What Are the Best Tips for Teaching High School English?

Dan Cavallari

Teaching high school English can be difficult because many students are in a transition period between childhood and adulthood, and the teacher is likely to encounter students of highly varying ability levels. It is therefore important for the teacher to learn as much as possible about his or her students; pre-assessments will be important for determining the ability levels of each student, and whenever possible, the teacher should try to develop a relationship with students. It is important to remember that it may not always be possible to pay attention to every student all the time, but teaching high school English will involve paying attention to every student at some point.

A high school English teacher should try to choose interesting, engaging topics.
A high school English teacher should try to choose interesting, engaging topics.

A pre-assessment is a test or examination given at the beginning of a unit. This assessment is designed to find out at what level the student is currently reading or writing. Teaching high school English will require the teacher to examine these assessments and design lesson plans around them. The teacher is likely to find out that he or she will be teaching a group with varied ability levels, so the teacher will need to scaffold his or her lesson plans to address this. Remember that teaching methods that may work for some students may not work for other students, so the teacher will need to adapt his or her lesson plans to reach a wider variety of students.

It will be important for the teacher to choose relevant and interesting materials when teaching high school English. Choose books, stories, and essays carefully to ensure they are appropriately difficult or easy to read, depending on the group, and make sure the materials will be engaging for the students. Start with less difficult texts at the beginning of a unit and progress in difficulty from there. This will allow students to engage with the material before tackling more difficult concepts and readings.

It is a good idea to perform assessments at the end of units when teaching high school English to gauge student progress as well as the effectiveness of the lesson plans used during the unit. Make changes accordingly if the student performance is lower than expected. Try to vary instruction by allowing hands-on tasks, guest speakers, silent reading time, out-loud reading time, writing assignments, field trips, and so on. Students will respond to consistency, but they will be stimulated by new experiences. Try to provide smooth transitions between units and activities, but don't be afraid to stray from lesson plans and try something new if the plans do not seem to be working.

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