Fourth Grade Writing Standards
Writing standards for fourth grade define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at this grade level. By understanding 4th grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.
What is 4th Grade Writing?
In grade 4, students spend significant blocks of time engaged in writing independently. Now that they are more familiar with the writing process, fourth-graders are able to select a focus, an organizational structure, and a point of view. They will learn to base these choices upon the purpose of, audience for, and length of the assignment. Their writing takes on style and voice. Writing is assigned in all subject areas, and by the end of fourth grade, students should be able to write clearly and effectively including using complete paragraphs, transitional sentences, and a theme throughout the composition. Fourth grade students learn how to write a five-paragraph essay and continue to expand upon their knowledge of grammar, spelling, and mechanics, as well as how to evaluate writing and conduct research.
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The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as fourth grade benchmarks in writing proficiency:
Grade 4: Writing Strategies
Fourth grade writing standards focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help children become independent writers. In Grade 4, students are taught to use each phase of the process as follows:
- Prewriting: In Grade 4, students generate ideas for writing by using prewriting techniques, such as brainstorming, graphic organizers, notes, and logs.
- Drafting: In fourth grade, students develop drafts by categorizing ideas, organizing them into paragraphs, and blending paragraphs within larger units of text. In the first paragraph, students establish a central idea with a topic sentence and spark interest through the use of quotations, questions, or descriptions. Subsequent paragraphs provide supporting detail that shows an understanding of facts and/or opinions. Compositions conclude with a paragraph that summarizes the points.
- Revising: Students revise selected drafts by adding, elaborating, deleting, combining, and rearranging text. Students aim to improve coherence, progression, logical support of ideas, and voice (formal or informal). Students revise with the goal of creating precision and interest by expressing ideas vividly through language techniques (e.g., imagery, simile, metaphor, sensory language).
- Editing: Students edit their writing based on their knowledge of grammar and usage, spelling, punctuation, and other features of polished writing, such as varied sentence structure and appropriate word choice. Students also proofread using reference materials and other resources.
- Publishing: Students refine selected pieces frequently to “publish” for intended audiences. Correct spacing and design are used to enhance the appearance of the document and graphics are added where appropriate.
Use of technology: Fourth grade students use available technology to support aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts in various forms. Students demonstrate basic keyboarding skills and familiarity with computer terminology.
Grade 4: Writing Purposes
In 4th grade writing lessons, students write to express, discover, record, develop, reflect on ideas, and to problem solve. Fourth grade students are able to select and use different forms of writing for specific purposes such as to inform, persuade, or entertain. Specifically, fourth grade writing standards stipulate that students write in the following forms:
- Narrative: Students write narratives based on real or imagined ideas, events, or observations that include characters, setting, plot, sensory details, a logical sequence of events, and a context to enable the reader to imagine the world of the event or experience.
- Informational/Expository: Students write to inform, such as to explain, describe, and report. Writing tasks may include summaries, procedures, recipes, instructions, how-to manuals, observations, notes, lists, charts, map labels, and directions
- Persuasive: Students write to influence, such as to persuade, argue, and request. Grade 4 persuasive essays should establish a controlling idea, develop supporting arguments, provide detailed evidence, and include persuasive techniques (e.g., word choice, repetition, emotional appeal).
- Personal Communications: In fourth grade, students write friendly letters, thank-you notes, formal letters, messages, and invitations that have a clearly stated purpose and that include the date, proper salutation, body, closing and signature.
- Creative: Students write to entertain, such as to compose humorous poems, short stories, skits, song lyrics) that employ figurative language (e.g., simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia, personification), rhythm, dialogue, characterization, plot, and/or appropriate format.
- Responses to Literature: Fourth grade students demonstrate an understanding of the literary work and support judgments through references to both the text and prior knowledge.
In addition, fourth graders work to exhibit an identifiable voice in personal narratives and in stories. They choose the appropriate form for their own purpose for writing, including journals, letters, reviews, poems, and narratives.
Grade 4: Writing Evaluation
Fourth grade students learn to respond constructively to others’ writing and determine if their own writing achieves its purposes. In Grade 4, students also apply criteria to evaluate writing and analyze published examples as models for writing. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set goals as a writer.
Grade 4: Written English Language Conventions
Students in fourth grade write with more complex sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. In particular, fourth grade writing standards specify these key markers of proficiency:
- Write in complete sentences, varying the types, such as compound and complex to match meanings and purposes.
- Combine short, related sentences with appositives, participial phrases, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.
- Correctly employ Standard English usage, including subject-verb agreement, pronoun referents, and parts of speech.
- Identify and use regular and irregular verbs, and present and past verb tenses.
- Use regular and irregular plurals correctly.
- Use adjectives (comparative and superlative forms) and adverbs appropriately to make writing vivid or precise.
- Use prepositional phrases to elaborate written ideas.
- Use conjunctions to connect ideas meaningfully.
- Write with increasing accuracy when using objective case pronouns such as “Dan cooked for you and me.”
- Punctuate correctly to clarify and enhance meaning, including commas in a series, commas in direct address, colons, quotation marks in dialogue, parentheses, and sentence punctuation.
- Write with increasing accuracy when using apostrophes in contractions such as it’s and possessives such as Jan’s.
- Use underlining, quotation marks, or italics to identify titles of documents.
- Capitalize proper nouns, including titles used with someone’s name, initials, and words used as names (e.g., Uncle Jim, Mom, Dad, Jr.).
- Capitalize names of magazines, newspapers, works of art, musical compositions, organizations, and the first word in quotations when appropriate.
- Use spelling rules and write with accurate spelling of roots such as drink,speak, read, or happy, inflections such as those that change tense or number, suffixes such as -able or -less, and prefixes such as re- or un.
- Understand spelling patterns and generalizations and write with accurate spelling of syllable constructions, including closed, open, consonant before -le, and syllable boundary patterns.
- Use resources to find correct spelling and spell correctly in final drafts.
- Write fluidly and legibly in cursive or manuscript as appropriate.
Grade 4: Research and Inquiry
In fourth grade, students select and use reference materials and resources as needed for writing, revising, and editing final drafts. Students learn how to gather information systematically and use writing as a tool for research and inquiry in the following ways:
- Frame questions for research. Evaluate own research and raise new questions for further investigation.
- Organize prior knowledge about a topic in a variety of ways, such as by producing a graphic organizer.
- Use various reference materials (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus, card catalog, encyclopedia, online information) as an aid to writing a .
- Understand the organization of almanacs, newspapers, and periodicals and how to use organizational features of references (e.g., prefaces, appendixes).
- Take notes, summarize and organize ideas gained from multiple sources in useful ways such as outlines, conceptual maps, learning logs, and timelines.
- Draw from more than one source of information (e.g., guest speakers, books, and other media sources). Quote or paraphrase information sources, citing them appropriately.
4th Grade Writing Tests
In many states, standardized writing assessment begins in the fourth grade. Students will be given questions about grammar and mechanics, as well as a timed writing exercise. In the exercise, they will usually be asked to respond to writing prompts for 4th grade level. Another type of question asks students to write a summary statement in response to a reading passage. In addition, fourth-graders are evaluated by their writing portfolios and classroom-based writing tests.
Most state writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standards-based tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how individual students are meeting grade-level expectations. Teachers use the assessments to pinpoint where each student needs improvement. State departments of education often include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including sample questions.
Writing Test Preparation
The best 4th grade writing activity to prepare for testing is simply encouraging your child to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. For example, you can talk about the different purposes of writing as you encounter them, such as those of letters, recipes, grocery lists, instructions, and menus. By becoming familiar with fourth grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them use the strategies of the writing process to revise their own work.
Time4Writing Online Writing Courses Support 4th Grade Writing Standards
Time4Writing is an excellent complement to fourth grade writing curriculum. Developed by classroom teachers, Time4Writing targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standards-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.
Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Time4Writing online courses for fourth grade.
For more information about general learning objectives for fourth grade students including math and language arts, please visit Time4Learning.com.
*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Time4Writing relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
You’ve been exploring the writing standards for fourth grade. To view the writing standards for other grade levels, use one of the following links:
Don’t tell your fourth grader, but one of the main points of the Common Core Standards — rigor — is clearly demonstrated in this year’s writing standards. Starting now, taking notes will be a mainstay of your child’s education. Your child’s stories — the ones she writes, not reads — will have developed characters who show their feelings and react to what happens. And perhaps most important, all year long your child will be expected to use the new ideas she’s learning to use to analyze books — like structure, logic, details, evidence — in her own daily writing.
Building 4th grade study skills
Last year your child dabbled in taking notes, but this year note taking becomes an important skill. Under the Common Core Standards, fourth graders are expected to use books, periodicals, websites, and other digital sources (like a library database) 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. A big step in your child’s research process this year is taking the time to write what she learns in her own words, then review and categorize her new knowledge. Which information is about the animal’s habitat? How about the animal’s lifespan? And what about the animal’s diet? Sorting evidence into categories will help her with the planning, writing, and revising stages of her project.
Is all research and note taking confined to nonfiction sources? Nope. 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.
bttr, better, best!
Last year’s prewriting step — planning — becomes ever more essential in your fourth grader’s multistep writing process. 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
4th grade opinion pieces
Under the Common Core Standards, written (and oral) opinions always need to be supported by evidence. Your child’s persuasive writing should start by clearly introducing your child’s opinion on a topic. To support her opinion, she’ll need 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”
4th grade informative writing
The purpose of informative writing is to convey facts and ideas clearly. This year, your child’s informative writing gets more organized — think formatting (like headers) and illustrations and even multimedia components to support specific points — all in an effort to make your child’s writing more clear. To begin, your child should introduce her topic then use facts, definitions, details, quotes, examples, and other information to develop his 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 his 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 real 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?
4th grade narrative writing
A narrative means writing a story, and 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 begin to 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
What’s a “range of writing” mean?
Introduced in third grade, this fourth grade writing standard means more writing more often — whether it’s in 15-minute spurts or multi-week projects. However, this year you’ll want to think about the ways your child’s growing analytical reading skills can inform his writing skills. For instance, when you read a fiction book with your child, ask questions like What is that character feeling? Which words make you think that? Now see how your child can use those ideas in his own writing. You’ll want to take a similar approach to nonfiction writing. When reading nonfiction, ask What is the author trying to say? Or What reasons does she give to support her points? By asking these same questions during reading time, then again when your fourth grader is writing, you’ll help your child apply his growing reading skills to his own writing.
Check out this related worksheet:
• Finding key points
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 gain command of 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). Your child needs to master the distinctions between frequently confused words like to, too, and two and there, their, and they’re. Last year’s compound and complex sentences continue this year, but with the added twist that your fourth grader should be able to recognize and correct run-ons and fragments.
Check out this related worksheet:
Perfecting spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary
Building on your child’s arsenal of spelling and root word skills, the big hurdles this year all involve using language precisely.
- 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). After so much grammar work last year, your child will get to focus on details this year, like capitalizing the right words, putting a comma before connecting conjunctions in compound sentences (e.g. I said yes, and then he said no.), and using commas and quotation marks to show text quotes or dialogue. Finally, encourage your child to have fun with her new language prowess by helping her choose words and punctuation for effect — for example, an exclamation point to show a character’s surprise!
Check out these related worksheets:
• 4th grade weekly spelling lists
• Its or it’s?
• Punctuating a paragraph
And it’s live!
The sweet final step: publishing! Once the research, planning, writing, revisions, and edits are done, your fourth grader is ready to publish. 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 even 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.
What ever happened to cursive?
Traditionally, by the end of fourth grade kids have been expected to write legibly in cursive and use computers as a writing tool. The Common Core Standards cover using technology and typing: namely, independently typing a full page of content in one sitting. Since not all writing is expected to be typed, it’s logical to conclude that your fourth grader’s penmanship should be up to snuff. But there is no mention of cursive, though some states have opted to include it as part of their additions to the Common Core, and some teachers are still big believers in the importance of this age-old skill. So, it’s a great question for your child’s teacher: Will students be learning cursive in class? If not, will there be any focus on legible penmanship? If the answer is no, it’s a craft you may want to work on with your child at home.
Updated November 2013 to align with the Common Core Standards
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