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2nd grade ela BEST Standards

What Every 2nd Grade Teacher Needs to Know about the New ELA BEST Standards

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Well… it finally happened. The not-so-old LAFS and MAFS have been updated. And the new standards that Florida is rolling out are called Florida B.E.S.T. Standards. The new BEST standards are hailed as being “Common Core Free” and focus more on what students really should know and less on the extras. But, what do you really need to know about these newly adopted ELA standards, 2nd-grade teacher friend? A few things, actually. This is why I’ve spent the last few weeks pouring over the new ELA standards (those go in effect this year for grades k-2), and today, I’ve compiled a “Need to know” list for you!

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Florida’s BEST Standards

So before we can get into the nitty-gritty of the standards, let’s talk big picture on these shiny new benchmarks. These were created as part of an executive order signed by Governor DeSantis in early 2019. His goal moving forward was to eliminate Common Core in Florida (which was technically already done when we moved to the LAFS… but details, details) and were design to make Florida’s students the leaders in literacy in the nation.

B.E.S.T even stands for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. They are the brainchild of …”Florida literacy experts, educators, and vested stakeholders” (quoted from the FL BEST Standards: ELA document itself). The standards are designed to be user-friendly so that parents, grandparents, or other stakeholders can understand what students are expected to master by end of grade level. Read- no fancy meaningless mumbo jumbo that clouds previous standards.

How BEST Standards are organized

As I was reviewing the PDF document of the standards, I noticed that even though the creators claim these new standards are “completely” different than previous versions, the general organization is the same. Which honestly, I like.

ELA Expectations for Students in BEST Standards

In ELA, there are four strands of mastery standards. This includes:

  • Foundations-phonological awareness, phonics. Normally, these types of standards are reserved for lower grade level students, but the BEST standards expand this aspect to include remediation for secondary students.
  • Reading -which is then divided into 3 subsets: reading prose and poetry, reading informational text, and reading across genres (sound familiar?)
  • Communication– this is where you’ll find standards relating to writing, speaking, conventions, researching, and collaborating.
  • Vocabulary- which only focuses on students working to find meaning.

The standards themselves are designed to be read and understood a bit easier as well. So here’s how to read the actual standards.

The first set of letters is the subject (ELA, Math), then the grade level, what strand you’re working in (remember there are four strands: R- reading, F–foundations, C-communication, V-vocabulary, and EE- Ela Expectations, which we’ll discuss in a minute). Next comes the standard, and the benchmark. This is very similar to how previous standards were written. PTL!

The Addition of ELA Expectations

A huge change that I noticed with the new standards is the addition of the ELA Expectations. These expectations are overarching skills that run through every component of language arts. These are the skills that students should be using throughout their learning journey.

ELA Expectations in the BEST Standards

Upon further inspection, the ELA Expectations themselves are not new or groundbreaking, but I’ve never seen these skills pulled out and highlighted on their own. Think of these as expectations you should have every day when you’re teaching reading.

There are six ELA Expectations. (You’ll find some of the wording similar to standards that were embedded in CCSS.)

  • ELA.K12.EE.1.1– Cite evidence to explain and justify (Sound familiar? CCSS)
  • ELA.K12.EE.2.1– Read and comprehend grade level text (Oh just a reincarnation of the CCSS “Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity” standards)
  • ELA.K12.EE.3.1- Make inferences to support comprehension (we saw this in the 4th grade LAFS)
  • ELA.k12.EE.4.1– Use appropriate collaborative techniques and active listening skills when engaging in discussions in a variety of situations (Oh hi, CCSS speaking and listening standards! So glad to see you made it to the BEST party!)
  • ELA.K12.EE.5.1- Use the acceptated rules governing a specific format to create quality work (interesting… I guess no getting creative unless it specifically says to “get creative?” ? Hmmm….)
  • ELA.K12.EE.6.1- Use appropriate voice and tone when speaking or writing (NICE!)

Now, the details are really in the clarifications and appendices and that applies to the ELA Expectations as well. Appendix A is dedicated to clarifying what each expectation should look like in each grade level band. Obviously, what inferences we expect Kinders to make is going to be very different from what we would expect to see from a high schooler.

2nd Grade ELA BEST Standards: A Closer Look

Alright, let’s actually get back to those ELA standards for 2nd grade!

2nd grade ELA Best Standards

Focus on Foundational Skills

Now, Common Core standards and LAFS are all included Foundational standards for 2nd grade, but often – at least here in Florida – those skills were overlooked in favor of a more “Reading Comprehension” first approach.

With the new ELA BEST Standards, we see a direct line to the importance phonics and foundational skills play in students’ reading abilities. The standards specifically name different phonics patterns second-grade students should know to decode AND spell in addition to words with prefixes and suffixes.

Addition of Sight Words

Now, one of the first changes I noticed when reading through the 2nd grade BEST standards is the addition of sight words. In clarification 2 under the foundational skills, the new standards name that students should be able to decode grade-level appropriate high-frequency words and even state that those words should come from the Dolch and Fry word lists.

Sight words have been a part of second grade on and off for years. When I first started teaching second grade in 2007, we checked sight word progression every quarter. Later years, that practice fell to the wayside, and the focus became on building reading comprehension and only testing sight words if fluency was an issue. Honestly, I’m glad to see this focus back!

Reading Fluency

Although there were fluency standards in previous years, the new BEST standards go into great detail as to what this will look like for a second-grader. This is where we see more focus on teaching phonics rules- GUYS! Think Science of Reading!! Clarifications are also given for fluency norms, and there’s even a sample oral reading fluency rubric!

For reference, the fluency expectation for a second grader is as follows:

  • Fall- 50 WCPM
  • Winter-84 WCPM
  • Spring- 100 WCPM (which is a little higher than the standard 90 WCPM I remember back in the day!)

Reading Prose and Poetry

This section of fiction reading standards feels parred down in comparison to CCSS or LAFS. There are only four standards in comparison to the 10 we found in the LAFS. There is a focus on story elements (with lots of clarifications!) and still the focus on theme and character’s point of view. But we’re missing verbiage that discusses character actions or using illustrations (unless you lay that under the ELA expectation).

My favorite though is the addition of poetry standards. CCSS and LAFS alluded to poetry in their standards, but they never quite came out and said, “HEY! YOU GONNA READ POETRY!” The BEST standards? They totally do, and even add tons of guidance in the clarification section.

Reading Informational Text

Once again, Reading Informational Text is parred down compared to previous standards. Spoiler alert: There are four standards instead of 10.

The standards still include a focus on text features to help with meaning, and even call out specific features students should be familiar with! Don’t worry, there’s a whole section in Appendix B explaining what each text feature is and its importance.

We also still see “central idea,” AKA-main idea, and relevant details (AKA-key details). There’s also author’s purpose and author’s opinion.

Reading Across Genres

This section is marked with standards that students should use with any text. They include interpreting figurative language -heads up! There’s an addition of idioms in 2nd grade. There’s also a standard on Retelling to enhance comprehension. This applies to central idea and details. We also see the reappearance of compare and contrast! You didn’t think we would get rid of that easily, right?

Handwriting and Conventions

So, since everyone is apparently appalled with the handwriting situation of students, there’s an addition of a legible handwriting standard under communication. Make sense to me!

Grammar and conventions are making a huge splash in second grade, too! So if you’re looking for support pieces for teaching all the different called out conventions in the clarifications, be sure to check out this grammar bundle!

2nd grade ELA BEST Standards
Pg 10 of the PDF includes a Standard’s map for easy reference!

Hello book suggestions!

Another key detail of the BEST ELA Standards is the book lists. Each grade level also includes a suggested section of books. I believe districts are expected to incorporate 30% of the titles. The idea is that by the end of high school, students would have read text from every literary period (literally from the classical literature of Plato to contemporary literature from Tennessee Williams).

In general, the books are interesting choices for 2nd grade readers. Here’s a peek at a few of the titles:

Some are new to me, but look interesting- Like Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina. But my biggest surprise was Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne. Like, isn’t that a bit young for 2nd grade?

These are only a snapshot of the titles. There are also poems listed! If you want to browse a full list, you can check out my Amazon book list here!

Now, the actual ELA BEST Standard’s document contains a whole spreadsheet of their suggested book titles, as well as what standard they expect you to teach with them. That’s nice!

2nd Grade ELA BEST Standard’s Take aways

I know this all seems a bit overwhelming. Anytime we have a new standard’s adoption, it always is! But, I truly think the creators of Florida’s new BEST standards have student success at heart, and you do too… so you aren’t that far off. Remember: good teaching is good teaching is good teaching.

These standards seem like a huge change, but really, at the 2nd grade level, they aren’t. If you’re practicing good teaching, chances are you’re hitting these standards! I do suggest you take a moment and glance through the PDF! There’s actually a lot of good “stuff” in there that I believe was missing in standards past.

Best of luck Florida teachers, you guys are gonna rock this standards update!

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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