Fourth-graders begin encountering increasingly difficult texts, and parents naturally want to help their child avoid the "fourth-grade slump," when reading comprehension seems to drop off. Reading comprehension, though simply the act of understanding a text, is an interactive skill that goes on before, during and after reading a passage. To help your fourth-grader master reading comprehension, use some targeted strategies related to their grade-level skills.
Reading for Information
The goal for fourth grade is to enable students to gain information through reading. Students in fourth grade conduct research using different sources such as the Internet, textbooks and magazine articles. When helping your fourth-grader with research, start by activating her prior knowledge; ask what she already knows about the topic and what information she needs to research. During and after reading a text, encourage your child to check her own understanding. Tell her to stop periodically and ask herself if she is comprehending the bulk of the text; advise her to re-read if she is struggling.
Reading for Meaning
Teachers expect fourth-grade students to summarize the main points of a story. They identify plot elements such as character and setting. In the classroom, students read passages and answer comprehension questions, including those requiring a short answer. To help your child with this skill, read aloud with her, stopping every half-page or page so that she can summarize what she understands. If she has difficulty with this task, remind her to re-read the passage. Students also learn decoding strategies for unfamiliar words, including breaking the word down into syllables and finding the root of the word. Remind her to try a decoding strategy if she is struggling.
Fourth-graders start participating in literature circles in which students lead the discussion about a mutually read story. The students choose the text together, and each child has an assigned role such as questioner or connector. If your child tells you she is part of a literature circle, help her prepare for her assigned role. The questioner develops a list of questions to encourage the group to discuss the passage. The connector helps the others make connections between situations in the book and themselves. A vocabulary finder chooses words from the text and shares their meanings with the group. Ask your child's teacher to provide role cards with sample questions.
Fourth-graders show mastery of their reading skills when they can read grade-level material independently. They use decoding skills with ease and have a good knowledge of root words and suffixes. They also have several reading strategies at their command, including activating prior knowledge, making predictions, and connections and monitoring their own understanding. They recognize key elements of different types of text such as fiction and nonfiction. They can identify the point of view and basic plot elements of a story and comprehend cause-and-effect relationships in writing. Read with your child, encouraging her to use the strategies she learned at school to master fourth-grade reading comprehension.
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