Second grade instructional programs in Palo Alto schools are committed to helping each child meet the academic and intellectual competencies expected at this grade level and become an active, engaged learner in a classroom setting. The following summary of the instructional program provides an overview of the second grade year. The second grade program builds on the skills and knowledge children have learned in preceding years. It encourages critical thinking, creativity, and respect for self and others. The manner of instruction—motivation, grouping, pacing, reinforcing, and reteaching—is determined by each teacher as he or she works to meet individual student needs. Expectations are, of course, modified or expanded to meet a child’s needs and abilities.

Curriculum standards are what all grade-level students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of a school year. Key standards of second grade education are highlighted below. All K-5 teachers will continue efforts to fully implement the California Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by making strategic instructional shifts in both English Language Arts and Mathematics. During this transition year, teachers will refer to the existing California State Standards and the newly adopted California Common Core Standards. Instruction will be adjusted to best meet the needs of their students.

Language Arts

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language Arts

As part of the shift to the Common Core State Standards, students will be working toward College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards (CCR) in language arts. These anchor standards describe the skills of graduating twelfth grade students, and are all included in the specific kindergarten through fifth grade standards at the appropriate developmental level for each grade. There are ten standards for reading, ten for writing, six in the area of listening and speaking, and six in language. These standards include reading closely for deeper meaning, analyzing details, interpreting and using evidence, integrating and evaluating content from various multimedia sources, writing routinely over extended time frames for different purposes using different forms of technology (including the internet), and more.  For a list of the specific 32 kindergarten through 15th grade language arts College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards.


  • uses a variety of strategies to decode
  • reads aloud with fluency (pace, expression, and phrasing)
  • reads grade-level materials independently
  • summarizes and gives the main idea of a story
  • knows and uses text features
  • asks and answers such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text
  • compares and contrasts two or more versions of the same story by different authors
  • compares and contrasts the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic

Writing/Word Work

  • writes legibly
  • applies knowledge of phonetic spelling patterns and high-frequency words to written work
  • writes complete and varied sentences
  • composes with interesting, specific words
  • begins to revise written work
  • edits own work for conventions, using correct capitalization and punctuation
  • writes narratives recounting a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, includes details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings
  • writes opinion pieces including an introduction, support, linking words, and a concluding statement
  • writes informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide closure


  • actively listens to speaker
  • follows agreed-upon rules for discussions
  • follows multi-step directions
  • makes relevant comments and questions during discussions

The major shifts in mathematics education for all grade levels are the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  These standards are the same for kindergarten through 12th grade students.  The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should focus on in developing their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education.  The 8 Math Practice Standards emphasize the importance of students’ ability to explain and apply mathematical concepts to solve a range of complex problems. The 8 Math Practice Standards also emphasize how to precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning, and critique the reasoning of others.

Math Practice Standards

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

For more information about the Common Core Math Practice standards visit

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

  • determine whether a group of objects (up to 20) has an odd/even number of members
  • knows the addition facts (sums to 20) and commits them to memory
  • knows the corresponding subtraction facts for addition facts (sums to 20) and commits them to memory
  • translates story problems into number models using addition and subtraction and solves them
  • uses repeated addition, arrays, and counting by multiples to do multiplication
  • uses the commutative and associative rules to simplify mental calculations and to check results

Number and Operations in Base Ten

  • skip counts 2s, 5s, 10s and 100s
  • counts, reads, and writes whole numbers to 1,000 and compares numbers using place value
  • recognizes, names, and compares fractions of a whole and part of a set
  • uses a variety of strategies to estimate, calculate, and solve problems involving addition of two- and three-digit numbers
  • uses a variety of strategies to estimate, calculate and solve problems involving subtraction of two-and three-digit numbers

Measurement and Data

  • collects numerical data and displays it on a picture or bar graph
  • describes and classifies plane and solid geometric shapes according to their attributes
  • solves problems using combinations of coins and bills
  • measures the length of an object to the nearest inch and/or centimeter
  • uses addition and subtraction within 100 to solve word problems involving lengths
  • determines the duration of intervals of time in hours
  • tells time to the 5 minute intervals and knows relationships of time


  • partitions circles and rectangles into 2, 3, or 4 equal shares
  • recognizes, draws, and identifies shapes having specified attributes

Problem Solving and Mathematical Reasoning

  • makes decisions about how to set up a problem: determines approach, materials, and strategies
  • makes precise calculations and checks validity
  • solves problems and justifies own reasoning by drawing, writing or verbalizing answer



In Science, PAUSD uses the Full Option Science System (FOSS) program K-5. The program features a life, earth, and physical science hands-on unit at each grade level.  Teachers strive to integrate reading, writing, and math within Science. By focusing on informational writing and non-fiction text Science aligns more closely with reading and writing.  California has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and PAUSD is currently exploring these new standards and how they will influence teaching and learning.



Life Science

Earth Science

Physical Science


Animals 2 x 2


Wood and Paper


Plants and Animals

Air and Weather

Solids and Liquids


Insects and Plants

Pebbles, Sand and Silt

Balance and Motion


Structures of Life/Baylands

Sun, Moon and Stars

Matter and Energy



Solid Earth

Magnetism and Electricity


Living Systems

Water Planets

Mixtures and Solutions


Scientific Process Skills

  • Make predictions based on observed patterns rather than random guessing
  • Compare and sort common objects according to two or more physical attributes (e.g., color, shape, texture, size, weight)
  • Write or draws descriptions of a sequence of steps, events, and observations
  • Use magnifiers to observe and draw descriptions of small objects or small features of objects
  • Follow oral instructions for a scientific investigation

Physical, Life, and Earth, Science standards encountered through participation in units of study: Balance and Motion, Insects and Plants, and Pebbles, Sand and Silt

  • Know that the motion of objects can be observed and measured
  • Understand the way to change how something is moving is by giving it a push or a pull.  The size of the change is related to the strength, or the amount of force, of the push or pull
  • Know objects fall to the ground unless something holds them up
  • Understand that plants and animals have predictable life cycles
  • Know many characteristics of an organism are inherited from the parents.  Some characteristics are caused or influenced by the environment
  • Know there is variation among individuals of one kind within a population
  • Know how to compare the physical properties of different kinds of rocks and know that rock is composed of different combinations of minerals
  • Know that smaller rocks come from the breakage and weathering of larger rocks
Social Studies

Palo Alto Unified School District adopted Social Studies Alive! by Teachers Curriculum Institute. This program is aligned with the California History Social Science Frameworks and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

This program truly engages students in learning. Student will be an active participant instead of a passive observer by experiencing history through imaginative teaching practices that include dramatic role playing, creative simulations, dynamic group projects, and writing from a historical perspective. Student’s program contains exciting lesson games, audio tools, and drawing activities, as well as an Interactive Student Notebook.

Social Studies Alive! My Community teaches students the basics of geography, economics, and citizenship in the context of learning about their local community.

Visual and Performing Arts

Visual Arts

  • Perceive and discuss differences in mood created by warm and cool colors
  • Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of art media, such as oil pastels, watercolors, tempera, crayon rubbings and collage
  • Depict the illusion of depth (space) in a work of art, using overlapping shapes, relative size, and placement within the picture
  • Identify and discuss how art is used in events and celebrations in various cultures

Music and the Performing Arts

  • Read, notate, listen to and describe music
  • Sing songs with accuracy and use hand percussion instruments to play rhythmic and melodic ostinatos
  • Sing and play songs from diverse cultures
  • Make judgments about the quality of a musical performance
  • Describe how music communicates ideas and moods
Physical Education
  • Run, skip, slide
  • Increase ball control capacity; bounce and catch a ball several times
  • Jump rope
  • Participate in group games
  • Demonstrate good health practices (e.g., nutrition, exercise, rest, health care)
Library Media Program
  • Information Literacy: Students learn to find, evaluate and use information in meaningful and responsible ways
  • Library and Information Usage: Students learn to practice ethical and responsible behavior
  • Literature Appreciation: Students learn to choose, enjoy and respond to a wide variety of literature