As members of the “upper” grades of elementary school, 4th graders deepen their learning and skills, preparing them for middle school. Fourth graders are still viewed as and learn as elementary school students do. Developmentally, most 4th graders are very much still children; they enjoy and learn from play and thrive in nurturing and warm environments. However, the content of most 4th grade curricula pushes students to think, analyze, and learn in more sophisticated and structured ways. Students are taught to deeply think about and make connections in what they read and learn; write with clarity, flow, and structure similar to that of traditional essays; and learn more complex concepts across all subjects. In addition, 4th graders are encouraged to be more independent in their learning, depending less on the teacher‘s guidance and researching, planning, and revising their work more by themselves.
The 4th grade classroom is structured like most elementary school classrooms, with desks or tables for the students and usually an area for lessons, class meetings, and discussions. There are often also areas or centers dedicated to different subjects of learning. For instance, there may be an area with all of the math tools and supplies, as well as a class library dedicated to reading. Technology is a crucial part of the 4th grade classroom, as students use it for extensive writing and research.
Reading in 4th Grade
Much of the 4th grade reading curriculum teaches students how to analyze the books they read. Rather than just understand the plot and information given in a text, students are encouraged to think about the messages in a text and how it relates to their own lives. They also compare texts to each other and make connections both within one text and across multiple texts. In short, 4th graders begin to learn how to “think” and talk about a text in order to find their deeper meanings and messages. This is done both with texts students read independently and texts read by the whole class or smaller groups of students. Teachers may often use a class read-aloud to show students strategies for thinking about and analyzing what they read, encouraging them to do this in their own reading. Students also do this as they write in more detail about the texts they read.
In order to build reading skills, your 4th grader:
- Uses specific examples from the text to explain characters’ motivations, main events, central themes, or ideas about a text.
- Uses the context of a text to determine the meaning of a word.
- Understands and can explain the differences between narrative prose, drama, and poetry.
- Identifies and refers to the different parts of poems and plays, such as verses, settings, and characters.
- Interprets and connects information from illustrations, graphs, charts, or other sources related to the text.
- Identifies, compares, and contrasts different perspectives from which texts are written. (For example, 1st and 3rd person).
- Compares and contrasts the way different texts address the same issue, theme, or topic.
- Makes connections between people, events, or important ideas in a text.
- Uses previous knowledge to read unfamiliar multi-syllable words.
- Reads grade-level texts with accurate comprehension, pacing, and expression.
- Read and Research Together: Read the same book as your child independently, together, or a combination of both. Talk about the books as you read them, reviewing main ideas and plots and expressing your opinions on the book. Then read an additional book or books on the same subject and compare and contrast how the books both dealt with the same issue. For example, read two fiction books about family, or two different texts about the same historical event or non-fiction topic.
- Compare Perspectives: Read two texts, one that is first-hand and one written in third person about the same event. Talk with your child about the differences and why she thinks these differences exist. Or try this yourself! After sharing an event with your child, each of you can write about it from your own perspective. Or choose an event one of you experienced first-hand that both of you can write about individually. Talk about the differences between what you wrote to gain a better understanding of perspective.
- Read magazine and newspaper articles, focusing on illustrations, graphs, or charts. Point out to your child what they show, ask her to help you interpret them, and discuss how they help explain or elaborate on the text.
Writing in 4th Grade
Much of the 4th grade writing curriculum focuses on developing writing, specifically so that it has clarity and structure and uses reasons, facts and, details to support and strengthen students’ arguments. Fourth graders are taught to organize their writing, ensure that it has a flow, and group together related components. In addition, as students are taught to think more deeply about concepts, they are encouraged to write in deeper ways as well. They do this by going beyond simply stating the facts; they express ideas, make connections, and provide details and emotions when appropriate.
In order to build writing skills, your 4th grader:
- Writes opinion pieces that express a point of view; have an introduction, a conclusion, reasons, and facts to support the opinion; and group together related ideas.
- Writes informative/explanatory pieces that present information on a topic, use facts and details, group together related topics; provides introductions and conclusions in these pieces.
- Writes narrative pieces that use specific details, descriptions, and dialogue to convey a real event; includes an introduction and conclusion in each piece.
- Plans, revises, and edits his writing.
- Uses technology to publish, research, and communicate with others under the proper guidance of an adult or teacher.
- Types with beginning accuracy and ability (for example, types one page of text within one sitting).
- Completes research projects by taking notes, organizing them, and presenting them; lists the texts and resources used.
- Writes for both long (over weeks) and shorter (one sitting or a couple of days) periods of time.
- Ask Why: When your child expresses his opinion or states his ideas about something, ask him why he thinks that or how he knows it to be true. This will help him learn to support his opinion with reasons and/or facts. Do the same when you express your opinion or ideas about something.
- Practice Typing: Encourage your child to practice his typing skills. Use typing games or make up your own games such as giving your child a word to spell and timing how fast he can type it.
- Email with your Child: Set up an email account for your child and write emails describing your days to each other. Include details, conversations, thoughts, and emotions you had. This can be done in addition to generally encouraging (and supervising) your child’s use of technology — helping him use it for research, writing, and communicating with others. As always, be cautious of your child’s technology use by monitoring and supervising how much it is used and with whom he communicates.
- Practice Note Taking: When you and your child go somewhere like a museum or on a trip, or even when you or child just talks about something interesting or of importance, pretend to be reporters and take notes. Both you and your child can take notes and then use those notes to later describe what you learned. You can even relay your “reports” as a newscaster would on a news show.
Math in 4th Grade
In 4th grade, students master and further their multiplication, division, and general computation skills. They learn how to solve real-life word problems using the four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and larger numbers. By the end of the year, they are also expected to do all of these operations with greater accuracy and speed. They need not speed through their work, but they need to be able to do it at a pace that shows they understand how to solve a problem without going through too many steps and with a relatively quick sense of how to do it. In addition, 4th graders are encouraged to explain how they solve problems in detailed and specific ways (verbally and through writing), which also helps them practice their writing and analytic skills. In 4th grade, students still use visuals, math tools, and manipulatives (such as base blocks, fake money, dice, and shapes), especially to learn and explain how they solve problems with fractions.
In order to build math skills, your 4th grader:
- Uses addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to solve word problems, including word problems that require multiple steps and computations.
- Adds and subtracts multi-digit numbers.
- Multiplies a number that has up to 4 digits by a 1-digit number, (for example, 2345 x 6) and multiplies two 2-digit numbers by each other, (for example, 13 x 16).
- Solves division equations with remainders.
- Solves word problems that measure distance, time, size, money, area, and perimeter.
- Predicts answers to word problems and equations based on knowledgeable estimation.
- Understands the concepts of and learns the multiples and factors for numbers 1-100.
- Follows a pattern or set of guidelines to determine a number. For example: Start with 5. Add 3 five times and subtract 1. What number are you left with?
- Compares and explains why one fraction is bigger or smaller than another using visuals and/or common denominators.
- Begins to add and subtract fractions, including within word problems.
- Begins to write and compare fractions as decimals.
- Reads and writes multi-digit numbers using bases of ten and expanded forms. For example: 4,538 = 4 thousands, 5 hundreds, 3 tens, and 8 ones.
- Compares multi-digit number using < and >.
- Rounds multi-digit numbers to any place.
- Creates and uses graphs to represent data and answer questions (specifically, creates line plots).
- Begins to learn about, measure, and decipher the angles of a shape.
- Explains her thinking and how she solves math equations and word problems both verbally and through writing.
- Appoint a Family Mathematician: Now that your child is very capable in her math skills, take advantage of the opportunities available for her to help solve math problems you encounter in everyday life. For example, ask her to figure how much change you will receive, what measurements you need for carpeting a room, or how much of an ingredient you need when you are doubling or tripling a recipe. Make your child the family mathematician!
- Create Math Riddles: Make up your own math riddles for each other, in which you provide set guidelines and ask each other to find the final number (as explained in the bullet points above). For example: “Start at 39. Subtract 4, divide by 7, and add 6. What number are you left with?” You can do this for your child, and your child can do this for you! Change things up a bit and give your child a number to end up with and ask him to create a riddle with at least three steps, and use different operations, that would leave you with this number.
- Make Predications: Give your child (and have your child give you) difficult math equations. Ask each other to predict your answers using estimation and then explain how you developed this prediction. Then solve the problems and see whose guess is closer to the correct answer. Do this for a few problems and keep score.
- Make a Multiples and Factors Treasure Hunt: Write numbers on small cards and hide them around the house. Ask your child to find all the factors or multiples of a certain number. Be sure to include some numbers that are not multiples and factors; when your child finds those she should leave them where they are.
Science in 4th Grade
Fourth graders take their science skills further as they conduct experiments and use these experiments to further their learning. In addition, the reading and writing work 4th graders do greatly supports their science learning—they read non-fiction texts, take notes, research, and support their writing with facts. In fact, some 4th grade students might write informative or opinion pieces about a scientific topic they study. As in other grades, the specific topics studied in science vary by state. However, common topics studied in 4th grade include: earth and space; plants; the cycle of life; animals; electricity and magnetism; and motion and sound. Students also often learn about these topics in relation to their location and where they live. Consult your child’s teacher or research your state’s science standards for more details.
In order to build science skills your 4th grader:
- Conducts experiments using the scientific method (there are many different ways people present "the scientific method," but here's a basic example):
- Questions, observes, and researches
- Develops a hypothesis (based on observations and research)
- Makes predictions
- Develops a conclusion
- Develops further questions to research and experiment with based on previously done experiments and previously realized conclusions.
- Writes about and orally presents the findings and conclusion of an experiment.
- Researches and takes notes on information on a variety of topics using both text and digital resources.
- Collects and uses data to support experiments and what he learns.
- Experiments with different types of materials and different states of matter such as solid, liquid, and gas.
- Works independently, in partnerships, in small groups, and as a class to conduct experiments and create projects.
Science Activities: 4th Grade
- Experiment: Find something that interests your child, such as the weather, plants, a garden you may be growing, sound, or motion. Work with your child to use the scientific method as described above to learn about and experiment with this project. Record each step, beginning with research and ending with the conclusion. You can also do more experiments based on questions or observations that come from your experiment.
- Hypothesize: Before doing anything, such as adding one liquid to another or putting something in the water, ask your child to hypothesize what she thinks will happen. Ask her to explain why she thinks this.
- Take a Hike: Visit a local park or hiking site and encourage your child to make observations, describe what she notices, and ask questions. Pay particular attention to the natural objects you find (like rock formations and plants) and use these observations for further research.
- Learn How Something Works: Choose a technology or machine with your child and research—both with books and information online—how that object works. Then create a model, diagram, or video of how that object works.
Social Studies in 4th Grade
Social studies in the 4th grade encourages students to deepen their reading, writing, and analytical skills, as well as expand knowledge and appreciation of their own local and American history. Students compare different perspectives using both primary and secondary texts. They then write both informative pieces and essays. Fourth graders also use technology to research both past and current events. In all of their work, 4th graders are taught to analyze the reasons why things occur and form strong supported opinions and ideas, which encourages them to think more deeply about the world. Since most social studies curricula are specific to a location, consult your child’s teacher or your state’s social studies standards to find out which specific communities and aspects of the community will be covered. While many curricula differ according to state, many 4th grade classes study the founding and early years of American society and government.
In order to build social studies skills, your 4th grader:
- Studies and uses maps to gain a deeper understanding of geography and how geography affects a community.
- Researches, organizes, and presents his research on various topics, events, and figures.
- Discusses topics focusing on explaining his opinion using specific details, facts, and reasons to support his opinion.
- Writes essays that state an opinion; includes supporting facts for that opinion.
- Reads primary and secondary sources about different events, people, and topics.
- Uses technology to research both past and current events and topics.
- Deepens his understanding of government and civic responsibility.
- Deepens his understanding of basic economic principles and how one’s community affects his or her economy and business.
- Uses and creates multiple types of sources including art, film, poetry and fiction to learn and show what he has learned about historical events and social studies topics.
- Understands different concepts, such as cause and effect, in order to explain and learn why things happen or happened.
- Compares different events and retellings of the same event.
- Discusses American holidays and important days and events as they approach.
Social Studies Activities
- Stay Current: Encourage your child to read news magazines for kids, such as Scholastic Kids. Ask and talk to her about current events. Encourage her to share her opinion and ideas about the events.
- Imagine That: Help your child see things from different perspectives. Read or learn about a moment, adult, or child in history and talk about how your child would feel if he were in their shoes. Your child can even dress up as the figure or a person living during that time and act out how he felt.
- Compare Perspectives: Your child can interview a person who lived during an important historical or current event. Then read about the moment in a secondary source and compare the two perspectives.
- Watch, Read, and Listen: Compare different sources (books, movies, art, songs, poems) about an event and talk about how they treat one topic or moment differently.
- Visit Historical Places: Visit both local and national historical landmarks. Local landmarks are particularly important, as they will help your child relate to events that occurred near to her own home.
Recommended Books for 4th Graders
Here are some book picks for your 4th grader:
- Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliet: This is a great chapter book to read with your child. It is a mystery book about a brother and sister and incorporates adventure, art history and even secret codes!
- The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles: Although this is a picture book it is a very serious book which addresses the true story of a black girl attending an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960.
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume: The name of this book says it all. It is about a 4th grader, his classmates and their daily adventures.
- Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan: This historical fiction novel tells the story of a girl who is forced to immigrate from Mexico to California during the depression.
- It's Our World, Too!: Stories of Young People Who Are Making a Difference, by Phillip Hoose: This book tells true stories of children and young adults who took action and caused change in the world.