Collegebound? What to Do in 9th Grade
Presuming you have committed to a high school math program and foreign language in 8th grade, then here’s what I’d like to suggest as your no. 1 decision for 9th grade:
Choose a class or curriculum that will teach your child to write well—even if your kid is possibly heading into a STEM-related field. Collegebound kids will do a lot of writing as part of the admissions process and even more writing once they hit campus. AP exams require a lot of writing too, and those will be critical to earning college credits during high school (something your child will never regret.) Finally, writing well will set your child apart from most applicants—it’s not a common strength, unfortunately, among American teens.
Why start this early in high school? Because writing well takes practice and maturity. A writing-intensive program should be sustained throughout high school, and 9th grade is when the groundwork is laid (if not sooner).
The first step is to learn the mechanics of writing well, followed by learning to think deeply and broadly as your teen matures. The target for your collegebound student: By the beginning of the senior year, your child can write compelling, thoughtful, and original essays that show his or her intellectual promise. Not only is this important for writing admissions essays, but more so, because writing well is a by-product of thinking well.
If you want to send your child out the door confident that she or he knows how to think critically and reflectively about ideas and issues, then run a writing-intensive program throughout high school. What’s the connection? Writing is a powerful learning tool. It forces us to perform complex cognitive tasks as we decide what to say and how to say it. Composing requires deep processing and that reinforces learning and triggers insights and connections. I’d so much rather ask students to write essays as a measure of what they know than take a test. Briefly recapping in a writing journal every day—here’s what I learned, for example—is also more powerful and enduring than traditional outlining. You want your kids to be mixing what they learn from others with what they think and ponder. We’re raising independent learners who will change the world, right? Not parrots.
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