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The 5 Most Important Skills for the Beginning of 2nd Grade

Back to School, Fall, Seasonal

Written by: Katie Palmer

Believe it or not, the beginning of the school year is right around the corner! The start of the school year is the prime time to cement routines, procedures and foundational academic skills. This post dives into the top 5 beginning of the year skills for 2nd grade, with ideas for how teachers can focus on these areas during the first few weeks of school.

1. Basic Classroom Procedures


Being organized helps students be more successful. How many times have you heard, “Teacher, I can’t find _______.” To help eliminate this issue, teach students right away where all of their supplies, notebooks, folders and assignments should go. If you Executive functioning experts have taught us that taking a picture of what students’ supply areas should look like is a best practice.

inside my desk student organization chart

Reinforce organization by praising students that have a clean area. Also, allow time for a quick reorganization weekly and review expectations.


toothy task kits

Not Available on TpT


Quick and easy transitions are a must! However, we cannot expect students to have seamless transitions without repeated modeling and practice. Transitions to practice:

  • Coming into the classroom in the morning (more on that later!)
  • Leaving the classroom to head somewhere else in the school
  • Switching between subject areas
  • Transitioning from snack/break time to learning time
  • Coming up to the rug
  • Heading to desks for independent work
  • Starting small group

There are other transition times you may need to address as well. Whatever transitions you teach, model, model, model and practice, practice, practice. Practice these transitions repeatedly at the beginning of the year. (Even if it is not the time for a transition.) All of this extra practice will pay off all school year! Find more transition ideas here: Classroom Procedures

Bonus tip: Lots of teachers have started to use a sound to signal quiet transitions. When their students hear the sound, they know it is time to transition to the next task. Some ideas for the sound: a timer on the computer, wind chimes, a doorbell or the teacher using a call & response (example: Macaroni and cheese/Everybody freeze!).

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Morning Work

An amazing way to get kids entering the classroom without tons of chaos is morning work. Implementing morning work means students know exactly what to do when they enter the classroom. Morning work should be purposeful, not just busy work. Here are some ideas for morning work:

  • Free writing or prompted writing
  • Handwriting
  • Math or Reading review

Here is a GREAT idea for math and reading review that spirals for the whole school year! That means, with this resource, all of your morning work is planned for you.

week 1 spiral math and ela review for 2nd grade

Lucky Little Learners has two options for spiral work: Spiral Math and Spiral ELA.

How to use this resource at the beginning of the year:

  1. Start by modeling how to complete a page. (Teach it as a minilesson.)
  2. Next, complete a few pages whole group.
  3. Finally, start laying out a spiral sheet for the students each morning. They can complete a day of Math and a day of ELA.

As an extra bonus, Spiral Math comes in three differentiated levels. How to choose student levels for spiral work? Once they have completed a day or two, check over their work. If they need a challenge, bump them up. If they are struggling, give them below level for review.

Bonus tip: Some teachers make packets for each month of spiral work, less copying and passing out papers!

2nd grade spiral math student booklet

Best times to use Spiral Math/ELA: Morning work, independent station, small groups

Read more about Spiral Math/ELA here: Morning Work Ideas

2. Foundational Writing Skills

When 2nd graders start the school year, they are essentially 1st graders! This means, they come with 1st grade writing experience. Setting them up for success in writing is essential to be able to tackle bigger writing projects later in year and to help with independent work skills. Here are some foundational writing skills to work on right away:

Writing their name on their paper

Try placing a cup with highlighters or light colored markers near where they turn their papers in. On this cup have a label that say, “Did you remember to write your name?” The procedure to teach is to have them highlight their name EVERY time they turn in an assignment. The goal is that they will instinctively reach for the marker, and will notice if their name is missing.

student name highlighted on a 2n grade math sheet and placed in the teachers turn-in box

Sentence writing

This is HUGE in 2nd grade.They need to learn the basics of capitalization and punctuation, as well as writing a complete sentence. The best way to teach this school is the same as above skills. Model and practice with the I do, We do, You do method.

Lucky Little Learners has a great resource for sentence skills, our Sentence Fixers. This daily sentence editing & writing resource is perfect for teaching punctuation, capitals and complete sentence writing. See it in action below!

A quick look at sentence fixers.

Bonus: Sentence fixers are available in digital or print. The digital version is great for modeling without a document camera.

How to use this resource at the beginning of the year:

  1. Model before you expect students to complete them individually.
  2. Complete a couple days worth of sentence fixers whole group, calling on volunteers.
  3. Make them into a binded booklet, put in a 3 -ring binder or assemble them into a stapled packet to make for less paper passing.
  4. Idea: Have students complete these each morning (or consistent time of the day) and review them as a class. Students will love to see if they are right!

Best times to use Sentence Fixers: Morning work, independent station, writer’s workshop

Read more about Sentence Fixers here: Tips for Teaching Sentence Writing Skills: Advice from Teachers

3. Social Emotional Skills

Like I said earlier, 2nd graders are 1st graders at the start of the year. Teaching SEL skills is a must. While a lot of social emotional learning happens naturally, woven through other lessons, some need to be directly taught. These skills are essential beginning of the year skills for 2nd grade, such as self control, impulse control and responsibility.

Lucky Little learners has put together a collection of blog posts full of Children’s Books, Videos & Activities to target specific SEL Skills. Be sure to check out that collection!

SEL Curriculum

Luckily, Lucky Little Learners has JUST the resource for hitting all of these oh so important SEL skills! In fact, we have an entire curriculum!

an assortment of activities and plans for daily 15 minute social emotional learning lessons

This resource features 12 units of study that can be taught in just 15 minutes a day! Also included: read alouds, songs, videos and more.

How to use this resource at the beginning of the year:

  1. Use the daily lesson planner.

Yep, simple as that!

Best time to use the Social Emotional Curriculum: morning meeting or a consistent designated time

Read More about the SEL curriculum units here: How to Support Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom.

4. Number Sense Skills

There are definitely important number sense skills to hit at the beginning of the school year. Some of these include: addition & subtraction facts, subtilizing, skip counting, etc. It is best to practice these skills daily, perhaps as a math time warm up. Another great strategy is number talks! Check out the sample number talk below. It is a sample of a digital number talk that could be easily adapted to be an in person routine.

Skills Assessment

How to know what your class or small groups need out of number talks? Give them a beginning of the year math skills assessment!

math screener for 2nd grade missing numbers assessment

Using this assessment can tell you specifically what number sense skills each student needs.

Bonus: This assessment is included in the Small Group & Intervention Math Kit, which has resources to target each number sense need! This is a MUST HAVE resource to get your math instruction tailored to your students’ diverse needs!

How to use this at the beginning of the year:

  • Luckily this resource is very guided in how to use it.
  • Give the assessment in chunks
  • Once done, use the data to form small math groups
  • Use the provided games & interventions (many are hands on) to engage students in learning their weaker skills

Best time to use this resource: Give the assessment at the beginning of the year to find out about student needs. Then, use the math interventions all year to target those needs!

Read more about this resource & how to use the data to inform your instruction here: Using Assessment Data to Target Small Group Math Instruction.

5. Independent Reading Skills

Our last beginning of the year skill for 2nd grade we will target is teaching them how to read independently. This is so crucial if you want students to grow as readers and if you want to be able to run small reading groups without interruption. At the risk of sounding repetitive, the way to teach and improve independent reading stamina is modeling and practice. Be sure to have beginning of the year lessons on the following:

  • What does real reading look like?
  • How to choose a spot to read
  • How to choose best fit books
  • What to do when you need a new book
  • How to quiz yourself on what you are reading-stop and ask yourself comprehension questions
  • Five finger rule-if they don’t know five or more words on a page, it might not be the best fit right now.

Label the Books & Bins

When students are successfully able to choose a book, getting them to put it away in the right spot is a whole different story! Good news, is Lucky Little Learners has a great solution for this. (Also, this resource can help in the ENTIRE classroom!)

What is this resource: the Classroom Set-Up, Organization & Decor Mega Bundle! And…included in this resource are library labels!

classroom library book bin labels

These labels can be printed on any color paper your heart desires AND they are editable! This means you can type up a label for each level or genre/theme you wish. You can also create labels for student book bins:

free editable student book bin labels


toothy task kits

Not Available on TpT

These labels are part of a HUGE resource. This video is full of classroom set up ideas!

Best time to use this resource: Label all the things BEFORE school starts! This way students see them and learn about how to keep the classroom organized from day one!

Read more about back to school classroom setup here: Tips & Timesavers for Back to School Setup

We hope this list of essential beginning of the year skills for 2nd grade helps your school year get off to an amazing start! Happy teaching!


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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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