How I Teach English in High School

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Finish Well Radio Show, Podcast #096, How I Teach English in High School with Meredith Curtis on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast NetworkHow I Teach English in High School

In “How I Teach English in High School,” episode #096, Meredith Curtis shares the life skills she invests in her children during the high school years along with the classic literature they read and kinds of writing they do each year. Meredith actually teaches high school English for 5 years starting in 8thgrade. Her teens learn to work with original documents, give a decent speech, analyze literature, create stories, write excellent essays, write a novel, edit writing, and read a wide variety of classic literature. Sounds overwhelming? Not at all! Everything is broken down into bite-sized pieces in courses that are fun to teach and learn.  Be inspired to relax and enjoy high school while investing life skills your children will use in the decades ahead.



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Show Notes

Common question: “How do you teach English in high school?”

5 years instead of 4 to get all the skills and books in!

Classes taught in no particular order. Each one stands alone. A senior might take an English course with a freshman. Learning together is more fun!

In each course, I teach specific writing, research, and speaking skills. We also read classic literature, essays, and short stories.

Each time I teach these courses, they are a little different because they target specific needs and interests of the one or two of my teens taking the course.

Here are the Skills I Teach:  

Write a Excellent Essay, Give a Decent Speech, and Write a Effective Thesis Statements

Essays:wide variety, crafting workable thesis statements, using the thesis statement effectively, communicating clearly, making the essay enjoyable to read, having something worth saying, editing, rewriting

Speech:comfortableness in front of an audience, make it lighthearted. Speeches from reading picture book aloud all the way to persuasive speech with a dabble in debate.

Reading:Essays, Classic Literature

Listening:Speeches by Excellent Speakers

My Course: Communication 101: Essays & Speeches


Research, Working with Original Sources, Classic American Literature

Research Skills:Using a Library, Using the Internet, Citing Sources, Working with Original Documents (original sources from Age of Reason—Yikes!), Summarizing, Paraphrasing, Starting with a Research Question, Using Quotes, Outlines, Thesis Statements that can guide a paper, Writing Paper, Presenting Paper

Writing:Paraphrase, Précis, Thesis Statements, Essay, Articles, Research Paper. The step-by-step research and writing a research paper begins with weekly meetings to read research and notes aloud and share ideas.

Reading:Great American works from histories and poetry to adventures and humor

Reading Aloud Together:Sermons, Scenes from Plays

Book Club Discussions:Style of writing and change of writing over time. We often are studying American history at the same time so discussions can often end up intertwining American history.

My Course: American Literature and Research 


Literary Analysis, Ancient Literature

Reading:Starts right at the Beginning with Genesis and Tale of Gilgamesh, and we and work our way through ancient works by Aesop, Homer, Virgil, and Saint Augustine, and on to Robin Hood and fairy tales by Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

Analysis:While we move through history, we learn how to analysis literature starting with simple analysis and moving forward to a plot analysis later in the year.

Writing:Simple Review & Analysis Papers moving toward a Plot Analysis Paper, Fairy Tale

Book Club Discussions:One thing we notice and discuss is how all the ancient plots are repeated over and over all the way up to today in plays, literature, movies, and TV shows. It’s fun to see those ancient plots dressed up in modern clothes.

My Course: Foundations of Western Literaturewe start at the very beginning with Genesis and work our way through ancient works by Aesop, Homer, Virgil, and Saint Augustine, ending with Fairy Tales.

Classic British Literature, Creative Writing

We love British literature!

Reading:Classic works from Beowulf to Milton to Dickens to Austen to Lewis and so much more. The best books ever!

Reading Aloud:Poetry & Scenes from Shakespeare plays

Book Club Discussions:We love to get into deep discussions about all the amazing stories we read during the British Literature course in a book club setting complete with coffee and hot chocolate.

Writing:We use the literature as a springboard for writing assignments. When we read Canturbery Tales, we write “Tales to Israel.” We write an allegory when we read Pilgrim’s Progress and a sonnet when we read Shakespeare.

History:As a history buff, I have to share a bit of British history as we go and move through the books chronologically.

My Course: British Literature & Writing


Golden Age Mysteries, Creative Writing, Writing a Novel

Reading:“Golden-Age” mysteries by amazing authors like Agatha Christie, Sir Author Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton.

Book Club Discussion:books and short stories we read throughout the year, noticing how the author built suspense, tricked us with red herrings, developed characters, and surprised us with the twist ending.

Watching:Classic TV Mysteries, too, like Perry Mason and Monk.

Preparation/Development:We spend half of the year developing our characters, especially our detective and sidekick, as well as working on dialogue, clues, red herrings, and plots. We worked on our stories as if they were one scene followed by the next scene and the next scene, etc.

Critique:Read & Review One Another’s Paper (this course is more fun with 2 or more)

Writing:Descriptive Paragraph about our Detective, Prep Assignments to “show” Characters, Outlines, Short Story, Novel

My Course: Who Dun It Murder Mystery Literature & Writing

Grammar Review

I Teach Grammer 3rdto 7thGrade. From 8thto 12thGrade, we just review grammar once a week with Daily Grams.

In high school, we focus on writing skills, as well as reading and discussing classic literature and works.

If you would like to use my English courses in your own homeschool, they are all available for sale in print at Amazon and as E-books from PayHip and TeachersPayTeachers.

You can learn more about all my high school courses here.

You can learn about individual English courses:
Communication 101: Essays and Speeches
Foundations of Western Literature
American Literature & Research
British Literature & Writing
Who Dun It? Murder Mystery & Writing

Whatever path you choose for English in your own high school home school, I hope it will include lots of classic literature and writing. I think back to the basics is best!


Always FREE Reading Lists for Every Age!


American Literature & Research British Literature & Writing High School Class Communications 101:Essays and Speeches High School Class Foundations of Western Literature by Meredith Curtis
Newspaper Reporting by Meredith Curtis Who Dun It? Murder Mystery Literature and Writing High School Class HIS Story of the 20th Century by Meredith Curtis HIS Story of the 20th Century: High School Workbook by Meredith Curtis

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