Cognitive Skills Fourth Graders Need to Succeed

Time management and goal setting make this list

Student writing in classroom
Getty Images/Compassionate Eye Foundation/Chris Ryan

The fourth grade classroom can be a challenging environment for children, but the development of certain cognitive skills gives students the tools needed to succeed. Many of these skills involve time management and a more sophisticated understanding of language.

Developing a Sense of Right and Wrong

Although moral development is an ongoing process, it’s developmentally appropriate for fourth graders to begin moving from adhering to the rules because they are the rules to behaving in accordance to their own standards.

More simply, instead of doing it (or not doing it) because somebody said so, fourth graders should now be heeding their own sense of right and wrong.

Effective Time Management

As your child is given more writing assignments or participates in long-term projects such as the science fair, there will be a lot of demands on his time. (That’s not even taking extracurricular activities into account!)

Knowing when an assignment is due is no longer good enough. He’s going to need to figure out how to break the assignment into manageable sections and complete it over time instead of finishing assignments at the last minute.

Prioritizing and Goal-Setting

Much like budgeting his time, this skill is about your child being able to do things well and with his best effort. Unfortunately, as the opportunities for social engagements and extracurricular activities increase, so does the amount of homework your child will have.

He may need to make some tough choices about what comes first and what is important to him.

Complex Understanding of Language

During this grade, the child should rely more on the context of a conversation and what someone meant to say as opposed to the more literal interpretation of the words. The development of this skill may sound like the day you’ve been waiting for, the day when your child doesn’t pick apart your sentence by taking it too literally.

But don’t get too excited just yet. Fourth graders still look for the loopholes and the literal interpretations of language if it will benefit them. However, they are better able to hear beyond words themselves.

In school, this skill is crucial. It enables children to understand more complex books, write more in-depth narrative works and simply to understand the directions a teacher has given.

Use of Idioms

Fourth graders develop an appreciation and understanding of idioms and the multiple uses of words. As your child begins to hear language in a more mature manner, it will help her become a more fluent reader and better writer. One of the added bonuses of this developing cognitive skill is that it may appear hand in hand with your child developing a more sophisticated sense of humor based more on word play than scatological humor.

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