In 4th grade, the writing process — brainstorming for ideas, drafting, revising, and publishing — becomes more familiar and meaningful. Not only will your child’s own writing become more sophisticated, she will be able to recognize — and learn from — quality writing in the books she reads. Your 4th grader can now spot the choices authors make with respect to grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, and see more clearly how paragraphs and stories are put together.
Teaching to the Test
In many states, 4th grade language arts tests assess standards for reading, listening, and writing. Two types of questions compose the test: multiple-choice and open-ended. In reading, students read several passages representing a variety of genres, then answer questions that demonstrate their understanding of the passages. For listening, students hear a passage read out loud, then answer comprehension questions. An editing task is typically included in the writing section — in 4th grade, children are expected to recognize grammar and usage errors. Students are also given a timed exercise in which they must write in response to a prompt — either a short passage of text, a poem, or an illustration. For scoring purposes, answers are viewed as first drafts, not polished writing. Generally, achievement levels in 4th grade are broken down into three categories: basic, proficient, or advanced.
Stepping-Stones to Expression
Testing, while important, is not the main focus in 4th grade. The curriculum is still largely devoted to writing in different genres. Cumulative work in “small moment” personal narratives, nonfiction reports (note-taking is introduced), persuasive essays — even how-tos — all teach children how to take their own thoughts, synthesize them into a main idea backed by facts or other details, and organize the work.
Immersing 4th grade students in good literature — in other words, modeling — is another way writing is taught. Teachers use literature to illustrate the grammar and writing conventions that are taught in class. For example, your child’s teacher might point out alliteration, onomatopoeia, metaphors, and similes in works of fiction. Poetry can be used to show surprising word choices, voice, and unusual punctuation.
Learning about point of view is another 4th grade focus. Teachers often use newspaper letters to the editor to help students understand how to write opinion pieces. After reading several letters, children may be asked to write one themselves.
Typical Stumbling Blocks
Although teachers work hard to win over reluctant writers with interesting assignments, writing can still be a struggle. While organization is a problem for most 4th graders, pronoun confusion is fairly typical too. The hes and shes, hims and hers, often get so mixed up that the 4th grade reader has trouble following who is saying or doing what.
Fortunately, 4th grade is full of opportunities for your child to fine-tune her skills and boost her vocabulary and comprehension. The emphasis on reading good books helps — and may even inspire your 9 year old in her own creative endeavors.