By Jenny McFerin, Literacy Collaborative Trainer
I have been in several schools recently where teachers are wondering how to best prepare their students for the next grade level. Second grade, specifically, seems to be the greatest area of concern since these children will be moving onto an intermediate grade.
Second grade is an exciting year for readers and writers. They are reading more complex texts than they did in first grade. They have a better understanding of how different genre work, so they are able to write more complex texts than they did in first grade. Often, there is a misconception that instruction in the second grade classroom should look and sound like an intermediate classroom. On the other hand, the misconception can also be that second grade classrooms should operate like a first grade classroom. Second graders need a classroom environment that supports the growth they are experiencing as readers and writers. Too much independence can lead to disengagement and problems with behavior. Too little independence can lead to disengagement and problems with behavior.
Some second grade classrooms have the look and feel of a first grade classroom. Students are rotating through several centers and moving throughout the Reading Workshop. Other second grade classrooms have the look and feel of a third grade classroom. Students are moving less and attempting to read for longer period of time. The most supportive instructional environment for second grade readers and writers is one that transforms over the course of the school-year (Pinnell and Scharer, 2001). As teachers, we need to embrace second graders at the start of the year with more choices and movement during Reading Workshop. This is what they need. As they grow into reading and writing more complex texts, the Reading Workshop changes to meet those needs.
By the end of second grade, the Reading Workshop begins with all students reading independently. The amount of time reading silently should gradually increase as the readers are able to read independently for longer periods of time. A reasonable goal for students is to have 15 minutes of silent, independent reading when reading workshop begins. Students should then engage in developmentally appropriate word study. Last, the students move into more open literacy work where, over the course of the week, they have opportunities for writing (Pinnell and Scharer, 2001).
Celebrate and embrace the changes second grade readers and writers are making! Adjusting the instructional context in the classroom will support these readers as they read longer texts over multiple days.
Pinnell, G.S., and Scharer, P.L. 2001. Extending Our Reach: Comprehension in Reading, Grades K-2.
Columbus, OH: The Literacy Collaborative at The Ohio State University.