The 10th grade is arguably the best year of high school. You’re not a freshman anymore, which is a year that’s stressful at best and terrifying at worst. In your junior year, you’ll have to worry about taking major tests like the SAT or ACT and applying to colleges. Senior year is the most strenuous of all because you have to make sure you graduate. However, as a 10th-grader, you can take some time to enjoy your high school life.
In the United States, the 10th grade is typically the second year of high school. Student ages average between 14 and 16, and many students are just learning how to drive. In the 9th grade, most students will have completed the introductory courses of each course sequence that is required to graduate from high school. Since the adoption of the Common Core curriculum, most of these classes are relatively similar across the U.S. The average class schedule for 9th-grade students includes classes in literature, foreign language, science, social studies, math and physical education. Your 10th-grade classes will continue in each course sequence so that you can complete your high school graduation requirements in your early years of high school. You should also include at least one elective class when planning your 10th-grade courses.
Typically, a solid 10th-grade class schedule may include Biology II, Spanish II, Drama II, U.S. Government and Economics, Algebra II, English II and an elective of your choice.
Standard High School Curriculum
Most high schools across the country follow very similar curriculum patterns. This is by design. Modern families tend to be more mobile than they were in the past, so state boards of education have gotten together to standardize curriculum across state lines. Because of these new initiatives, students who move from one state to another can transition seamlessly into a new classroom without losing too much instructional time.
In Florida, for example, students must earn a certain number of credits in each of the core education areas in order to earn a high school diploma. Florida students are required to earn four credits in English language arts, four credits in math, one credit in an online course, one physical education credit, one creative arts credit, three science credits, three social studies credits and eight elective credits. One credit equals one full year of a class. In some cases, such as with electives where the class is split up into two semesters, each semester may equate to half a credit, and a full year will still be required.
Earning these prescribed credits usually falls into a set number of curriculum patterns. Students have the ability to choose their class schedules in many cases, but their schedules must fulfill the right requirements, or they will risk failing to graduate. Because of this, it is recommended that students take subjects requiring four credits to graduate – English language arts and math – during every school year that they are in high school. Students should also pursue electives as a course sequence and not take them piecemeal. Completing an elective course sequence will give students more of an opportunity to earn the required eight elective credits, but taking electives and then abandoning the next course in the sequence leads to increasingly limited elective options.
Classes to Complete Prior to Your 10th-Grade Courses
Before you start your 10th-grade classes, build a strategic course load for your freshman year. Smart students will start fulfilling their graduation course requirements as soon as possible, ideally in the 9th grade or earlier. The recommended 9th-grade schedule consists of one English language arts credit course, one math credit course, one science credit course, one social studies credit course, one arts credit course, one physical education course and one elective. Since Florida students have to take at least one course online during their high school career, many opt to take that course in their freshman year. A good option for shy students is to take physical education online, fulfilling both requirements simultaneously and letting the student escape the embarrassment of dodgeball.
Florida requires students to pass Biology I, so take that class in your freshman year if you can. Since Florida requires you to complete two science courses with labs, Biology I is a good place to start. You should try to complete your next lab requirement as part of your sophomore classes.
For your math requirement, try to take Algebra I or, if necessary, pre-algebra. For some students, these classes are quite difficult. Make sure that you focus. If you don’t pass, you will have to repeat these required courses until you get them right. That will eat up a lot of time in your schedule that you could otherwise use for more fun learning experiences.
It is also important to take a foreign language class as an elective. While foreign language may not be a requirement to graduate, most quality universities require at least two years of foreign language credits to apply.
A typical schedule for a freshman in Florida might include these courses: P.E., Biology I, Spanish I, Drama I, World History, Algebra I and English I. Passing these classes would set up the student for success during the rest of his high school career.
Which Sophomore Classes Should You Take?
If you started out your freshman year on the right foot with the schedule above, you will have already completed several of the course requirements prescribed by the state of Florida. Keep a tally of the classes that are required and the classes you still need to complete. Ideally, you will already have completed your physical education requirement, your online class requirement and your arts class requirement. You should also have completed one credit each of English language arts, math, science, social studies and an elective. That leaves fewer required classes to be fulfilled by your 10th-grade courses.
Your sophomore classes should be continuations of the course sequences you began as a freshman. Take honors classes and Advanced Placement classes wherever possible. These will help your grade point average and better prepare you for your studies at the university level. If you took English I in your freshman year, you should move on to English II or English II Honors. If you took pre-algebra as a freshman, it’s time for Algebra I.
If you took the same classes as in the sample schedule above, your 10th-grade classes could look like the following: Biology II, Spanish II, Drama II, U.S. Government and Economics, Algebra II, English II and another elective of your choice, such as ceramics or photography.
Classes vary from school to school, so ask your guidance counselor for recommendations. The best course schedules for your early years of high school will get as many graduation requirements out of the way as possible. With each subsequent year, you will have more opportunity to choose new courses and add variety to your schedule. This will give you time to pursue new passions, prepare for college with more rigorous course options or both. Work hard in your freshman and sophomore years, and your junior and senior years of high school will be smooth sailing.
Rebecca Renner is a teacher and college professor from Florida. She loves teaching about literature, and she writes about books for Book Riot, Real Simple, Electric Literature and more.