Reading Strategies for 4th Grade Students Who Are High Achievers

The right strategies can prompt high-achieving fourth graders to grow as readers.
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Because readers develop at different paces, some fourth graders will display stronger fluency and comprehension skills than their peers. On standardized reading tests, they will rank at least a grade level higher. High-achieving fourth-grade readers need challenges to continue growing academically. These challenges may come from learning higher-level critical reading skills, creating unique ways to respond to literature, researching topics independently or exploring more advanced literature.

1 Critical Reading

An advanced fourth grader can probably recall details from a story without many problems. For a greater challenge, they can work on higher levels of comprehension, such as making inferences. Literacy professor Douglas Fisher compares making inferences to reading like a detective, an analogy that should appeal to fourth graders. As Fisher describes the process, making inferences involves finding clues to ideas that the writer has hinted at in the story. For example, writers often imply character traits with descriptive details rather than state them explicitly. Finding the clues and interpreting their meaning using background knowledge turns the reader into a detective.

2 Creative Responses

High-achieving fourth graders are normally very good at responding to reading in conventional ways like answering questions and writing book reports. This opens up the opportunity to add enrichment to responses. For example, students could write and illustrate alternative endings to stories. Advance readers might also enjoy reader’s theatre, dramatizing scenes from stories and books. Students write scripts, create costumes and scenery and perform their plays for classmates. Reader’s theatre provides students a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the story, characters and author’s message. When students rehearse their plays to build their expressiveness on stage, they also polish their fluency skills.

3 Inquiry-Based Projects

Inquiry-based projects allow students to research topics they choose based on their interests, which appeals to the natural curiosity common in high-achieving students. Students can work individually, with partners or in groups, but inquiry-learning activities generally stress independence over teacher or parent direction and involvement. The nature of the project itself can vary from written reports to multimedia displays. Students could even produce an Internet-based project, like a webpage.

4 Challenging Literature

Finding the right books for high achieving fourth graders raises a couple of issues. First, children reading at the sixth or seventh grade level might not find challenging books in a fourth grade classroom library or in an elementary library. Second, a fourth grader may understand the words in a book written for older children and teens, but the scenes and situations may not be appropriate. The goal should be to expose these students to a diverse body of literature. Some fourth graders may be ready for the Harry Potter series or enjoy books by Jeff Kinney, Gary Paulsen and Kate DiCamillo.

David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.