The Guide to 4th Grade

Review general curricula for 4th Grade, including what to expect for each subject. Plus, discover at-home activities to support learning in the classroom.
By Shira Ackerman and Kelsey Kloss
Jul 03, 2019



The Guide to 4th Grade

Jul 03, 2019

Congratulations: Your child is officially a member of the “upper” grades! As fourth graders, students deepen their skills in all subjects to prepare for middle school. That being said, they still learn like elementary school students do. Most fourth graders are developmentally very much still children — they enjoy and learn from play, and they 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 than they did in the “lower” grades.

In 4th grade, students learn how to deeply think about and make connections in new material, and grasp more complex concepts across all subjects. They also write with clarity, flow, and structure similar to that of traditional essays. Fourth graders are encouraged to be more independent in how they learn, and depend less on their teacher's guidance. They research, plan, and revise their work more by themselves — setting the foundation to be lifelong, self-starting learners.

The 4th grade classroom is structured like most elementary school classrooms, with desks or tables for the students and typically 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.

Read on for what to expect this year, or jump straight to your 4th grade shopping list. And for more book and reading ideas, sign up for our Scholastic Parents newsletter!

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 and how they relate 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 to find deeper meanings and messages. This is done both with texts students read independently and those 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. 

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, first and third 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.

Your 4th Grade Book Checklist for Reading

Scholastic Success with Reading Comprehension: Grade 4 — Prime your fourth grader for a year of successful reading ahead with these 24 interesting stories paired with comprehension-building puzzles, facts, and activities. This book will help your child distinguish between fact and opinion, understand cause and effect, develop vocabulary, learn about story elements, make inferences, follow directions, and draw conclusions.

Scholastic Success with Reading Tests — This workbook is the ultimate reading booster for school success! The 15 reading tests within are specifically designed to help fourth graders prepare for standardized tests they'll need to take in school. With this workbook, your child will polish a number of important reading concepts, including reading for detail, understanding vocabulary, and interpreting the author's purpose. 

Scholastic Study Smart Comprehension Skills Level 4 — This workbook provides fantastic practice with essential reading skills to help your fourth grader develop his ability to think critically about texts. Topics include identifying main ideas and details, predicting plot outcomes, identifying fact and opinion, summarizing, and drawing conclusions. 

Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set (#1-7) — If you’ve been counting down the days until you can re-read this series with your child, it’s finally the time! Fourth graders are ready to start pursuing longer books with complex themes — including the Harry Potter series. This stunning special edition boxed set of J.K. Rowling’s seven bestselling books about the boy who lived will captivate young readers and grow with them as their reading level develops.  

Judy Blume: The Complete Set of Fudge  Famous for ingeniously capturing the lives, frustrations, and interests of upper-grade students, Judy Blume has made children laugh at the antics of the vibrant characters in her books for decades. This set includes Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania, and Double Fudge. Your fourth grader will have the opportunity to talk about certain characters’ perspectives, central themes, and important ideas in each. 

Bonus Reading Activities

Read and Research Together: Read the same book as your child independently, together, or a combination of both. Talk about the book as you read it, reviewing main ideas and plots and expressing your opinions. Then read an additional book or books on the same subject and compare and contrast how they dealt with the same issue. For example, read two fiction books about family (like one of The Little House books and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), or two different texts about one historical event.

Compare Perspectives: Read two texts — one written in first person and one in third person — about the same event. Talk with your child about the differences and why he thinks these differences exist. Or, try it yourself! After sharing an experience with your child, each of you can write about it from your own perspective. Talk about the differences between what you wrote to gain a better understanding of perspective.

Read magazine and newspaper articles. Focus on the illustrations, graphs, or charts. Point out to your child what they show, ask him 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 that has clarity and structure, and that uses reasons, facts, and details to support and strengthen arguments. Fourth graders are taught to organize their writing, ensure that it flows well, and group together related components. As students learn to think more deeply about concepts they are taught, 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.

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, and 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 her writing.
  • Uses technology to publish, research, and communicate with others under the proper guidance of an adult or teacher.
  • Types with a beginner’s 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.

Your 4th Grade Book Checklist for Writing

Scholastic Success With Writing: Grade 4 — The fun, engaging exercises in this workbook are designed to stimulate and support students as they build essential skills for becoming independent writers. Inside, your fourth grader with find practice with grade-appropriate skills that she can use in daily writing assignments such as stories, journals, and letters.  

Scholastic Success With Grammar: Grade 4 — Although your fourth grader is now crafting more intricate pieces of writing, practicing and learning grammar rules still plays a crucial part in shaping her skills as a writer. This workbook provides important practice in topics such as sentence types and structure, verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, and punctuation and capitalization to reinforce skills outlined in common standardized tests.   

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book — This delightfully funny and magical chapter book is a relaxed read for fourth graders, who will meet Polly, a girl who loves words and writing stories! But when a magic book appears on her doorstep and transforms everything she writes into real life, she discovers what you write and what you mean aren’t always the same thing.

Share Your Smile — This fun, colorful, and interactive journal provides guidance from author and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier on brainstorming ideas, making lists, and using your imagination to create stories—helping your fourth grader see the joy in telling her own tales, whether they’re true or imagined. (Find out how this book helps tweens express themselves in brain-boosting ways!)

Bonus Writing Activities

Ask Why: When your child expresses her opinion about something, ask her why she thinks that or how she knows it is true. This will help her learn to support her 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 her typing skills. Use typing games or make up your own games — for instance, you can give your child a word to spell and time how fast she 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 her 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 she communicates.

Practice Note Taking: When you and your child go somewhere like a museum or a new city, pretend to be reporters and take notes (give her a journal she’ll love to take notes in, like the Klutz: Decorate This Journal). Later on, use those notes to describe what you learned. You can even relay your “reports” like a newscaster would.

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. By the end of the year, they are expected to do all of these operations with greater accuracy and speed. And while they don’t have to whiz through their work, they need to be able to do it at a pace that shows they understand how to solve problems without backtracking or going through too many steps. (Prepare your child for a successful year with the book Everything You Need to Know About Math Homework, which is designed for upper grades.)

Fourth graders are also encouraged to explain how they solve problems in detailed and specific ways, both verbally and through writing, which 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 to solve problems with fractions.

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 numbers using < and >. 
  • Rounds multi-digit numbers to any place. 
  • Creates and uses graphs (like line plots) to represent data and answer questions. 
  • Begins to learn about, measure, and decipher the angles of a shape. 
  • Explains his thinking and how he solves math equations and word problems, both verbally and through writing.

Your 4th Grade Book Checklist for Math

Scholastic Success With Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication & Division: Grade 4 — A big part of your fourth grader’s success in math centers around his ability to easily perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. This workbook provides targeted, skill-building practice pages to help build this foundation for your child with fun exercises and easy-to-follow directions.

Scholastic Success With Math: Grade 4 — Strengthen grade-specific skills often found in standardized tests with this helpful workbook. It’s filled with math practice such as number sense and concepts, reasoning and logic, story problems and equations, fractions and percentages, geometry, graphs, and much more!

Bonus Math Activities

Appoint the Family Mathematician: Now that your child is savvier than ever in his math skills, ask him to solve the math problems you encounter in everyday life. For instance, challenge him to calculate how much change you should receive back at a store, what measurements you need to carpet a room, or how much of an ingredient you need when you are doubling or tripling a recipe.

Create Math Riddles: Make up your own math riddles for each other. 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! You can also give him a number and ask him to create a riddle with at least three steps, using different operations, that would leave you with that number.

Make Predictions: 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. Next, 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 of the factors or multiples of a certain number. Be sure to include some numbers that are not multiples and factors, and tell your child to leave them where they are when he finds them. (If your child enjoys this activity, he’ll love The Impossible Clue!)

Science in 4th Grade

Fourth graders expand their science skills as they conduct experiments and use them to further their learning. The reading and writing work fourth graders do supports their science learning in a big way — they read nonfiction 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.

To build science skills your 4th grader:

  • Conducts experiments using the scientific method. There are many different ways to present "the scientific method," but here's a basic example:  1) Questions, observes, and researches; 2) Develops a hypothesis (based on observations and research); 3) Makes predictions; 4) Experiments; 5) Develops a conclusion
  • Develops further questions to research and experiment based on previous experiments and conclusions.
  • Develops further questions to research and experiment based on previous experiments and 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 she learns.
  • Experiments with different types of materials and different states of matter, such as solid, liquid, and gas.
  • Works independently, with partners, in small groups, and as a class to conduct experiments and create projects.

Your 4th Grade Book Checklist for Science

The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Physics — Yes, your fourth grader is ready to become a physicist! With clear definitions, straightforward explanations, and bright illustrations and diagrams, this book provides an easy-to-understand foundation for a complex subject — and even comes with a study guide for students to polish their knowledge after reading. 

The Magic School Bus: Satellite Space Mission — This updated take on the Magic School Bus is the perfect fit for budding fourth grade scientists. Keesha is eager to get into space camp, but when her outer-space quest to get the perfect selfie for her application goes too far, she accidentally disrupts several of Earth's orbitting satellites — and the planet's future! 

Bonus Science Activities

Hypothesize First: Before doing anything, such as adding one liquid to another or putting something in water, ask your child to hypothesize what she thinks will happen — and have her explain how she came to that hypothesis.

Experiment with Everything: Find something that interests your child, such as the weather, plants, a garden you’re growing, sound, or motion. Work with your fourth grader to use the scientific method described above to learn about and experiment with the subject. Record each step, beginning with research and ending with the conclusion.

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. (Spark her curiosity with A True Book: Computers.) Then create a model, diagram, or video explaining it.

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 informative pieces and essays.

Fourth graders also use technology to research past and current events. In all of their work, they are taught to analyze the reasons why certain 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.

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, and explains why certain things happen or happened.
  • Compares different events and retellings of the same event (for example, by comparing books like D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History and I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944).
  • ü  Discusses American holidays and important days and events as they approach.

Your 4th Grade Book Checklist for Social Studies

Cornerstones of Freedom: The Branches of U.S. Government — Boost your fourth grader’s social studies knowledge with this handy reference book, which brings history to life by describing how the government developed and the important responsibilities of each branch.

A True Book: Civics: Running for Public Office — Your fourth grader may have a preliminary understanding of elections by now — and has almost certainly heard about them on the news — but does he have the full picture of how they work? Expand his knowledge with this instructive read about all the work that goes into running for public office: A candidate must have the money, manpower, and dedication to start a campaign, and those are just the first steps!  

Bonus Social Studies Activities

Stay Current: Encourage your child to read news magazines for kids, such as Scholastic News. Ask and talk to him about current events, nudging him to share his opinions and ideas about them.

Spark Her Imagination: Help your child see things from different perspectives! Read or learn about a moment or person in history, and ask your fourth grader how he would feel if she were there or in that person’s shoes. Your child can even dress up as the figure or a person living during that time and act out how they may have felt.

Compare Perspectives: Ask your child to interview a person who lived during an important historical event, then read about it in a secondary source and compare the two perspectives.

Watch, Read, and Listen: Compare different sources like books, movies, art, songs, and poems about a certain event, and discuss how they treat that moment differently.

Visit Historical Places: Frequent both local and national historical landmarks. Local landmarks are particularly important, as they help your child relate to events that occurred near his own home

Your 4th Grade Reading Checklist

Your 4th Grade Writing Checklist

Your 4th Grade Math Checklist

Your 4th Grade Science Checklist

Your 4th Grade Social Studies Checklist

Fourth Grade
Age 9
Age 10
Elementary School