Thinking & Learning

What to Expect from High School English

Exactly what your high schooler studies in English will depend on their school and their interests. What should you expect and how do you know they’re making the progress they need?

Most high schoolers will be required to take English language arts for all four years. Like other subjects, that will probably start with some required courses and then open up to various options, from courses on specific periods or types of literature to advanced placement or honors courses.

As a parent, what should be on the lookout for as they progress through their school’s English curriculum?


They’ll be doing substantial reading and writing. Every year, they’ll be reading and analyzing a variety of texts and writing about literature, as well as their own experiences. They’ll be reading both historical and contemporary texts, and hopefully will have exposure to a wide variety of types of literature, including poetry and plays. The complexity of the texts will also increase, so they’ll be reading more challenging stuff than they saw in middle school. If your child has ongoing struggles with reading, it’s not too late to get them additional support—and it’s really important now to help them access their full high school curriculum.


They’ll have the chance to read literature from different historical periods and cultures. In the early high school years, they’ll probably get a bit of exposure to a lot of different types of literature. In the later years, they’ll have a chance to choose more advanced courses that focus on areas of particular interest to them. Hopefully, they’ll read work by authors from different backgrounds, parts of the world, and periods of history.


They’ll understand how to use literary criticism. They’ll read criticism alongside literature and they should be able to use it to help them analyze a text and form a perspective on it.


They’ll do some creative writing, too. All students should have the chance to write different types of texts, too, from short stories to poetry and plays.

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