What to Expect in the Fourth Grade

By Jess Corinne
August 16, 2022

Compared with third grade, the cognitive, social-emotional, and academic expectations of your fourth grader increases substantially. The fourth grade is another transition year—when children are no longer learning to read, but rather reading to learn. Reading passages are more complex and require layers of higher order thinking skills. Vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar also ramp up in depth and complexity—along with math concepts like long division and percentages. By the fourth grade, children have spent three years mastering reading and starting to automatize math computations.

 In fourth grade, kids are expected to function more executively and exhibit a higher level of independence. Teachers expect fourth grade students to self-advocate and take full responsibility for their education. This includes asking for support when they need support and utilizing strategies for learning that work best for them.

While exciting, fourth grade can be a very challenging year for learners and their caregivers. Learners who have a solid sensory-cognitive foundation from the earlier grades will do well with guidance, encouragement, and clearly-stated expectations.

We understand how overwhelming preparing a child for a new grade can be. To reduce some new-school-year anxiety, take a few moments to look over the skills that your fourth grader will need this year. If you are still unsure or feel worried about your child’s ability to find success in third grade, we strongly encourage you to schedule a SPARK Learning Assessment or reach out to one of our educational specialists to learn more about our offerings

4th Grade Social-Emotional Skills

Typically, fourth grade social-emotional skills are a continuation of third grade’s milestones with an additional emphasis placed on self-advocacy and independence. 

Fourth-graders can: 

  • Show uncertainty about puberty and changes to their bodies
  • Be insecure or have mood swings and struggle with self-esteem 
  • Start to recognize that friendship has different levels and that at this age these levels are frequently in flux and start to form stronger and more complex friendships
  • Test limits and push boundaries and become increasingly independent from family, withdraw more from family activities, and need privacy
  • Face strong peer pressure and find it hard to resist 
  • Start to have a deeper understanding of how relationships with others can include more than just common interests
  • Have a first crush or pretend to have crushes to fit in with peers
  • Value friends’ opinions; share secrets and inside jokes 
  • Behave in kind, silly, and curious manners, but also can be self-involved, moody, and disrespectful
  • May experiment with new attitudes, clothing styles, and mannerisms while figuring out where/how to fit in

4th Grade Reading

At the beginning of the year, your fourth grader should be reading longer chapter books and more nonfiction books and texts. As digital natives, your child will feel accustomed to accessing online materials and research information at this stage.

By the end of the year, your fourth grader will be able to:

  • Use more advanced reading comprehension strategies to understand text, including making inferences, determining the main idea and identifying key details.
  • Synthesize information from two texts.
  • Support analytical thinking with specific examples from the text.
  • Summarize information.
  • Interpret information from charts, images, videos, timelines and diagrams.
  • Compare and contrast information read.
  • Proficiently read at grade level four in both fiction and nonfiction texts.
  • Learn new vocabulary words using context clues.
  • Develop reasoning and abstract thinking skills throughout this year. 

4th Grade Expressive Language (Writing and Verbal Communication)

Fourth-grade writing should tie in with fourth-grade reading. Now that your fourth grader is reading more nonfiction, he or she will also be writing informational reports in complete paragraphs.

By the end of the year, your fourth grader will be able to:

  • Know the basic parts of speech
  • Write a structured paragraph with a topic sentence, supporting details and a closing sentence
  • Use punctuation such as commas, apostrophes and quotation marks appropriately
  • Understand synonyms, antonyms and homophones
  • Identify prefixes and suffixes
  • Use research to write an informational report
  • Write description and persuasive texts

4th Grade Math

Fourth-grade math builds on the information learned in previous grades and adds more complexity, especially with regard to the concept of parts to whole (fractions, decimals, percents). Your fourth grader is learning to:

  • Interpret information in and use data to make a graph
  • Compare large numbers 
  • Understand negative numbers
  • Multiply three- and four-digit numbers including numbers with zero 
  • Find common multiples 
  • Understand prime and composite numbers 
  • Divide larger numbers and when there is zero as the quotient
  • Estimate quotients and mentally divide 
  • Understand improper fractions and mixed numbers 
  • Reduce, add and subtract fractions fractions
  • Read and write decimals 
  • Convert decimals to fractions and fractions to decimals 
  • Round decimals 
  • Be able to place decimals on a number line 
  • Accurately measure length, weight, capacity and temperature in both customary and metric units
  • Add and subtract time and money 
  • Understand lines and rays, angles, lines, polygons and the area of a rectangle 
  • Solve multi-step word problems

4th Grade Executive Functioning 

At this age (9-10 years old), children are quickly developing executive functions that relate to academic work. As they are exposed to literature and school-based concepts, they use working memory to recall and integrate information into their current knowledge. They use planning and organization to keep track of their own things and manage their own time with school-based assignments. For long-term projects or group work, they develop initiation to begin a task and chunking it into manageable parts, even if it isn’t motivating.

At this age, learners are really starting to internalize time, so they are learning to estimate how long things should take. For help with this concept, check out one of our favorite tools: The Time Timer. Socially, school-age children continue to develop emotional control and inhibition which are much needed for successful social interaction. 

Your fourth grader will start to independently: 

  • Follow multi-step tasks such as cleaning their room, helping with yard work, or sorting toys/laundry into piles
  • Manage homework and projects with support from caregivers and can use a calendar or planner to break tasks down
  • Increase independence in self-care routines such as showering, bathing, and dressing
  • Gather materials for an event or project (e.g., sports game, poster board presentation) and make sure they have everything they will need
  • Inhibit inappropriate behaviors at school; learning to raise their hand, use the restroom during breaks, not talk during class
  • Be a bit more flexible and change plans as needed (within reason)

4th Grade Science, Social Studies, and Technology

Fourth grade will continue to build on the intriguing world of science, social studies, and technology, requiring more autonomy throughout longer-term projects. Fourth-grade science curriculum depends on your school district but generally, 4th graders study:

  • Electricity
  • Geology, such as earthquakes and erosion, identify rocks and minerals
  • Systems of the human body, compare the human skeleton to animal skeletal systems
  • Name the planets in the solar system and explore the galaxies, moons, stars, and meteors of outer space
  • Track water cycles and study how they relate to the formation of clouds
  • Conduct experiments that test a hypothesis
  • Learn with hands-on projects that illustrate the subject matter, such as maintaining a class greenhouse to show the development of plants and flowers

Social studies curriculum in 4th grade includes history and geography. Fourth graders will usually learn about:

  • World geography including maps, hemispheres, coordinates, mountains and scale.
  • History, including your home state, the American Revolution, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the early presidents.
  • Know how to read world maps; be able to find locations on the globe
  • Compare different parts of the United States (e.g., contrasting year-round climate of the various regions)
  • Learn the 50 states and their capitals
  • Learn how to analyze and create graphs and charts
  • Study topics relating to American history, such as Native Americans, the journey of the Mayflower, pilgrims, and the first settlers
  • Become more skilled at using the computer to do research with supervision
  • Strengthen efficiency of keyboarding skills

Additional Resources: 

General Fourth Grade Resources

Social-Emotional Learning



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