4th grade English Language Arts tips: Here's how to help your student

Here's how you can help your fourth-grader master the basics of reading and writing outside of the classroom.

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By Aisha Labi

Hoping to help your fourth-grader with reading and writing skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest for any fourth-grader.

Encourage reading

Find ways to encourage your child to read independently. Make sure that they have the time and space to devote to reading and that they have plenty of material to read for fun. Take your child to the library regularly.

Use technology to encourage reading

Learn how to use technology to help develop your fourth-grader’s growing interest in reading. There is a large selection of online books for children, many with interactive features such as animations or voice recording. You can also encourage their interest in reading by helping him find online sites about topics that interest him.

Discuss what your child is reading

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

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.

Foster effective arguing

Encourage your child to learn to make a good argument. If your child wants the privilege to do something that they have not previously been allowed to do, have them present an argument for doing so. Make sure your child can back up the claims they are making. If your child says that all their friends are allowed to do something, ask them to substantiate that claim.

Discuss the news

Engage your child in a discussion about the news stories you see on television or hear on the radio while you’re in the car. Your child should be developing the skills that will make them an informed and discerning consumer of information. By discussing what is happening in the world, you can explain why certain issues are important and share your values with your child.

Find reasons to write

Real writing can happen all the time, both inside and outside school. Help your child find useful reasons to write outside school: A letter of complaint about a broken video game, an invitation to a get-together, or a request for information about a sporting event. Make writing connected to real life and not just an exercise.

Use a favorite story

Most children have a favorite story that they ask their parents to tell them over and over again, maybe about the day they were born or the time a special event took place. Encourage your fourth-grader to write this story down and to make a book about it. It could be illustrated with photos and could become a lasting family keepsake.

Play vocabulary games

Make a game out of broadening your child’s vocabulary. Choose five unfamiliar new words for them to learn each week and see how often everyone in the family can use those words in everyday conversation. This will help improve your fourth-grader’s vocabulary, reading comprehension, and speaking skills.

Play storytelling games

A fun game to play in the car or home that can involve the whole family is “what happens next.” Everyone should name a different object and then one person begins telling a story using all of these words. The next person must continue the story, picking up from where the last person stopped, while using at least one of the named objects, and having the story make sense as it continues. The silliness of where the storyline goes, combined with the use of the imagination, is a fun way to practice important listening and thinking skills.

To find out what your fourth-grader will be learning in English Language Arts class, check out our fourth grade English Language Arts skills page.

TODAY's Parenting Guides resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Joyce Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University; Pamela Mason, Program Director/Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Barbara Stripling, Senior Associate Dean, Syracuse University; Elfrieda "Freddy" Hiebert, President and CEO, TextProject; Linda Gambrell, Professor, Clemson University; and Nell Duke, Professor, University of Michigan, and align with the Common Core State Standards.