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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Appalachian State University: The Gifted Child -- Reading Instruction with the Gifted and Talented
- Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives; Douglas Fisher et al.
- ReadWriteThink: Reader’s Theatre
- Reading Online: Reading, Technology, and Inquiry-based Learning Through Literature-Rich Web quests
- Scholastic Parents: Build a Fourth Grade Reading List for Your Growing Reader
- Great Schools: Favorite Books for Fourth Graders
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images