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What are the Four Pillars of Language Arts?

The four major pillars of language arts are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Related skills can be categorized under these four headings. Beginning fourth graders need to be able to read well and comprehend text so that they are prepared to think about the material and be able to comment in their own words about what they have read. It is during the fourth- grade year -- the first one of three middle elementary grades -- that students learn to summarize and prepare assigned reports about books, articles, short stories and poems. They also learn to present their reports to other students. to listen to classmates and to ask relevant questions.

Aside from school assignments, children gain self-confidence when they have mastered skills, whether it is in language arts, math, science, computer programming, or history. In fact, language arts proficiency is the gateway to exploring the world of information and learning about yourself and your interests. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the launching points to success in all the other subjects.


To read well students must understand what makes up a sentence, how to sound out unfamiliar words by applying phonetics, and how to search out the meaning of the words that they encounter. My twin uncles learned to read by sight and it was more difficult for them to learn without phonetics instruction. It may be obvious, but the more reading a young child does, the better that child will read and comprehend.

While reading is an integral part of the learning process during these years, it is a skill that should already be a well-entrenched skill honed during going into fourth grade. Ideally, a student entering the first of the middle elementary grades reading at or above grade level will be ready to move on to thinking critically about the material.


Under the writing pillar is a solid grounding in English grammar and composition. Not only must a student understand grammar but he/she/they must also be able to write a sentence using the all the parts of speech with proper punctuation and proper sentence structure. The fourth grader will also learn how to write a paragraph with a topic sentence and at least four supporting sentences.

Students who love to read become good writers due to their exposure to good writing in the fiction and nonfiction books they choose to read. In the middle years of elementary school they may even have a few authors they follow.


Presenting thoughts, ideas, and reports to classmates in a traditional setting or to students in a virtual classroom can be scary. However, the sooner this practice begins, the better students in general become more comfortable with speaking in front of a group. This is especially true if the classroom, however it is structured, is perceived by the student as a safe place free of teasing and ostracism. The teacher or parent monitoring the event must set ground rules before the students make their presentations so that everyone is on board.

Most classroom presentations are limited

to a certain amount of time, say five minutes per student, and this is what the children need to know ahead of time so that they can plan their speech. For example, a fiction book of 100 pages can be summarized by first plotting out the main events that affected the plot. Students can use a standard form to capture the most important moments for both the protagonist and the antagonist in the story and still have time to express what they liked and didn't like in the book.


Listening is more than hearing, as most adults in a work environment know very well. For students, though, that may be a new concept. Children listen to instructions. But do they understand what has been said? Are they clear about how the instructions relate to them? Students play games at recess, but do they know the rules? What about listening to classmates during a presentation or to a teacher during a lesson? Active listening is a skill in need of practice so that students can better understand, follow, comprehend, and know when to ask questions.

Here's a link to a video I created about active listening. The concepts I covered were also included in a free online class I developed for adults who are interested in becoming better communicators, which I called Communication Concepts and Skills for Success.

To break it down for students learning to listen actively, here are the eight tips I cover in the video:

1. Focus on what the speaker is saying.

2. Don't shut down and tune out during the speech.

3. Maintain attention.

4. Be able to put what you hear into your own words.

5. Ask questions that relate to the topic.

6. When the speaker is finished, be able to summarize what has been said.

7. Take short notes if the subject is long and involved.

8. Ask for clarification if you need more information.

Moreover, active listening is a respectful behavior that can be carried through all subsequent grades and into adulthood. Classmates making a presentation may feel nervous or anxious about talking in front of a group. If their audience members listen actively, and maybe even offer a few smiles of encouragement, the speaker will be able to relax a bit more each time.

What's the Take Away Here?

Fourth grade is a pivotal year for students in homeschool and in traditional settings. They start learning to apply the language arts basics learned in prior grades to their work on a more frequent basis and to think more deeply and critically about all of their school subjects.

Their ability to read, write, speak, and listen activity will improve immeasurably when they can stay on target and on grade level. Supplemental instruction, such as the interactive workbooks provided by Moore Books, helps kids get over rough spots in their understanding of English so that they can stay on that important track.


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