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English: Age 8–9 (Year 4)

In Year 4, teachers will nurture and encourage independent thinking, learning, and decision making in your child.

Your child will get to know more complex punctuation like inverted commas and apostrophes, will learn key spellings, and will continue to develop their reading and writing. This is also the first year most children will graduate from using a pencil to using a pen – this can be a great incentive to improve handwriting!

There are a variety of simple things you can do at home to support your child’s developing English skills.

What your child will learn

Follow the links below to find an overview of what is taught in Year 4, with information, support, and activities:

Grammar & punctuation in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, children will learn to use more complex sentences, to write in different styles, and to use less common punctuation. This includes:

  • writing noun phrases expanded by modifying adjectives, nouns, and preposition phrases
  • using and understanding plural possession
  • using Standard English forms for verb inflections where appropriate
  • using inverted commas to indicate direct speech.

More information and activity ideas for Year 4 >

Spelling in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, the National Curriculum expectations for spelling are similar to what they are in Year 3. So your child will build upon their learning by continuing to spell more complex word forms and to use dictionaries. This includes:

More information and activity ideas for Year 4 >

Writing in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, the National Curriculum expectations for writing are similar to what they are in Year 3. So your child will build upon their learning by continuing to plan in detail, to use imaginative ideas, and to write with a particular purpose in mind. This includes:

  • talking about similar pieces of writing, and using these to help them plan their own
  • using a rich vocabulary and a range of sentence structures
  • creating settings, characters, and plots for stories
  • using simple organisational devices (for example, headings and sub-headings) for non-fiction
  • proof-reading for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

More information and activity ideas for Year 4 >

Handwriting in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, the National Curriculum expectations for handwriting are similar to what they are in Year 3. So your child will build upon their learning by continuing to develop fluent handwriting skills, making their writing more consistent and easier to read. This includes:

  • joining letters whenever appropriate
  • making sure that letters look consistent throughout writing
  • keeping the spacing between lines of writing parallel and consistent.

More information and activity ideas for Year 4 >

Vocabulary in primary school

Your child will be expected to improve and expand their vocabulary throughout their time at primary school.

You can help your child improve their vocabulary by reading them books a little beyond their current level, and by talking with them regularly and in depth. There are also thesauruses and dictionaries available for all age ranges that can help expand your child’s vocabulary.

More information and activity ideas >

How to help at home

There are plenty of simple ways you can help your child with English in Year 4. Here are a few of our top ideas.

1. Read with your child

While your child will learn about how language works from speaking and listening, the type of language we use in writing is often different from that in speech. Reading regularly to your child, especially books that they cannot yet read on their own yet, is a great way of improving their understanding of language.

Talking about books is also a really useful habit to get into. Talk about the characters and what happens in a story, or what specific bit of information was most useful, but also get them to give you their opinions too. Let them tell you if (and why) they don’t like a book. Part of growing as a reader is learning that it’s okay not to like some books or to prefer reading on-screen sometimes!

For books to read with your child, take a look at our free eBook library.

2. Encourage your child to read

Making time to hear your child read isn’t just good for their reading. Seeing words in print helps them to understand the words, to spell them, and to see how grammar and punctuation are used to make meaning.

When your child is reading, occasionally talk about why the author has decided to include something and how they written it. For example:

‘I wonder why the author has chosen to describe the castle as “gloomy”? I wonder what that tells us about what might happen there?’

3. Give your child opportunities to write

Writing at home can be a great way of practising writing, including using grammar and punctuation to create particular effects. Here are some ideas to encourage regular writing:

  • Create a story about a space adventurer with strange planetary systems to explore. Every week or month, your child could write about a new chapter about a different planet. Before long, the chapters will have built into a book they can be really proud of.
  • Write an A-to-Z. It could be based on anything your child is interested in – animals, space, dinosaurs, fairies, even their favourite TV programme. A page for each letter of the alphabet gives you 26 short pieces of writing spread over the year that build into one big project.
  • Produce a version of a book for a younger child. For example, they could write The Rhino Who Came to Tea or The Very Hungry Angler Fish. Books with a distinctive format such as The Day the Crayons Quit or The Last Polar Bears are perfect for this.
  • Write the book of a film or TV programme. If children have watched something they’ve really enjoyed, they could try and tell the same story in writing. Watching the story on screen can give them a useful frame to hang their own writing on.
  • While writing using a pen and pencil is useful practice, writing on the computer counts too. You might want to turn the spelling and grammar check off to help children to learn to confidently use their own knowledge. The grammar check can be wrong, too, so this can be confusing for children.

4. Find story inspiration

You can find fun story ideas anywhere! Why not raid your kitchen cupboards or hunt through the attic to find lost treasures? Anything from an old hat to a telescope will do the trick. What could the object be used for? Who might be looking for it? What secrets could it hold? Suggest different genres such as mystery or science fiction and discuss how the item might be used in this kind of story.

Real-world facts can also be a great source of inspiration. For example, did you know a jumping flea can accelerate faster than a space rocket taking off into orbit? What crazy story can your child make out of this fact? Newspapers and news websites can be great for finding these sorts of ideas.

For more storytelling ideas, download our free Story idea generator or our Character profile activity sheet.

Activity: Story idea generator

Mix together a genre, character, and setting to think up a story idea.

Activity: Character profile

Come up with lots of interesting details about the lead character in your story.