Don’t tell your fourth grader, but one of the stated goals of the Common Core Standards — rigor — is clearly demonstrated in this year’s writing standards. Now, kids should take notes on what they read and hear. Stories should have developed characters who show their feelings and react to what happens. And perhaps most important, your child is expected to analyze a book’s structure, logic, details, and evidence in her writing.

Building 4th grade study skills

This year taking notes is an important skill. Fourth graders are expected to use books, periodicals, websites, and other digital sources to conduct research projects — both on their own and as part of group work with peers. Your child should keep track of all the sources she checks — noting what she learns, the name of the source and page number or url so she can find it again and create a source list or bibliography later.

Also, taking notes while reading fiction will help your child when it comes time to analyze what she’s read or to give an in-depth description of a character, setting, or story event drawing on specific details.

Check out this related worksheet:
• Finding key points

bttr, better, best!

Last year’s prewriting step — planning — becomes more essential in your child’s writing process this year. Before your child sits down to write, he should use his organized notes to help create the structure of whatever he’s writing. While planning, your child may brainstorm ideas for a story or decide how to organize facts into a cohesive set of points. The more knowledge your child builds during the prewriting stage, the easier it will be to write. Encourage reading and rereading, taking notes, finding additional sources, discussing aloud how new knowledge fits in with what your child knew before, and visually organizing what he plans to write about. After the first draft is written, the teacher and possibly other students will offer feedback: asking questions to elicit new details or clarify an argument or suggest new sources of information. They should check that there’s a clear introduction and conclusion, and that the order of points or events makes sense. Your child will then do a revision (or two), adding, reordering, and refining his writing to show true, deep understanding.

After making revisions, your child does a final edit focusing on spelling, grammar, punctuation, and strengthening word choices. These steps — planning, writing a first draft, revising, and editing the final piece — help fourth graders understand that research, organizing, clarifying ideas, and improving grammar and presentation are all essential to strong writing.

See what your fourth grade writing looks like


Fourth grade writing: opinion pieces

Your child’s opinions always need to be supported by evidence. Persuasive writing should start by clearly introducing an opinion on a topic. To support her opinion, your child needs to present her argument, which is a list of reasons why she holds that opinion. Each of her reasons needs to be supported by facts and details (a.k.a. evidence). After presenting all of her research-supported reasons, she should close her argument with a concluding statement or paragraph that sums up how her evidence supports her opinion.

Check out this example of good fourth grade opinion writing:
• “Zoos should close

Fourth grade writing: informative writing

This year, your child’s informative writing gets more organized, with headers, illustrations and even multimedia components to support specific points. To begin, your child should introduce her topic. Then she should use facts, definitions, details, quotes, examples, and other information to develop her topic into a few clear, well thought-out paragraphs. Your fourth grader should use advanced linking words (e.g. also, another, for example, because) to form compound and complex sentences connecting her research and ideas to the point he’s making. Finally, to wrap it up, your child should have a conclusion — either a statement or, if necessary, a section labeled conclusion.

Check out these three examples of good fourth grade informational writing:
• “John Cabot and the Rediscovery of North America
• “Big Book of Evolution
• “Book report: A Tale of Despereaux

Can your fourth grader write an informational essay?


Fourth grade writing: narratives

A narrative means writing a story. This year your child will be expected to use storytelling techniques, descriptive details, and clear sequences to tell compelling tales. Whether inspired by a favorite book, real events, or your child’s imagination, your child’s story should use dialogue, descriptive words, and transitional language. Look for precise language and sensory details that bring characters to life. Finally, your child should keep pacing and sequence of events in mind. The events should unfold naturally, bringing the story to a natural conclusion. Are surprise endings okay? Sure… so long as the details and events plausibly lead there.

Check out this related worksheet:
• Putting sentences in order

Gettin’ good at grammar

You may want to review all those parts of speech your child learned last year because fourth grade grammar is expected to be quite accurate. Your child should know relative pronouns (e.g. who, whose, whom, which, that), relative adverbs (e.g. where, when, why), adjective ordering (e.g. short dark hair and small red bag), descriptive prepositional phrases (e.g. in the air, down the block, on the grass), progressive past, present, and future verbs (e.g. I was walking, I am walking, I will be walking), and verbs used with other verbs to express mood or tense (aka modal auxiliaries, e.g. can, may, must, should, would). Also, your child needs to master the distinctions between frequently confused words like to, too, and two and there, their, and they’re. Finally, your child should be able to recognize and correct run-on sentences.

Check out these related worksheets:
• Prepositions
• Compound sentences
• Punctuating a paragraph
• Its or it’s?

Learning to use language precisely

This means:

  • Recognizing and explaining common idioms (e.g. bending over backwards)
  • Distinguishing between similes and metaphors (e.g. quiet as a mouse and the sun is a yellow beach ball).
  • Identifying and using synonyms and antonyms
  • Using increasingly specific words in writing (e.g. glamorous instead of pretty, pre-dawn instead of morning, quizzed instead of asked)

Your fourth grader should now be using relevant academic words in informational writing and research reports. Although accurate spelling should be the norm in fourth grade, when faced with spelling more academic words, your child should use a dictionary and thesaurus (print and digital versions).

Check out these related worksheets:
4th grade weekly spelling lists
Making metaphors
Simile or cliché?

Sharing their work

The Common Core Standards specify using “technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing.” The format is open — printing or electronic publishing on a blog, website, or an app — but the standards clearly state that your fourth grader should be able to type up to a full page in one sitting. While teachers should be there to help, your child should be doing the work. Students will also be expected to interact with peers about each other’s work. What might that look like? Your child might read his classmates’ published work online and comment on it, or cite a peer’s work when answering a question in class.

Updated November 2013 to align with the Common Core Standards 

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Updated: August 25, 2020