How to Tutor Fourth Graders

Tutor Fourth Graders

The frustrations of fourth grade are seen in just about all children entering this next phase of education. In grades K to 3, homework was minimal, cognitive skills focused more on recall and restate, and social conflicts were few. But fourth grade is a time of change mentally, physically, and socially. Before you tutor a fourth grader, learn about this next stage of development and the many expectations of the fourth grade curriculum.

Learn what is happening in a fourth grader's life. Fourth graders are at the beginning stages of puberty, so they pay close attention to fitting in with the crowd. Boys watch girls; girls watch boys. They are concerned with who is the smartest and who is the most popular. They will exert independence but may become shy if noticed. They will begin to focus on personal interests. Good readers will read all the time. Good athletes will dive into sports. It's a time of exploration and discovery.

Know what is expected in school. Homework is more prevalent than in grade 3. Textbooks are used in most classes, and Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives moves from Knowledge (recall) and Comprehension (restate) to the problem-solving categories: Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Students learn to show the relationships between parts, put separate ideas together to form a new whole, and judge the value of material. These cognitive objectives are evident in their research, writing, group work, and presentations.

Understand the skills taught in the subject you will tutor. In a typical fourth grade program, the following skills are evident: Language Arts consist of using research tools, gathering information independently, organizing information into paragraphs and essays, editing work, and more independent reading. Math skills consist of adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, fractions, decimals, prime numbers, solving problems, exploring geometry, and creating graphs or charts. Science consists of projects, predictions, matter and its different states, forms of energy, and the solar system. Social Studies moves from the local community government to studying state government.

Focus on the change in learning. Fourth graders must be organized because they now have more textbooks, more homework, and more independent work. Begin with organizational skills. Make sure the child has an assignment notebook, binders or folders for each subject, and a planning calendar for long-term assignments. Begin the tutoring session by discussing the homework and reviewing what happened in class. Go over the assignment notebook and check the binder or folder. Review the work from the session before, and then introduce the new material. It's important to praise the child because this is an age of self-doubt. Use plenty of encouragement and follow a routine. Keep up with what is happening in class and pay attention to the social problems that may exist. Allow the child to express feelings. This will help the two of you form a relationship that will benefit the fourth grader and you, the tutor.

  • Don't criticize. Critique the child's work by giving positive feedback and suggestions.
  • Talk to the fourth grader about structuring time.
  • Meet with the teacher to better understand assignments.
  • Always follow a routine. It will help the child become comfortable and successful.

Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.