Anyone who has kids--or teaches them--can tell you that new challenges come with each grade level. In second grade, students encounter more advanced material than they've seen ever before while they also attempt to build deeper connections with teachers and peers. While brick-and-mortar schools provide many of the resources and opportunities needed to succeed in these arenas, supplementing those efforts with online learning can help accelerate a child's progress.
Advantages to an online education at every grade level
In "The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning", senior research fellow Heather Staker notes that online education allows students to work on meaningful tasks such as critical thinking, writing and project-based learning, and to minimize the time spent on low-value manual tasks. Second graders, like all early elementary-school students, are still learning many of the basics--some of which might be considered manual, but not low-value (unless certain material is being taught repetitively to help those learners who may be falling behind). In fact, many teachers in traditional classrooms now use critical thinking, project-based learning and writing as strategies to differentiate instruction to meet the unique learning needs of each student; these same opportunities could be beneficial to students working online.
Some 48 states and the District of Columbia currently support online learning opportunities, according to the U.S. Department of Education. These programs vary in model, but include online education as an enhancement to typical classroom instruction as well as student immersion in full-time programs (either from a home or from a school base). These variant models can be found for second-grade students as well, but parents might find that options generally exist for young learners who can learn from home or through traditional schools that offer full-time or supplemental online programming.
Essential second grade skills
Second grade online programs feature curricula that are firmly anchored to the cornerstone subjects required by national, regional and local accrediting bodies. The basic skills that second-grade students are expected to learn include:
- Language arts: fictional and non-fictional texts, story elements, text features, character traits
- Mathematics: measurement of time and temperature, multiplication and division, positive and negative numbers
- Science: Earth and space sciences, planets and the weather system, dinosaurs, the human body
- Social studies: communities, family history, geography skills including oceans and continents, holidays and cultural celebrations
The distinct difference to going to school online at this grade level is that digital learners acquire this knowledge through technology-driven learning. Learning through this medium can increase the child's opportunities to be creative, become self-driven from a young age and become comfortable in a world that is increasingly technologically-based.
A "not-so-typical" day for a second-grade online learner
Curricula for second graders are building-block based; that is, the basic skills acquired in each unit of study build on one another throughout the year. For example, learning about positive and negative numbers can help students add and subtract integers. Likewise, learning a few American presidents can supply the groundwork for a rudimentary discussion about American government. At traditional schools, students typically learn these blocks in segments, but an online learning program can help students advance in areas they are proficient in or explore areas that interest them in greater depth.
Online second grade programs are typically designed so that students spend about half their days in front of the computer. This time is reserved for reading, completing assignments and receiving feedback from instructors and mentors. Other activities that could be part of the day might be: interactive tours of historical sites, video discussions with classmates and recess in the form of games on a virtual playground.
Guide, mentor and motivator: Your role as a parent
Online learners, especially young ones, will rely heavily on parental involvement to remain successful. Because primary school students have yet to cultivate the skills to be responsible for their own progress, many parents elect to assist their kids in class scheduling and work completion. Parents can also facilitate social interactions for their children through opportunities listed on their school's website or through actual events planned in geographic locations close to students. Second-grade students are also just beginning to be more adept on the computer, but might need to have parents close by should technological problems occur.
Learning through technology holds both intrinsic and extrinsic values for students at any age. In addition to being able to work at their own pace and pursue areas of interest in-depth, online second-grade learners can also increase their computer literacy. This could be an advantage as they discover that technology can be an important component in learning, but also in interacting and advancing in the modern world.