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4th grade English Language Arts skills: Find out what you need to know for your student

In fourth grade, children focus on reading and understanding challenging fiction and non-fiction texts.
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In fourth-grade English, your fourth-grader will learn to read, discuss, and write about complicated stories, rich poems, plays, informational books, and articles. Your child will also learn to show an understanding of literature and topics being studied in science and social studies by writing summaries, essays, and research papers. Fourth graders will orally report on a topic, tell a story, or recount an experience clearly and experiment with adding audio and visual elements to a presentation to help express ideas.

Reading & writing

Increase vocabulary

Increase vocabulary by building an understanding of relationships between words.


  • Understand idioms (an idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of individual words but that has a separate meaning of its own like : “Hold your horses!
  • Understand and use synonyms (words with similar meanings like promise /pledge) to convey ideas precisely.
  • Understand and use antonyms (words with opposite meanings like failure/success) to convey ideas precisely.

Understanding new words and phrases

Use strategies (like context cues and knowledge of prefixes/suffixes and root words) to understand new words and phrases.

Determining the main idea

Determine the main idea and key details of both literary and informational text; summarize a text.

Explaining supporting points

Explain how an author uses evidence and reasons to support particular points in a text.

Comparing similar themes and topics

Compare how similar themes and topics are expressed in stories, myths and folktales from different cultures.

Engage with a variety of texts

Read and actively engage with a variety of rich and challenging texts to build a foundation of knowledge in literature, science, social studies and other subjects.


  • "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll
  • "The Black Stallion" by Walter Farley
  • "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" by Grace Lin
  • "Hurricanes: Earth’s Mightiest Storms" by Patricia Lauber
  • "Horses" by Seymour Simon
  • "Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea" by Sy Montgomery

Tip: Discuss what your child is reading.

Ask your child about the books he is reading, both in school and for fun. Try to ask probing questions that go beyond having him just relate the action in a book. Ask about the themes of what he is reading and encourage him to summarize what he is reading and discuss it with you.

Tip: Set an example for good reading behavior.

Continue to model good reading behavior by discussing what you are reading. If you’ve just read an interesting magazine article, tell your child what you learned from it.

Basic rules of English

Use basic rules of English grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


  • Recognize fragmented and run-on sentences.
  • Use can, may, and must correctly.
  • Correctly use and spell homophones (to, too, two).
  • Use dictionaries to check and correct spelling.

Naturally unfolding stories

Write a story with an event sequence that unfolds naturally, use dialogue, description and sensory details, provide a satisfying conclusion.

Informational pieces

Write an informational piece that introduces a topic, groups related information in paragraphs and sections, develops the topic with facts and details and provides a logical conclusion.

Opinion pieces

Write an opinion piece that introduces a topic or text, states an opinion, is clearly organized, and supports the opinion with reasons, facts and details.

Supporting research with evidence

Include evidence from text to support thinking and research.

Using technology

Produce and share writing using technology with guidance and support from adults.

Typing one page of writing

Type at least one page of writing in a single sitting.

Listening & speaking

Giving oral reports

Report orally on a topic to show understanding, using well chosen and well organized facts and details.

Participating in conversations

Participate in conversations about topics and texts being studied, listening carefully to the ideas of others and asking and answering questions in order to gather more information or deepen understanding of the topic.

Paraphrasing information

Paraphrase information from media presentations or books read aloud.

Research & inquiry

Short research projects

Independently conduct short research projects to investigate and become knowledgeable about a topic.

Taking notes and sorting information

Take notes, sort information into categories, and provide a list of sources.

For tips to help your fourth-grader in English Language Arts class, check out our fourth grade English Language Arts tips page.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts and align with the Common Core State Standards.