Parent Guide to High School English

This guide provides an overview of what your child will be learning in high school Englis

This guide provides an overview of what your child will be learning in high school English. As students advance from 9th through 12th grade, they will continually practice skills and master standards that will help them succeed in the academic and business world. 

The Importance of Academic Standards

The standards outlined in this parent guide are based on Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy. Over 45 states have adopted Common Core standards. 

It is necessary for high school students to meet academic standards to be ready for what lies ahead at college and in the workforce. Standards also set a clear goal that explains what teachers expect from their students. All the classwork, homework, and assessments your child will do in high school English classes work toward these end goals.

What You Can Do to Help Your Child with High School English

You don’t need the ability to teach English skills to your child to be able to help. You should set high expectations for your child and support your child in meeting those expectations. 

Talking With the Teacher

One way to help your child is by developing a relationship with your child’s teacher. When you go to parent-teacher conferences, ask if your child is on track, how you can help your child improve, and what resources may help outside the classroom. 

Extra Help

If your child is struggling to meet your expectations, the teacher also may be able to point you toward tutoring opportunities, after-school clubs, or writing workshops that can help your child acquire the skills they need. 

Extracurricular Activities

If your child has an aptitude for English and seems to enjoy it, your child might enjoy extracurricular activities related to English, such as working with the school newspaper or yearbook. Encourage reading and writing outside of classwork and check with your local library for writing clubs or book clubs for teens. 

If your child is considering a career related to English, an internship could also help to build work experience for the future. 

High School English Standards

High school English standards in grades 9-12 prepare students by giving them skills that make them ready for life beyond high school. Having a large quantity of reading and writing projects will help prepare them for the rigors of college and career.


High school students read a variety of fiction and non-fiction literature, stories, dramas, and poems. As they read, they will be doing the following:

  • Analyzing evidence and drawing inferences from texts
  • Determining themes so that they can summarize texts
  • Analyzing characters 
  • Determining word meanings and how words are used in a text
  • Studying the author’s choices of sequential timing, plot devices, setting, and when characters are introduced
  • Understanding the difference between what is said and what is meant
  • Reading from American literature and about other cultural experiences in world literature
  • Analyzing written works and how they’re depicted in other mediums like art
  • Evaluating how an author uses source material


High school writing students will write both short papers and long papers that require more time to research. As they write, they will be:

  • Developing well-reasoned and well-researched arguments in a more formal style
  • Conveying information clearly and correctly, using good organization 
  • Creating well-structured sequential narratives with good characterization, setting, and event details
  • Producing clear writing appropriate to the assignment and audience
  • Learning to revise and improve writing through editing and rewriting
  • Using technology to produce writing, share writing, and link to related information
  • Understanding how to do research projects and gather relevant information for analysis

Speaking and Listening

High school students should come to discussions prepared with well-researched information and evidence. However, they should also learn to listen to other speakers and analyze what they have to say.  High school speaking and listening skills include:

  • Participating in different types of discussions with a variety of partners
  • Building on others’ ideas
  • Work with others and delegate individual roles
  • Moving conversations with questions, opposing opinions, and challenges
  • Learning to respond thoughtfully to differing perspectives, understand all sides, and resolve contradictions
  • Expressing thoughts clearly, precisely, and logically
  • Presenting information in various formats, including digital media
  • Evaluating speakers’ reasoning, evidence, word choices, and tone
  • Presenting 
  • Being able to adapt speech to a variety of contexts, audiences, or levels of formality


High school language skills enforce learning and using grammar and words correctly. High school students should be able to use the English language correctly in an academic or career setting and in other domains. They should be able to choose the correct word or phrase in these settings. The language skills they learn in high school involve: 

  • Using parallel structure
  • Using various types of grammatical phrases and clauses correctly
  • Demonstrating knowledge of standard punctuation, capitalization, and spelling
  • Learning to use language according to a specific style of writing
  • Understanding vocabulary from context or how to find the meaning with a dictionary
  • Recognizing similar words with different ending letters
  • Interpreting figures of speech
  • Understanding the nuances of similar words

What Does an English Student Look Like When They’re Ready for College and Career?

After a high school student has met their high school English standards, they have the language tools they need to face the academic and business world. A successful high school English student has the following skills:

  • Independence
  • A strong content knowledge base
  • The ability to respond to various audiences in a variety of tasks
  • Strong comprehension as well as the ability to critique others
  • An understanding of the value of research and evidence
  • An ability to use technology and digital media to their advantage
  • A willingness and ability to understand other cultures and perspectives

End Results

When students, parents, and teachers are all working toward the same goals, students succeed. Every book they read, paper they write, and speech they give for the next four years is a step closer for your child to be able to meet their future with confidence. With dedication and your help, they can master high school English.


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