The change in emphasis between third grade and fourth grade reading curriculum, and 4th grade reading level assessments can come as a surprise to both students and parents. While in Key Stage 1 the focus is firmly placed on learning the skills to read with decoding, vocabulary building, sentence constructions and phonics playing the keyrole. The move to fourth grade and Key Stage 2, while retaining elements of phonics and vocabulary, starts to move to higher order skills and reading comprehension skills.
Fourth grade average reading levels range between 18 to 28 on PM benchmark levels or up to level 40 on DRA levels. Grade 4 reading levels can vary greatly between individual students. Grade four reading tuition starts to move focus from phonics and reading skills to reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.
Our “What reading level should a fourth grader be at” article will address some of these changes to make them as smooth as possible as your children and students transition into upper elementary and grade 4.
- What are reading levels and how they can be used to help your 4th graders to improve their reading skills especially comprehension.
- What are the major differences between reading levels in 4th grade and 3rd grade
- What you can do to support your children and students in 4th grade
- Reading skills and concepts are covered in fourth grade classrooms.
- Links to free 4th grade reading resources (and other resources) to help you teach these reading skills.
If you are looking for quick access to reading and writing worksheets for grade 4 we have a large collection here in the article below. As a note, we have called some of these grade 3-4-5 etc. However they can be used as you see fit with your students.
What Is a Reading Level?
There are multiple different programs and tools to assess students of all grades reading levels. Including:
- DRA reading assessments
- PM Benchmark
- Reading Recovery
- Reading AtoZ
- Fountas and Pinnell
And many MANY more as mentioned below these can often be tied to a reading scheme or set of levelled readers. .
However, the majority of these reading level assessments all share common indicators. They assess the comprehension, pronunciation, decoding and fluency ability of a student of English while they are reading a short leveled text.
Fourth graders are highly unlikely to be reading advanced texts just yet, and although they will be developing skills to help with this they are still at a transition stage and care needs to be taken to ensure that their move from learning to read to reading to learn is as smooth as possible.
In fourth grade, if your 4th graders are around the average 4th grade reading level of 20 or so ( PM Benchmark), you should start to be able to introduce shorter chapter books in class. and to also allow them time to read alone if they are able. Choosing popular or funny books like Roald Dahl books is a great way to introduce longer stories to 4th graders.
Reading comprehension is included in 4th grader lessons on a much more frequent basis as at this level, barring any barriers or additional needs, their hard reading skills will be developed enough to start to look at whole text meaning and looking at higher order reading comprehension skills.
We have a resource below for this if you need, as well as posts and articles on the Reading comprehension skills, however its a better deal to pick it up in the bundle offer we have on this page as well as that comes with reading material, worksheets, games and this higher order set!
Reading A2Z have detailed information on the different reading level assessments and programs which as mentioned all have commonalities. They also have differences as well, with some like Lexile concentrating on word count or difficulty of words and others like the PM benchmark looking at simplicity of both words and sentence construction as well as including comprehension of text as a ranking and leveling factor.
Globally it is unfortunate but educational systems, nationally and internationally, all use different methods to level their grade 4 students. This means they will also use different reading assessment tools. However we explore some of the expectations of a grade 4 reader below to help you match your students to reading materials of your own choice
To bring some clarity to this the chart below offers a handy comparison (we use this in all our guide to levels and grades articles) to help both teachers and parents when it comes to choosing reading materials.
When choosing which readers are suitable for your grade 4 students it is definitely of use to take some time with both your reading resources and the chart to make sure they fit the reading level of your students.
However never underestimate motivation! If you can tap onto your students interests then it is possible to use higher levelled books with them. ( though don’t go overboard with this!) if a child is interested in the subject and the book then they will make extra efforts to be able to understand .
As an example i have done this for years and years with Space and Dinosaurs as topics. Children’s natural curiosity helps them make serious effort to understand the concepts, and to try to pronounce the VERY difficult names of dinosaurs and planets. (we have resources in the linsk if you want to try that for yourself. Grade 4 is perfect for these subjects.
We use the chart below in all our reading level articles.
Many Guided reading publishers have developed their own systems as well.
- Scholastic Guided Level Reading Program
- CCSS Lexile Recommendations
- DRA Level
- PM Benchmark
- Reading AtoZ ( online resources – which have become or important in the recent past!)
For both ease and continuity, (as we have used this Pm benchmarks, readign recovery and DRA assessment tools in our other reading level articles) we will use the DRA reading level today as RR tends to stop and move to comprehension after level 20+) As you can see DRA goes up to level 80. With an expectation that grade 4 will be around 30-40 on this reading framework.
What is the DRA Reading Levels Assessment.
The DRA ( Developmental Reading Assessment) is a reading skill assessment tool that aims to evaluate students reading levels to enable teachers and parents to assess students reading skills including fluency, comprehension and phonics. They aim to discover the independent and instructional reading level of students. it is suited for grade 4 levelling and beyond as their leveling system expands beyond reading ability and into reading comprehension.
What is Instructional Reading Level?
Instructional Reading level is the reading level below independent. Students should be able to comprehend and decode upwards of 80% of the text at an instructional level. At grade 4 texts will be introducing more complex topics as well as language.
What is Independent Reading Level?
An independent reading level is a level of reading ability that allows students to read texts without assistance from teachers or parents. Most grade 4 students will be moving towards becoming independent readers, depending on the level of text given to them. ( no encyclopedias etc!)
When reading this level of text students will be able to decode over 90% of words and answer increasingly complex comprehension questions independently.
What is Frustration Reading Level?
Frustration level reading can be defined as texts that are too complex for a students current reading level. Students will not be able to decode or get the gist of the text, especially if no pictures. It may have the effect of decreasing their willingness to engage with reading and should be avoided.
In 4th grade reading lessons, as well as other grades, classrooms and homes teachers and parents should aim at using an instructional reading level book. This allows students to comprehend and therefore engage with texts with some assistance, and gives them the motivation to see they are doing well.
Other Grades Average Reading Levels.
We have a selection of articles on reading level expectations for different grades below.
|Kindergarten Reading Levels||Grade 1 Reading levels||Grade 2 Reading levels|
|Grade 3 Reading levels||Grade 4 Reading Levels||Grade 5 Reading levels|
The Seven Reading Comprehension Strategies
At the end of grade three students will be asked more open ended questions. this is to start to prepare them for the shift to key stage 2 and the shift in focus from phonics and reading skills and to reading comprehension skills.
We have a table with some advice below to help you if you are unaware of how to introduce these to your 4th grade students.
|Reading Strategies||Resources and Article Link|
|Inferencing||How to Teach Making Inferences|
|Determining Importance||What is Determining Importance|
|Visualizing||How to Teach Visualizing.|
|Summarizing||How to Teach Summarizing|
|Prior Knowledge||How to teach Activating knowledge|
|Questioning||How to Teach Questioning|
Check out the links to know more. We also have an article here on what age you can start teaching guided reading.
What 4th Graders Learn Throughout the Year.
As we mentioned above a fourth grader can be reading from about reading level 20 to level 30+ (on Pm benchmark) (in our expereicne) or up to level 40 with the DRA reading levels. However please don’t worry if your students or children are below this reading level, or be too confident if they are above this.
Also phonics skills will become rarer in grade 4 as this emphasis to comprehension starts. It is now important to look at and introduce reading comprehension, critical thinking and higher ordering thinking.
Children will develop their reading levels and skills at different paces to each other. If your Fourth grade students still need a little extra time to nail down those phonics skills we have countless resources to help with these skills if you need. Including the bundle below.
The next section covers what skills they will learn to help them improve their reading levels throughout the fourth grade.
What Reading Skills Will Students Learn in Fourth Grade
In fourth grade and the move to key stage 2 is , in our opinion, as big a move as the move from kindergarten to elementary, and the move from elementary to High School. However it is not given the same importance.
The early stages of Reading comprehension will appear in this grade. They will have to look at texts as more than stories or information and start to evaluate and form opinions on them, and the most difficult for a lot of 4th graders learn how to express those opinions both my presentation and written work. .
They will have to learn and practice skills like interference, summarizing and questioning. and apply them to their reading texts. fourth grade lessons, in good English classrooms at least, should be gradually introducing this skills.
Common Core Standards for English Language Arts in Grade 4.
We have highlighted some of the more important reading skills grade 4 should be practicing below with resources we have to help where we have them. You can read more about the Common Core Standards on this link.
|Common Core||Resource||How it can help|
Determine characters and themes of a story, drama, or poem and give text examples. Also be able to summarize the story.
|Reading Materials at Grade 4 level.||-Comprehension Questions|
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
|Grade 4 Readers||Mix of fiction and nonfiction short passages and comprehension questions.|
Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text
|The Complaint letter, The Lizard and the Sparrow and the Stupid crocodile||All of these texts offer the chance to do a character comparisons or discuss how they react to a situation.|
Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
|Adverbs, Reported speech, passive voice||Selection of grade 4 grammar and reading skills worksheets. Adverbs for example|
By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
|A complaint letter||Could be used to write a reply for each complaint from the person its aimed at to explore different views.|
As you can see in grade 4 there are significant changes from grade 3 reading level expectations.
- there will be a greater selection of text types, including poetry, dramas and prose. They will be taught how to recognise the differences between theses and how to evaluate them.
- They will look at retelling and summarizing skills
- They will learn how to compare and contrast with other texts or stories they may have heard or read and the concepts included including from other cultures.
- There Is also an introduction to inferencing skills. Which will include the use of metaphor and simile
- And as a last hurrah to phonics and reading skills (almost) there is the requirement to be able to read these texts fluently and confidently.
What Can Teachers Do to Improve Reading Levels at 4th Grade.
We believe Text choice is vital in Grade 4 classrooms. If you can choose, or at least adapt, reading materials to inspire your 4th graders you are going to have half the battle won. They are moving from just reading to reading to learn and they will need both your support and great motivation to really excel at this.
- Have a selection of levelled readers and text types suitable for 4th graders covering fiction and NON fiction texts. Thi would be ranging from about level 14 to level 30 on Pm benchmark scales.
- Introduce poetry ( child friendly) and some readers theatre to your lessons so they can do more than just read about these text types they can actually experience them.
- Read with your students. Set aside time where you all read. This can be the same book, or it can be quiet time with a book of their choice. However model how a good reader behaves for your children or students.
- Mix your teaching resources are presented, online games, worksheets, readers, multi media etc.
- Take time to read to your class, it doesn’t happen often and students can learn alot from teachers putting correct emphasis and time into literature especially if introducing poems or dramas. ( check this out as a Roald Dahl story telling!) .
- Give handouts on reading skills, and reading comprehension skills and have them displayed in the classroom.
- Ask your grade 4s their opinion wherever you can, it helps them practice their critical thinking skills.
How Can Parents Help Their Fourth Grader Develop a Love for Reading?
Here’s a list of ways that you can help your fourth grader develop a love for reading:
- Read with your children, both story time and as a family.
- let them tell you about their books, what is happening and what they think will happen. if it is non fiction then ask if they want to go to the museum, or similar to explore in more detail.
- There was a lovely quote i pu in the fifth grade article from from a parent saying they offered their son or daughter a dollar for every book they read over the summer, and it was the best 120 dollars they have ever spent. Incentives shouldn’t be your first step but if needed they could be a great investment.
- Ask your 4th grader what they think often, allow them to start practicing their critical thinking skills.
- Look at competitions to join ( although the less pressure the better) if your children like to perform consider a youth theatre or readers theater group.
Grade 4 students, whatever their reading level, are always learning. Parents can help to steer that away from getting high scores on PUGB or an Xbox and into reading to learn.
As we have highlighted above the average reading level of a fourth grade can fall between a wide range of levels. From around 16 to 30 using a PM Leveling benchmark and 20 to 40 using a DRA reading level framework.
We cannot stress enough the importance of not getting caught up with these numbers though. All grade 4 students are different and their individual circumstances will impact their reading levels.
THe key change in grade four reading lessons is to give opportunity for students to form and express their own opinions, and to start to become aware of the higher reading comprehension skills they will need for their progress through key stage 2.
Here’s a quick recap of the post:
- Fourth graders typically fall between a 20 to 30 reading level depending on the leveling framework.
- Use different text types, allow them time to read independently
- Encourage them forming opinions on what they read
- Follow their interests, it helps motivate them to read
- Expand their vocabulary, including academic vocabulary.
- Start to develop awareness of empathy and looking at texts from other points of view.
- Scholastic – Learn About Leveled Reading
- Reading A to Z – Levelled Books
- Amazon Fourth Grade Reading.
- Common Core ELA Standards
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, English, General Studies and Outdoor Education. Thought it was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children