When your child gets to fourth grade, academic expectations take a big leap forward. Kids start to use reading as a learning tool. Teachers also expect students to work more independently.
Although the curriculum can vary by state, there are some general skills and topics most kids learn in fourth grade. Here’s a look at some of the new challenges your child with learning and attention issues may face during this important year.
Reading Skills in Grade 4: Comprehension
You may have heard that elementary school kids go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” But that’s not exactly right. In early grade school, kids do spend much of their energy and time learning to read. But they’re also developing complex skills. They’re building their vocabulary, fluency and reading comprehension skills by reading picture books and simple chapter books.
In fourth grade, the expectations change. Children read textbooks. They’re expected to apply their reading skills to learn challenging content in science, social studies and other subjects. But many children, especially those with learning and attention issues, still need more practice with their basic reading skills. They may need more instruction on how to interpret what they read.
Research and Independent Thinking in Grade 4
In fourth grade, students may be assigned short research projects in science or social studies. They’ll learn how to gather information from the Internet, encyclopedias, and textbooks. They’ll present that information in their own words. They need to understand what the article or text was about and draw conclusions from it.
For example, after reading about an invention, students are expected to explain what the invention does. They need to describe when it was invented and by whom, and the importance of the invention.
Kids also will be expected to write essays and book reports about novels that they read. Writing skills are closely tied to reading skills. Many students who struggle with reading have difficulties with these assignments. Fourth graders also will be expected to answer challenging questions about what they’ve read. The questions will require them to use critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills.
Math Skills in Grade 4
Math also takes a big leap in fourth grade. In earlier grades, children are learning numbers and basic arithmetic like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. In grade 4, students move on to decimals (1.5 + 0.5) and long division (650 divided by 13). Kids will also start to work on more advanced concepts in geometry, such as lines and angles.
In science class, kids may be asked to collect and organize data. For example, they may weigh and classify rocks and minerals. Teachers will also strengthen math skills by tying them into a variety of science activities and projects.
Fourth Grade and Greater Independence
Greater academic demands go along with greater demands for independence and self-reliance. Kids in grade 4 will be expected to organize their work so they get their assignments done on time. Developing time-management skills becomes more important.
Ideally, a student might work for 15 minutes each night on a book report or other project that was assigned two weeks ahead of time. Of course, this is a learning process. Don’t be surprised to see a panicked look in your fourth grader’s eyes when she tells you something “big” is due tomorrow. It’s a face you’ll see many times during your child’s academic career.
Fourth Grade and Your Child’s Own Challenges
For kids with learning and attention issues, the challenges of fourth grade can be particularly daunting. However, there are steps you can take over the summer and during the year to make your child’s transition easier.
If your child is currently struggling, talk to her teacher about ways to help. There may be additional supports available for her at school.