Skills kids need going into fourth grade

By Amanda Morin

At a glance

  • In preparation for fourth grade, third graders focus on using language and writing in all subjects.

  • Most kids who are ready for fourth grade understand why and how multiplication works.

  • Fourth graders have to support their statements about a text with facts and details.

Getting ready for fourth grade involves focusing on using language and writing in all subjects. Math skills include using more than one step or operation to solve a problem.

To see if your child is ready for fourth grade, take a look at your state’s academic standards. Not all states use the same standards, but many of them have similar expectations for students. Here are some of the key skills kids are expected to master by the end of third grade in preparation for fourth grade.

Skills to get ready for grade 4: English language arts and literacy

To prepare for fourth grade, students are exposed to a variety of reading material, including fiction, nonfiction, charts, and maps. They’re expected to understand these new materials and write about what they’ve read. As writers, kids are expected to start organizing information and ideas more effectively and support their statements or observations with facts and details.

Rising fourth graders are also expected to know how to:

  • Read many types of stories and describe what happened, how the characters were affected, and what lessons they learned
  • Answer questions about reading material that covers history, social studies, and science; also use information in illustrations, maps, and charts to help answer questions
  • Give a class presentation on a topic using facts, details, and specific vocabulary
  • Participate in discussions by speaking clearly, listening, sharing opinions, building on other people’s ideas, and asking questions
  • Use dialogue and description to write about what a character is thinking and feeling
  • Gather information from online sources in addition to books and articles; use that information to write research papers

Is your child struggling with reading? Learn ways to help your child build phonological awareness in grade school, along with other ways to improve reading skills at home.

Skills to get ready for grade 4: Mathematics

By the end of third grade, children need to be familiar with fractions and start to understand the “whys” of multiplication and division. In fourth grade, students begin to calculate the area of shapes and use different problem-solving strategies to solve word problems. To work on these skill areas, they’re expected to be able to:

  • Explain what multiplication and division are
  • Know the times tables up to 12 and multiply numbers by 10
  • Use addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to solve word problems involving more than one step
  • Understand the concept of area and how it relates to multiplication
  • Understand and identify fractions as numbers that can be placed on a number line; compare two fractions (like knowing that 2/3 is bigger than 3/5)
  • Express whole numbers as fractions and recognize fractions that are whole numbers (like knowing that 8/2 is the same as 4)
  • Measure weights and volumes
  • Read charts and graphs and show data as a graph or chart

How to help your rising fourth grader

Kids learn at different rates. Don’t worry if your child hasn’t mastered all of these skills before starting fourth grade. But if your child is having trouble with many of these skills, you may want to consider talking with the teacher. Together you can come up with a plan to figure out what’s making learning harder.

Read about fourth-grade learning challenges for kids who learn and think differently. And explore ways to help your child prepare for fourth grade at home. Here are some ideas:

Key takeaways

  • In fourth grade, kids are expected to understand many types of stories and write research papers.

  • Consider talking to the teacher if your child is having trouble keeping up with schoolwork.

  • There are lots of ways to help your child prepare for fourth grade at home.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Kristen L. Hodnett, MSEd is a clinical professor in the department of special education at Hunter College in New York City.