students achieve and improve basic motor skills in order to lead active lifestyles and increase fitness levels.
    • To encourage attitudes of teamwork, leadership, and good sportsmanship.
    • To understand that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, and social interaction.
    • To learn new activities and movements that can be done outside of the classroom to maintain physical fitness.

    • Balloons: striking skills, volleyball lead-up games
    • Locomotor: movement review as well as balance activities
    • Beanbag/Koosh: throwing and catching
    • Hopscotch: following rules/procedures, using balance/locomotor skills
    • Soccer: 3 on 3 game with introductory soccer skills and strategy
    • Jump rope: a continuation of individual and group jumping, and annual Jump Rope Contest against grades 3 and 4.
    • Gymnastics: stretches, floor exercise, balance beam culminating in routine creation and performance
    • Basketball: age-appropriate activities using basketball skills
    • Fitness: stations focusing on different components, introduction to fitness terms, such as cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength/endurance, agility, flexibility
    • Tag, novelty games, and team building activities throughout the year
    • Cup Speed Stacking: improves ambidexterity, concentration, and hand-eye coordination
    • Football: throwing, catching, and small-sided flag football games
    As part of the health curriculum, “Stranger Danger” will be included in PE using role play scenarios and strategies for staying safe. Ms. Cook teaches an 8-lesson unit on health. The month of January is "Health Month", when students will spend the first half of PE class in the computer lab researching health topics. The second half of class will be spent in the gym.

  • Science

    The second grade science curriculum fosters the student’s natural curiosity about science through inquiry-based learning. Through asking questions, exploring ideas, designing and conducting experiments, and seeking creative solutions to science challenges, second grade scientists expand upon their ability to understand and impact the world. This approach helps the girls acquire skills and knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of concepts. It allows them to make connections in their learning year-to-year in science and across the curriculum. Each unit of study has a core of essential questions that drive learning. Additionally, the girls formulate questions to investigate as they work on specific science topics. Students are encouraged to explore new ideas, concepts, and problems.

    Learning objectives
    • Utilize the scientific method to observe, hypothesize, make predictions, gather data, and draw conclusions
    • Learn to use a variety of lab equipment
    • Gain the skills of inquiry in relation to course studies and the natural world
    • Use a variety of tools for measurement
    • Classify objects into like groups
    • Apply learned concepts to real-world situations.
    • Develop curiosity for exploring and understanding their world
    • Demonstrate problem identification and problem-solving through scientific inquiry
    The second grade science curriculum explores units in the physical, life, and earth sciences. The second grade units include animal classification, vertebrate classes, space, skeletal and muscular system, simple machines, and energy.

    Field Trips
    Second graders take a field trip to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh as part of our vertebrate unit.
  • Social Studies

    An understanding of communities is an overarching theme of second grade. Early in the year, the second graders participate in a variety of activities designed to solidify a second grade community of friends and learners. By spring their construction of a Metropolitan Community and the simulation of the life and work on the International Space Station help second grade students focus on different communities and how individuals are able to shape and improve those communities. Through these project-based learning experiences, students develop 21st Century Skills: collaboration, creative thinking, tenacity, flexible thinking, communication, and reflection. We follow an engineering design model consisting of the following:  
    1. Find a problem you want to solve
    2. Set a goal
    3. Plan a path
    4. Fail and iterate
    Working as a community, the students:
    • Learn how each person can contribute her talents and ideas to help support the strength and effectiveness of the classroom community and beyond
    • Learn to recognize and appreciate individual differences and diversity
    • Understand how physical features and geography determine size, growth, and infrastructure of communities
    • Appreciate limited natural resources and the importance of renewal, reuse, and recycling in the Ellis community and beyond
    • Become city planners, architects, engineers, and builders as they create a model of a metropolitan community
    • Draw and design maps to understand how cartographers represent the concrete through symbols
    • Practice effective listening and discussion skills in class meetings, current event sharing, and interpersonal support and problem-solving
    • Practice compromise within a group and the democratic process for decision making
    • Share developmentally appropriate current events
  • Spanish

    FLES is an acronym that stands for Foreign Language in the Elementary School. It is an approach to language learning that allows students to develop basic communicative skills in a language while reinforcing and enriching content in other disciplines. The FLES model at Ellis provides kindergarten through grade three students with Spanish and grade four students with French language learning opportunities. Studies have shown that the early study of a second language results in cognitive benefits, gains in academic achievement, and increases in self-esteem, creativity, and positive attitudes toward diversity. Our experience has shown that students are not only able to learn but are also highly engaged in learning content through the target language.
    The FLES program is based on thematic units linked to all content area subjects taught in the regular classroom, i.e., health, science, math and social studies. In addition, the culture of the target language is integrated into instruction through music, art and dance.

    The girls are provided from 20-40 minutes of instruction two times per week. The focus of the proficiency-oriented instruction is on meaningful and purposeful communication. Students are encouraged first to understand and then to produce in the language, with emphasis given to developing near-native pronunciation. In the early grades, there is little focus on written language.

    The theme of grade two Spanish is My Immediate World. This theme integrates the necessary vocabulary and grammar for the student to perform the following skills:
    • Identify key places in the local community
    • describe the services provided in these places
    • identify the professions of the people who work there
    • identify activities that one performs there
    • navigate a map of the community using particular modes of transportation

Co-curricular Highlights

List of 6 items.

  • Author Day

    Each year Ellis invites a special author to visit students in Lower and Middle Schools. Students enjoy a special assembly, and then spend time with the author in smaller groups. Past authors have included Lisa Yee, Sarah Pennypacker, and Kathi Appelt. 
  • Candlelight Recital

    Two recitals are given every year in the Lower School, one in February and one in May. February’s Candlelight Recital has participants from grades two through four who study instrumental music, voice, or dance outside of the regular school day. May’s Candlelight Mini has participants from Pre-Kindergarten through grade one who study instrumental music or dance. Parents, grandparents, and special friends are invited to attend the Candlelight Recital.
  • Heritage Day

    Students in all divisions honor the cultures and heritages of their classmates on Heritage Day. Family tr