Welcome! My name is Kathleen Downing, and I am happy to be the second grade teacher at St. Ignatius. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in 2002 and completed my Masters of Education program at Concordia in 2006. This is my eighth year here as a teacher. I also attended St. Ignatius as a student from Kindergarten to eighth grade. This is a wonderful community and it is a privilege to teach here.
Below you will find some of my expectations for second graders and my plans for the school year.
Second grade independence
Second graders are expected to be role models to the younger students in the school. With the addition of Preschool this year, this is especially important. Part of this requires that they be more independent throughout the day. All second graders should be able to walk into the classroom carrying their things, and get their day started on their own. Please help encourage this!
Starting our day
The first bell rings at 8:20. When second graders enter the classroom they have some tasks to take care of right away. After they have unpacked and are settled, they edit a sentence that is posted on the board in their D.O.L. (Daily Oral Language) folders. The second bell rings at 8:30. Please try to have your child here at school as close to 8:20 as possible so they can get their day off to a great start. We start our morning with prayer and the pledge, followed by some songs. Then we move into our calendar program. The calendar program is designed to work on math skills such as money, telling time, place value, and patterning all year long. This year, the calendar has been redesigned for the SMART board, and students will be using math journals to take a more active role in this math review each morning.
Second grade is exciting for most students because they will be working towards receiving two sacraments, Reconciliation and their First Eucharist. We will also be studying the actions, miracles, and parables of Jesus. We receive the weekly magazine, “Good News,” in which we hear and discuss the gospel for the upcoming Sunday. Father Tom will also be visiting our class a couple of times each month. The service learning project in second grade is writing letters to St. Ignatius’ homebound parishioners. We will write letters 8 times this year. I am asking that each second grader bring in 8 postage stamps so these letters can be mailed.
It is very important for all students to practice their math facts this year! The major math skills of second grade are double and triple digit addition and subtraction. (Parents frequently ask about multiplication; multiplication is not a part of the second grade math curriculum; students will learn that in third grade). The skills of double and triple digit addition and subtraction are easier to learn if basic math facts are practiced. Your help at home is essential to your student’s success. We will be assessing speed and accuracy of the math facts to 20 each month. In order to see improvement, skills need to be practiced at home. Please try to either purchase a set of flash cards or make your own at home. “Math War” is another fun way to practice math facts. This game can be found at Learning Palace for a few dollars. We will also focus on place value, time, and measurement skills.
Second graders will study nutrition, weather, magnets, and simple engineering (students will learn and use the Engineering Design Process). We may need some materials from home to be brought into class for some projects. There will also be projects sent home to work on for some of these units.
We will be focusing heavily on map skills this year in Social Studies. Other units include government, protecting the Earth, and our working world. We will also have a current events portion to our social studies curriculum. Students will receive “Scholastic News/Weekly Reader” magazines every week. Another expectation we have is that every student leaves second grade with their address and phone number memorized. This will be practiced throughout the year.
We will spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year learning how to responsibly use the laptops that are on the COWs (Computers on Wheels). The convenience of having laptops this year means that second graders will have more opportunities to practice some basic skills through our computer games and programs. We have a variety of programs we will be using on the computers this year. One, Kidspiration, will be used to supplement other subjects like science and social studies. In January, students will begin using Read, Write, and Type, an introductory keyboarding program that combines basic keyboarding skills with phonics. We use our math program, “Ways to Success,” to supplement our weekly math skills. We will also be working a bit with Microsoft PowerPoint a few times this year.
It is very important that students read aloud to someone every night to improve their skills. Reading is part of the homework every week. Our reading textbook, “Treasures” will be sent home at least once a week for some assigned reading. We are asking that you sign your child’s reading log each week, verifying that they are reading at least five nights a week. We have many resources in the classroom, students are surrounded by so many things that will help them become better readers, but practice at home is still essential! Second graders will have 6 vocabulary words a week that we will study and work with (5 of these will be the spelling challenge words). We will work especially hard on learning to use context clues for vocabulary development. Comprehension skills covered include drawing conclusions, making inferences, summarizing, and sequencing.
Spelling is new to second grade students. Every Monday we will have a pre-test of 10 words and 5 challenge words that come from our vocabulary in reading. This pretest is merely to gauge what each student already knows. Then, throughout the week, we will be practicing how to spell these words. Students should be practicing at home as well; the list will go home on Monday. We will have the spelling posttest on the last day of the week. Many weeks, the spelling words may seem easy, but that is because we are really working on phonics skills that can be transferred to spelling more complex words later on. Phonics goes hand in hand with spelling and reading.
We have journals that we write in each week. We will also be studying the different forms of writing. Students will be expected to edit their own work more frequently. As mentioned earlier, editing skills are practiced daily through D.O.L. Each second grader also has a spelling dictionary that they use in their writing. Students are encouraged to write more independently and to rely less on others to help with spelling, ideas, and mechanics. Handwriting will continue to be practiced (cursive is taught in 3rd grade). Grammar skills that are focused on this year include nouns, verbs, contractions, and adjectives.
Students have P.E. three times a week with Mr. Brobeck: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Second graders do not dress down, but please be sure that they have shoes that they can manage to put on and take off independently.
Second grade has music class three times a week with Mr. MacKenzie: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Second graders receive their homework weekly. On Mondays they will receive a packet of work they are expected to complete during the week. They are also expected to read five days a week for at least 10 minutes, which is to be recorded in the reading log on the packet cover page. Please make sure at least half of their reading time is spent reading aloud. Homework is due on the next Monday. This will give every student plenty of time to complete this work. Homework is not busy work. It is meant to enhance basic skills through practice! This will also keep you informed on which skills we are working on. Homework is not graded because we expect students to get some help each week. We do check homework over to make sure things are completed and done correctly. If students return their work completed on time, they receive a sticker in their sticker book.
We have discussed as a class that they are in control of whether or not they receive this reward. If homework is incomplete, students may stay in from recess that day in order to complete it. It is entirely up to the student to complete their homework on time. Please encourage students to be responsible for themselves.
The Clip Chart
You may be hearing a lot about “The Clip Chart.” This is a behavioral management system we are using this year. Each day, every second grader has a clothespin (clip) that starts on “Ready to Learn.” Students’ clips may move up or down a section based on their behavior and choices in class.
On your child’s birthday (or half birthday) your child may wear free dress. Additionally, store bought treats may be brought in to share with the class. Please make any birthday treats sent in light and manageable. Please do not bring in gifts for students into the classroom. We will send a note home a few days before letting you know when we will be celebrating in the classroom. If the student’s birthday is on a school day, we will celebrate that day, if it lands on a weekend or holiday we will make every effort to place the birthday celebration as close to the day as possible. Another note on birthdays: please do not have your child bring invitations to be passed out at school unless each student in the class will be receiving one.
There will be some different opportunities for parents to help out in the classroom. We will try to give you plenty of notice of any special activities in which we think we may need some extra hands in the classroom. On a more regular basis, we would like to have parents help with reading centers on Wednesdays. We will work with our room representative to have this information sent out through email. Please keep in mind, we send home newsletters at the end of each month to recap what’s been going on in class, please read it carefully, this is where we may also announce some more volunteer opportunities.
The pace of second grade is much faster than last year. We have a lot to cover and it is very important that students are present as much as possible. It is difficult to move through our curriculum when students often miss school. If your child does get sick, please make sure your child is fever free without the help of medicine for at least 24 hours before sending him or her back to school. Please be sure to call the office and let Mrs. Kennedy know when there is an absence.
Advanced notice of anticipated absences is also appreciated. Because lesson plans can change daily it is not possible to anticipate the speed at which we will move through things. School policy is that work will not be provided ahead of time for vacations or long absences.
We appreciate all of the support you give the school and teachers. We look forward to working with you this year!
Kathy Downing and Katie Plass