What to Expect in 4th Grade


    Remember back when your child was a toddler, and fourth graders looked so big?  Well, as they move through school, only 1 year  away from middle school, they’re starting to feel that way too.   Early big leaps, like reading first books or mastering addition, are giving way to steady strides.

    Or so it seems.  In fact, fourth grade also contains another leap: toward independent work.  Organization and homework becomes their responsibility.  While some kids move right along, expect some stumbles.  Don’t be surprised, for example, when you get a panicky look at the end of the day because a project you didn’t know about is due tomorrow and every glue stick in the house has vanished.  
    As you prepare for these surprises, it’s always good to have an idea of what’s coming up.  Please check your child's planner daily for all updates and reminders.

    Reading.  In a crucial shift that began as early as late second grade, your child is moving past early “learning to read” into a stage I like to call “reading to learn.”   Fourth graders still work on mechanics like vocabulary, but look, as well, for strategies that boost understanding.   Want to help?  Now is a great time to talk about what your child is reading, to encourage reading time at home, and to model good reading habits yourself.   Check out the "Downloads"page for a list of questions you can ask your child about what they are reading.

    Writing. By now, expect your child to be writing often in cursive (but don’t be surprised if it loops and jiggles like mad).  More importantly, expect more complex ideas: by the end of fourth grade, students should be able to write essays which use several kinds of sentence structures, express a relatively coherent thought, and use major punctuation correctly.  This is one area in which computers can be very helpful. You can support their writing at school, for example, by having your child send regular email to a cousin, friend, or techno-savvy grandma.

    Math. Building on previous concepts—such as place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, measurement and so on—fourth grade is a time of consolidation.  Expect your child to make even better friends with fractions, decimals, long division, measurement and basic geometry like lines and angles.  Are you building responsible home-chore patterns at home?  This is a great time to invite your child to help tabulate allowances or calculate the percentage you’d save by buying by bulk at the grocery store.  It is extremely important that 4th graders know their multiplication facts, please practice at home, if you need a set of flashcards please let me know, they can also be purchased at the dollar store.

    Science/Social Studies.  While specific topics of inquiry include electrical circuits, plant growth and development, and land and water, fourth grade science and social studies curriculum provides a way for me to not only to teach these subjects, but to embed growing skills in reading and math as well.  

    For most kids, this is an exhilarating year.  Once in a while, though, a child is faced with a challenge like doing research or writing several pages of linked ideas, and they may seem to curl up and wilt.  Tempting as it may be for parents to sit back and relax a bit after the intense early grades, it’s as important as ever to stay involved.  Consider it a compliment, then, when your child sits down at the after-dinner table demanding your help with what looks like an endless poster project on plant development.  It means you are trusted, and that’s a priceless gift.  You can help, and you should.  Just don't do it for them!