Writing Lessons to Position Your Fourth Grade Class for Success

Fourth grade is a critical time for students. In terms of mathematics, they’re just beginning to learn new, more complex concepts such as order of operations and fractions, which will help them in higher-level math classes in the future. In English Language Arts, students wrestle with writing informational texts in addition to reading fictional books, again building a foundation for middle school, high school, and beyond.

To prepare your fourth-grade students for success, it’s essential to consult the Common Core Standards. There are separate standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards reflect skills that students should master based on grade level. The key to writing a successful lesson plan is to align your activities with the appropriate rules and ensure that you are covering as many different standards as possible throughout the school year.

It might be helpful to work backward. First, think about what goal you want your students to meet at the end of the class or unit. Maybe you want them to be able to solve math problems by using the order of operations or follow the writing process to write and revise a paragraph, for example. Then, figure out the most productive or engaging activities that will help them achieve those goals. Finally, take a look at the Common Core Standards and match up those goals with the appropriate standards. If you’re an experienced teacher, you’ll likely find that the goals you have for your students usually match up with criteria, even if you hadn’t planned it that way!

Lesson plans can take many different shapes, so check with your district or school to see if they have a preferred format. The basic structure usually includes the following components:

  1. Standards and Objectives
  2. Activities
  3. Assessments

By working backward, you’ve primarily covered most of the essential aspects reasonably easily. Now, let’s dig deeper into the most critical element of student engagement, the activities.

Students have a variety of learning styles, so you should take them into account when designing your lessons. Always reinforce learning by providing information multiple times and in various formats. This allows auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners equal opportunities to pick up essential data. Fourth graders can’t sit still for long periods, and research shows that “learning by doing” is one of the effective methods of acquiring new information, so make sure you’re incorporating activities that get your students moving, designing, and collaborating.

Project-based learning extends education into the real world. The National Education Association (NEA) outlines some of the benefits of project-based learning on its website. They assert that it allows students to work out real-life problems and work cooperatively with their peers, all under the supervision of a knowledgeable adult. If you want your students to be successful in the real world, you should consider incorporating activities that allow them to work on problem-solving skills and conflict resolution in addition to math, writing, and reading. As an added benefit, they will have some fun and memorable experiences in school, and don’t we also want our students to have positive associations with learning?

Of course, there are probably some outcomes that can’t be assessed except through testing or writing an essay, but you’ll also want to plan informal or formative assessments throughout your lesson or unit, too. Students need to learn that success doesn’t always come easily. For example, let’s say you’re teaching the writing process. As your students work on their one-paragraph rough drafts, you provide support and feedback. You then guide them through editing and revising. After you collect their paragraphs and grade them, you sit down with each student and help them make their sections even better. Your students have just learned that writing is about the process, not just about the product.

What “success” looks like is subjective. Of course, you want your fourth-grade students to do well in fifth grade, but what does success look like for them beyond that? Common Core Standards may act as a foundation for designing your lesson plans, but the goals you make for your students and how you allow them to show their mastery of those goals determines how much they will be able to apply them in the future.

Crystalee Calderwood

Crystalee Calderwood

Crystalee Calderwood is a high school English teacher from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University, where she studied poetry and writing for children and teens. Now she spends most of her time writing and reading poetry with teens as an English and Creative Writing teacher at a local private school. In her spare time, she is a freelance writer who specializes in issues surrounding literacy an education.