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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!

How to help at home

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

1. Continue to make time to read to your child as often as you can, or listen to books read aloud. Choose books that are beyond your child’s reading ability. This will support their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Talk about any new vocabulary that you come across – and use it together later.

2. Encourage your child to read as much as possible – seeing words in print really helps children to absorb correct spelling and grammar.

3. Listen to your child read as often as possible. Try to read their school reading book as well as other books they have chosen for themselves. Occasionally, without slowing the story too much, point out interesting vocabulary and punctuation.

4. Practise spellings. Continue to help your child learn their weekly spelling words. See our Twelve tips for weekly spellings page for more ideas.

Print out and work on the Spelling word list for Year 3 and Year 4.

5. Create writing opportunities, such as mini non-fiction books, stories and cartoons. Ask them to tell you stories they have made up or to retell favourite or well-known tales or personal anecdotes. Encourage them to write a chapter book – writing a chapter a week – or write a graphic novel of a film they’ve liked.

Let them write with pencil and paper, or on a computer. Find writing inspiration from odd objects at home or unusual facts found in books or learned in a television programme.

For more ideas on writing stories, look at the Creative Writing section on the Kids Activities pages.

6. Encourage your child to talk to you. Gently correct any grammar mistakes, and help them to extend what they say with conjunctions such as because, after or where. Challenge them to use new vocabulary and to retell stories to you. Encourage them to tell anecdotes using phrases such as ‘suddenly’ or ‘after lunch’ to keep their story going.

7. Keep talking to your child and use interesting vocabulary as you do so. Try to use precise nouns, descriptive adjectives and adverbs to create phrases such as ‘the red Ferrari driving fast’ instead of ‘the car’.

8. Keep practising handwriting – support your child as they practise joining letters and start using a pen.

What your child will learn

Follow the links below to find out more about how English is taught in Year 4:

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

In Year 4, your child will learn to:
    • Know the difference between the -s used to show a plural (the cows) and the –’s used to show possession (the cow’s field)
    • Use an apostrophe to show possession with plural nouns, for example, ‘the girls’ voices’ (for more than one girl) rather than ‘the girl’s voices’ (for just one girl)
    • Use Standard English verbs, for example, ‘I wasn’t doing anything’
    • Write longer noun phrases that include adjectives (for example, green, fast), nouns (frog, train), and prepositional phrases (on the lily-pad, after this one), for example ‘the green frog on the lily-pad’ or ‘the fast train after this one’
    • Use fronted adverbials to start a sentence by describing the verb, for example, ‘Suddenly, the door opened.’ Or ‘Before we set off, fasten your seatbelt.’
    • Use paragraphs to organise their ideas
    • Choose when to use a noun (the girl, our group, the idea) or a pronoun (she, we, it) to make their writing easy to read
    • Use inverted commas to when writing speech.
Grammar books for age 8-9:

Spelling in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, your child will continue to practise:
    • how to use a dictionary to check their spelling
    • to spell many homophones correctly:

Year 3 and 4 Homophones list

accept/except, affect/effect, ball/bawl, berry/bury, brake/break, fair/fare, grate/great, groan/grown, here/hear, heel/heal/he’ll, knot/not, mail/male, main/mane, meat/meet, medal/meddle, missed/mist, peace/piece, plain/plane, rain/rein/reign, scene/seen, weather/whether, whose/who’s

    • spelling more words with prefixes including words beginning dis-, mis-, in-, re-, im-, sub-, inter-, super-, anti-, auto-
    • spelling more words with suffixes and other endings, including words ending -ation, -ly, -sure, -ture, -sion, -ion, -ous, -tion,
    • words with unusual spelling such as ch for /k/, gue for /g/ and que for /k/, sc for /s/ and ei, eigh, and ey for /ay/
    • using the possessive apostrophe with regular and irregular plurals, for example the children’s lunch, the girls’ shoes
    • to spell the words in the Spelling word list for Year 3 and Year 4
Spelling books for age 8-9:

Writing in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, your child will continue to practise the skills they learnt in Year 3. They will:
    • talk about similar pieces of writing, and using these to help them plan their own
    • plan their writing by talking about it or writing down key words
    • use a rich vocabulary and a range of sentence structures to make their writing interesting
    • create settings, characters, and plots for stories
    • use simple organisational devices (for example, headings and sub-headings) when writing non-fiction
    • proof-reading their writing for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors
    • read their writing out loud.

More information and writing activity ideas for Year 4

Handwriting in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, your child will continue to work on their fluent handwriting skills, making their writing more consistent and easier to read. They will practise:
    • writing neatly and legibly with letters that are all a similar size
    • joining some letters
    • deciding which letters to join and which letters not to join
    • keeping their writing lines horizontal and keeping the space between lines parallel and consistent
    • keeping the downstrokes of their writing upright and parallel
    • making sure that descenders of one line do not touch the ascenders of the line below.

Handwriting practise activities:

For more information on skills taught throughout Primary School, check out our vocabulary page.