4th Grade ELA BEST Standards
What can fourth grade teachers expect from the new Florida BEST Standards for language arts? How do they compare to the LAFS standards? What are fourth grade students now expected to learn?
In this post, I will quickly analyze the changes and how they will affect your classroom. By the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of how the standards will change with the adoption of the new fourth grade ELA BEST standards.
How are the BEST Standards organized?
BEST standards are divided into 11 subcategories, while the LAFS had 7:
- Reading Prose & Poetry – Previously Reading: Literature
- Reading Informational Text
- Reading Genres – I really don’t understand this category. It includes standards that were previously included with either Literature or Informational Text.
- Vocabulary – These standards were in Reading and Language subcategories in LAFS.
- Foundational Skills
- Oral Communication – Previously Speaking & Listening
- Researching – These were in LAFS Writing.
- Technology – These were in Writing and Speaking and Listening.
- Conventions – Language
- ELA Expectations – I believe these are meant to be similar to the LAFS Reading standards, which were overarching from K!2. However, they don’t work the same way. More on this later.
The BEST standards also include suggested books for each grade level. I will discuss these book lists in detail later in this post.
Some of the changes made to the standards should be an improvement, while others make it more difficult for teachers to easily find what they are to teach. In this post, I will explain most of the changes, and point out some potential issues.
Fourth grade has a lot of changes in the reading standards, especially in Literature, but those are change of omission or slight tweaks to LAFS standards rather than the addition of new concepts.
Prose & Poetry
For literature, the BEST standards only include a few concepts from LAFS:
LAFS.4.RL.1.2 – “Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text. Summarize the text” has changed to ELA.4.R.1.2 – “Explain a stated or implied theme and how it develops, using details, in a literary text” and ELA.4.R.3.2 – “Summarize a text to enhance comprehension, including the plot and theme for a literary text.” I realize these are not exactly the same, but they are close enough that last year’s lessons could be used or tweaked to fit the new standard.
Students continue to be expected to determine the meaning of words in a text using various strategies. However, BEST has removed the words and phrases that allude to significant characters found in mythology.
LAFS.4.RL.1.3 – “Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text” has changed to ELA.4.R.1.1 – “Explain how setting, events, conflict, and character development contribute to the plot in a literary text.” Again, this is not the same, but I think teachers could reasonably reuse lessons with slight changes.
There is a specific poetry standard in each grade level, which I think is an improvement over LAFS. In fourth, it is “explain how rhyme and structure create meaning in a poem.” This skill was partially covered in LAFS.4.RL.2.5 – “Explain the major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems and drama when speaking or writing about a text.”
In LAFS, students studied figurative language under the language standards, LAFS.4.L.3.5 – “Explain the meaning of similes and metaphors in context. Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.” In BEST, a general figurative language standard is included under Reading Genres, ELA.4.R.3.1 – “Explain how figurative language contribute to meaning in text(s).” (Third grade BEST standards specify metaphors, personification, and hyperboles. Second grade cover similes, idioms, and alliteration.)
The one new standard is this section actually just moved to fourth grade from LAFS third grade: ELA.4.R.1.3 – “Identify the narrator’s point of view and explain the difference between a narrator’s point of view and character perspective in a literary text.”
Many Literature skills were removed from LAFS to BEST. The omitted skills slowly increased students’ reading skills, so leaving them out may cause problems when students need to read, understand, and analyze texts in higher grades. Teachers may want to continue instruction of some of the former standards as well as covering what is in BEST.
The majority of the LAFS informational text standards have remained in BEST (or changed slightly.)
LAFS.4.RI.1.2 – “Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details. Summarize the text” has not changed a lot. The new correlating standards are ELA.4.R.2.2 – “Explain how relevant details support the central idea, implied or explicit” and ELA.4.R.3.2 – “Summarize a text to enhance comprehension, including the central idea and relevant details for an informational text.”
LAFS.4.RI.3.8 – “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text” remains basically the same (ELA.4.R.2.4 – “Explain an author’s claim and the reasons and evidence used to support the claim.”)
The text features standard has changed for the better in my opinion. In addition to using text features, the BEST standards split the text structure expectations in half – now half are taught in third and the other half in fourth. If you have ever taught text structure, they take a long time to teach well. Splitting them into two grade levels should help. The new standard is ELA.4.R.2.1 – “Explain how text features contribute to meaning and identify the text structures of problem/solution, sequence, and description in texts.”
The big changes, aside from what was completely removed are:
ELA.4.R.2.3 – “Explain an author’s perspective toward a topic in an informational text.” This used to be “explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.” This new skill was taught in third grade in LAFS as part of “distinguish own point of view from the author’s point of view.”
ELA.4.R.3.3 – “Compare and contrast accounts of the same event using primary and/or secondary sources. This had been firsthand and/or secondhand accounts. (Sam Houston State University has a good, concise article on primary vs secondary sources if you need a refresher.)
Again, the vocabulary expectations have largely remained the same in informational texts.
The other good news is that the Writing standards are largely the same. The only major change in writing is the opinion standard says they should use details from one or more sources. (Researching has been separated into its own category – see below.)
I have seen a lot of buzz about cursive being added to the new Florida Standards, but it was in the LAFS Language standards and continues to be in BEST under writing. No change.
There are now separate Technology standards, which I think is a good thing. In fourth grade, there are only two BEST standards in this category. One is basically the same (although more specific) as LAFS.4.W.2.6 – “Use digital writing tools individually or collaboratively to plan, draft, and revise writing.” The other is “arrange multimedia element(s) to create emphasis in oral or written tasks.”
The Researching standard in BEST has changed. In LAFS Writing, it said: “Conduct short research projects. Gather relevant information from multiple sources, providing a list of my sources. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.” That standard now says, “Conduct research to answer a question, organizing information about the topic, using multiple valid sources.” (This standard is the exact same as the third-grade standard but added the word valid.)
Speaking and Listening skills have been nearly eliminated in grades 2 – 6. Oral Communications focuses on presenting information. However, teachers can easily continue to work on other speaking and listening skills by integrating them into lessons.
In fourth grade, this subsection has pretty much stayed the same. In general, fourth graders are supposed to have mastered the ability to sound out and decode words, as well as read fluently.
Let me begin with saying I don’t think the expectations themselves are a problem. My concern is the lack of connection between the ELA Expectations and the rest of the standards.
In CCSS and LAFS Reading, the overarching reading standards are the foundations for the rest of the reading standards. For example, Standard 1 deals with making inferences. In every grade level, reading standard 1 deals with inferences – the expectations increase a step in difficulty as the student moves through school.
In ELA BEST, there is no connection that I can find. In fact, there seems to be a disconnect between the two. In the ELA Expectations, it asks students to make inferences. I did not see inference mentioned in any other standards – it is just randomly in this general section without having specific inference goals at each grade level.
Teachers need to be aware of this change, as before the general reading standards really weren’t new skills, rather the overarching skills. The specific subskill was explained in Literature and Informational Text. Teachers need to make sure they are covering the standards in this subsection.
Let me begin with this: I don’t think I can name one language arts teacher that believes students are learning grammar effectively. My brother teaches high school, and he told me they just expect students to not know any grammar or write well. Now, I know I taught grammar in elementary, and so did my teammates. The reality is that kids aren’t learning it. So, this is one area that could be improved.
Unfortunately, I cannot figure out the reasoning behind Conventions in the BEST standards at all. There is no obvious progression as to what is taught in each grade. In fact, the new standards in fourth grade were formerly standards in grades 3 – 8. There is very little carryover from LAFS to BEST. (For this reason, I am not detailing all the changes here.)
Conventions standards are all over in every elementary grade. Unfortunately, I think teachers are going to have to use standards in this subsection loosely and instead base instruction on students’ skills and needs (which is what should be happening anyway.)
The state had the idea of including book lists at each grade level for fiction and nonfiction, as well as poems and civics books. Although this idea had potential, the execution has some problems. Although some grade levels have a pretty solid selection of books, I personally feel the fourth grade lists could be better.
I spoke with my teacher friends, and it seems like the lists are suggested and not mandatory. That’s a good thing, because many of the suggested books are out of print.
Some of my critiques of the book lists:
- In fourth grade, about one-third of the books are above grade level. Also, there are no below grade level books.
- There is very little diversity in the protagonists in the fiction books.
- The fiction books are also very heavy on historical fiction. Now, I love historical fiction, but I believe teachers should carefully select books from different genres to introduce their students to a wide-range of books. There are six historical fiction books on a list of 13 books. There are no mystery or science fiction books.
- I think there are now much better book choices to learn about pioneer life than the Little House books now available.
- I think Johnny Tremain is a lot for 4th It is a great book that a lot of teachers read, but usually in fifth grade or higher. (And it can be hard as a read aloud in fifth, too.)
I suggest looking at the Sunshine State Books and talking to your librarian to get some ideas for read alouds and novels studies outside of the ones on the lists.
Although the BEST standards are “new,” many standards remain the same or very similar. In fact, for the most part, teachers could still teach a large number of their reading lessons and still meet (or exceed) the ELA BEST reading standards.
Teachers should easily be able to include the Oral Communication, Technology, and Research standards in lessons.
Teachers need to be sure to cover the ELA Expectations standards, as they are not repeated in other sections.
Teachers will have to focus on their students’ ability levels to teach Conventions, as the grade level standards may or may not match their skills. Teachers should assess individual needs and pulling students for small group instruction.
The book lists may give you some ideas, but you may have a hard time finding books because many are out-of-print. The fiction book list is lacking diversity in both characters and genres, so I recommend asking your librarian for other novel suggestions. The Sunshine State Books are a great place to start.
My standards posters and checklists are being updated (and improved!) If you previously purchased my Florida Standards resources, you get the updates for free – just check your My Purchases area in TPT.
I just wanted to say that your take on the suggested book list made me heard.
I am an elementary media specialist, and our school system plans to implement the recommended book lists as required reading. (They already did so for First and Second this year, as K-2 is now on B.E.S.T. ELA standards).
I think many kids are going to struggle, and there are so many good books that may be skipped. I have discovered a few new books through the B.E.S.T. standards, but all in all, I don’t understand why the standards embrace Lexile level bands, but then include books that exceed those bands.