Moving up to a new grade is always a big step for kids. The leap from third to fourth grade can be especially hard. Kids have lots of changes to adjust to in fourth grade. They’re expected to behave more maturely. And the work is much more demanding.
Learn what to do before and after the start of school to make the move to fourth grade easier.
End of third grade
Understand the changes in fourth grade. Knowing early what to expect gives you more time to help your child get ready. The third-grade teacher can give you an idea. But if you know who your child has next year, try to meet with that teacher. Find out what’s expected of fourth graders and what you can do to make things go smoothly.
Over the summer
Keep reading skills fresh. Until now, kids focus on learning how to read. In fourth grade they switch to reading to learn new information. Spend relaxed time reading together. Try “whisper reading.” Discover fun things kids can read that aren’t books. Download a special bingo game. You can also join a library summer reading program.
Help your child stay social. Friends become very important to kids in fourth grade. Being in social situations over the summer lets your child work on social skills. Playing with different kids is good practice.
Are there new kids in the neighborhood your child can connect with? Or if your child has cousins around the same age, see if they can bring their friends to hang out at a local playground or family event. Camps and summer programs at school or your house of worship can help your child meet kids with similar interests, too.
Talk about the changes in fourth grade. Even if your child usually gets excited about starting a new grade, this year might be different. Kids talk, and your child may have heard that fourth grade is hard. Talk about some of the ways fourth grade will be different. Answer questions honestly. And tell your child you’ll be there for help and support.
Before school starts
Visit your child’s classroom. If you can, drop by the school before the first day. Find your child’s new classroom. You can even see if your child can meet the teacher. If you can’t make it to the school, see if there are other options. Maybe the school has an orientation and you or a relative can drop your child off.
Prepare for Day 1. Talk through your child’s schedule for the first day of school. Create a written or picture schedule if that would help your child get into the new routine.
Get back to a sleep schedule. Getting enough sleep makes a big difference in how kids function at school. It impacts focus and other skills. Try to get your child back on a school sleep schedule at least a week before the start of school.
After school starts
Reach out to your child’s teacher. The teacher can be an important partner in making the transition smooth. Set up a time to talk in person or on the phone. You can also email. Share a 3×3 card to help the teacher get to know your child.
Stay in the loop. Try to check your child’s backpack each day. You can use a backpack checklist to make sure papers come back and forth from school. Talk to your child about events that are coming up, like field trips, sports events, and school concerts.
Fourth graders may have long-term projects and more tests than they used to. Help your child make a monthly calendar to keep track of important dates.
Talk about how school is going. Some kids this age don’t want to open up about school. But try to keep a dialogue going. Ask specific questions, especially if your child is stressed out about something. Remind your child that new beginnings can be tough, and you’ll work through it together.
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About the author
About the author
Kim Greene, MA is the editorial director at Understood. A former elementary teacher and a certified reading specialist, she has a passion for developing resources for educators.