In the United States, the ninth grade is usually the first year of high school for adolescents. Students are traditionally 14 years old when starting this grade, but they may be 13 or 15 as well. Classes that ninth graders take can depend on the state where they are going to school and if their school is private or public.

However, since the adoption of the Common Core Curriculum, there has been an effort to standardize education across states. This helps students in many ways. One way the standardization helps students is that it helps students who move from one state to another more seamlessly begin school in another state. Common Core also makes an effort to equalize learning across states so that students coming from various states will enter college with the same level of education if they went to public schools.

What Classes Do You Take in the Ninth Grade?

In many schools across the United States, ninth-grade students are required to sign up for seven classes for a full school day. These classes cover the areas of math, science, social science, language and literature. Many school districts also require other classes, like foreign languages and physical education to round out students’ academic programs. To complete their schedules, students can often choose from a variety of electives that include the performing arts, fine arts, home economics or shop, depending on the school.

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Standard High School Curriculum

The state of Florida follows a general curriculum that is the same or very similar to a number of other states. To graduate high school in Florida, students must earn four credits in the area of English language arts, four credits in math, three credits in science, three credits in social studies, one credit in the arts, one credit of physical education, eight elective credits and one online course.

In this case, one credit is generally equal to one year of a class. However, students can complete certain classes more quickly by taking them online.

To earn four English credits, students must complete the course series of English I to English IV within their four years of high school. Students can also substitute courses in this series with advanced placement or International Baccalaureate courses of appropriate difficulty.

To earn four math credits, students must work up to at least the geometry level, which is usually taken after Algebra I. Many students complete math coursework starting at Pre-Algebra in their freshman year. These students then move on to Algebra I in their sophomore year, followed by Geometry in their junior year and Algebra II in their senior year. Students who have completed these courses before high school can take course series on calculus and statistics.

Choices to complete the three required science credits are more open. Florida requires its students to complete Biology I. Students must also pass two science courses that involve laboratory learning. Students can take numerous courses to fulfill their science requirement. These courses range from earth science and chemistry to physics and computer science.

The mandatory social studies classes are one year of world history, one year of U.S. history and a half credit each of U.S. government and “Economics with Financial Literacy.”

Students have to complete one arts-centric course. Some options to fulfill this credit include photography, pottery, digital art and drama. Overall, students must complete eight credit units of electives. These credit units can be in the arts. Students can also use vocation-centric courses like shop to finish this requirement.

One of the admissions requirements for universities in the Florida state university system is the completion of two credits of foreign language in the same language. Many students opt to use a foreign language as part of their elective coursework for this reason.

General Ninth Grade Curriculum

Since ninth grade is the first year of high school, many students opt to take the first classes in a number of required course sequences this year. Students planning ahead also try to get as many requirements out of the way as they can. One possible schedule for a ninth-grader in Florida and a typical ninth grade curriculum might include these courses: English I, Algebra I, World History, Drama I, Spanish I, Biology I and P.E.

English I in the ninth grade usually includes world literature as well as preparation for important standardized tests. In this class, students can expect to read a variety of works of literature, from the famous "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare to "The Odyssey" by Homer. Students will also read short stories and poetry.

Teachers will put more emphasis on writing prowess than ever before, and students will undergo rigorous lessons to teach them how to write more convincingly and in a limited space. English I is required, as are the rest of the courses in the English I-IV sequence, so students have to start the course sequence as freshmen.

Many ninth-graders complete Algebra I in their first year of high school. It is the first required course in the math course sequence, so getting it out of the way early is a good idea. The math studied in this class will be crucial in passing the standardized tests usually given at the end of the ninth and tenth grades. Algebra I is also vital to scoring well on the ACT and the SAT. Most colleges require students to submit scores from either the ACT or the SAT, so ninth-graders who pass Algebra I as soon as they can get ahead in the college application game.

World History class covers a general history of the world from antiquity on. The exact curriculum depends on the state and school district where it is taught. Generally, students study a variety of ancient civilizations, such as Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome in addition to regions students may be less familiar with, like the empires that reigned over China, India and Mongolia. World History usually pays special attention to empires and conquest, paying special attention to the events that created modern countries and societies.

Biology I is another class that is required for students to earn their high school diploma. In biology, students will learn about the taxonomy of life. They will also learn about the plant and animal kingdoms. Since Biology I is the first course in its sequence, the class focuses on beginning content that will be necessary to understand more advanced concepts in the coming courses. In this class, students will learn about the parts of a cell as well as the parts of the body. Laboratory units may include projects where students sprout beans. Students might also get the chance to perform dissections on frogs or other small vertebrates.

Students wishing to enter college after high school will need to complete two sequential foreign language courses. The classes offered usually differ from school to school. Spanish is a common option, and since it is one of the more widely spoken languages in the United States, students in U.S. high schools should consider taking Spanish I. Spanish I is the first course offered in the Spanish sequence. Students who start Spanish early in high school have the opportunity to continue taking higher Spanish courses each year for all four years of high school. At certain schools, these students may be able to earn AP or IB credit in Spanish, which some universities count as college credit.

Often, students choose to get their required physical education credit out of the way in their freshman year of high school. Taking physical education does not necessarily mean taking standard, boring P.E. Some schools offer more exciting curriculum options, like team sports, weightlifting or basketball. Students can earn their required P.E. credit and have fun in the middle of the school day, too.

Students who do not like the idea of group workouts have another option though. In the state of Florida, students can choose to get their P.E. credit and their online course out of the way all at once by taking P.E. online. Shy students and students still working on their physical education skills have reported success in choosing this option.

If ninth-graders begin their high school careers with English I, Algebra I, World History, Spanish I, Biology I and P.E. credits, this leaves them space for one more class, an elective. Students at larger high schools may have an assortment of classes to choose from, but students at smaller high schools may not.

No matter the size of the school, students generally have the option to choose from at least one visual arts class or performing arts class. Students should choose the first class in a sequence that interests them, and this will give them the opportunity to complete the rest of the sequence in their remaining three years of high school. Students should consider taking Drama I, 2-D Art or another creative class to round out their schedule.

Best Electives to Take in High School

Because course offerings frequently depend on school location and district budget, not all classes will be offered at all schools. However, studies have shown that fostering creativity is key to growing future success. Students should choose a creative class that will help them see the world from a different perspective.

Students who like performing or who see themselves as a performer, or even a lawyer, as their future career should take Drama I. Studying theater will help students with public speaking skills as well as reading skills. Some classes even build theatrical sets, giving students the chance to exercise their visual creativity as well as their performance skills.

Some of the best electives to take in high school are foreign languages. Not only is high school foreign language required for many college applications; foreign language helps students see their worlds from a more global perspective. Studying a foreign language fosters cultural understanding. It helps students develop higher-level speaking and writing skills, too.

Some classes offer vocational courses as electives, too. Students can take these ninth grade electives, and by the time they finish high school, they will have a certification in a real-world skill. For example, some schools offer courses that help students become certified nursing assistants.

When choosing which electives to take, students need to look inside themselves and try to figure out either what they enjoy or what they want to learn more about. Electives are essentially extra class periods where students can choose any class they want to take (that they also have completed the prerequisites for). This means that students can take extra science classes if they want to.

They can take two different foreign language classes at the same time. They can take shop and theater together! Electives represent the first set of class choices where students can start crafting the people they want to be in the future. Electives allow students to follow their passions. Discover your passion, and then you will know which elective you should take.

About the Author

Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.