The changes in teaching between third and fourth grade

By Erica Patino

Expert reviewed by Ginny Osewalt

It may seem like starting fourth grade is just like starting any other school year. But there’s a big difference between what third graders and fourth graders do in class. Here are some of the changes.


Third grade: Kids focus on learning to read fluently. That includes building a strong vocabulary and figuring out what words mean based on context. Kids may still be reading story books.

Fourth grade: Kids read lots of different formats. That might be encyclopedias, news stories, and chapter books. They also have to form ideas about what they read.

What’s changing: Fourth graders have to understand what they read and draw conclusions about it. They might even have to write essays about what they read.


Third grade: Math class focuses on multiplication and division.

Fourth grade: Kids move on to math concepts like fractions, decimals, and basic geometry, like measuring lines and angles.

What’s changing: Fourth graders start to use arithmetic (like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to do more complex math.


Third grade: Kids often do hands-on science projects that require experimenting, measuring, and observing (like growing plants).

Fourth grade: Kids might start classifying organisms, like plants and flowers. They learn about more abstract concepts, like electricity and motion.

What’s changing: Fourth graders start to do more abstract science. They have to use organization skills to work on concepts like classification.

Social studies

Third grade: Third graders often spend a lot of time learning the geography and history of their home state.

Fourth grade: Kids start learning more about the United States and the world. This includes reading maps and learning national history.

What’s changing: Fourth graders start to learn more about the world as social studies takes on a broader focus.


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