Author Topic: I need help! Classes in American schools?  (Read 1457 times)  

Offline sophia ann

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I need help! Classes in American schools?
« on: September 12, 2017, 04:04:52 AM »

Hi everyone,

Im writing a book and the main character is in an American school, well I went to school in England and it just occurred to me that the classes wont be the same!
What classes do you take in America?
It might seem like a stupid question but I need help! I just need a list of a few, and this is in high school.

Thanks!



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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2017, 04:08:08 AM »
Hi everyone,

Im writing a book and the main character is in an American school, well I went to school in England and it just occurred to me that the classes wont be the same!
What classes do you take in America?
It might seem like a stupid question but I need help! I just need a list of a few, and this is in high school.

Thanks!

What kind of school? What level? I assume they are close to the same Math has Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, Trigonometry. Physical science, life science, chemistry. Various English classes. US history, World history. And many others.
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2017, 04:45:10 AM »

Offline C. Gold

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 04:54:51 AM »
Just note we don't call it Maths. We use the singular here or speak of specific math classes like algebra, trigonometry, geometry, calculus.
There are no A levels either.

Offline sophia ann

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2017, 05:07:54 AM »
Thanks everyone! :)


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Offline Sleeping Cat Books

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2017, 05:12:18 AM »
Secondary school courses in the USA.
We also don't call it "secondary school." In the US there's pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school (or junior high), and high school.
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2017, 06:06:29 AM »
I would suggest that you pick the website of an actual school in the US and look around. Typically, you would find such things as class descriptions, teacher bios and lunch menus (urgh).

Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2017, 06:14:38 AM »
Some terms that will be jarring if you accidentally use them: Maths, secondary school, Uni or university.

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Offline jdcore

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2017, 06:29:38 AM »
I would suggest hat you find an American beta reader when the first draft is completed and ask that they specifically inform you of any peculiar (to them) language.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2017, 07:17:30 AM »
I would suggest that you pick the website of an actual school in the US and look around. Typically, you would find such things as class descriptions, teacher bios and lunch menus (urgh).

This is a good idea.  Better yet, go to websites for two or three or four different US school systems (randomly-chosen cities, different locations, varying sizes).  By poking around, you'll get a feel for the terminology of US schools and things they have in common.

One thing that always amazed me was when I'd see movies or TV shows that show kids eating lunch outside at picnic tables.  Where I grew up and lived later on in adulthood, that WAS NOT something that happened at any school I ever saw.  It was kind of jarring, I thought.  Proof positive that movies from Hollywood/LA/southern California makers portrayed what THEY thought was usual, never mind that it was NOT usual in much of the rest of the country.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 07:26:17 AM by Jena H »
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2017, 08:01:37 AM »
This is a good idea.  Better yet, go to websites for two or three or four different US school systems (randomly-chosen cities, different locations, varying sizes).  By poking around, you'll get a feel for the terminology of US schools and things they have in common.

One thing that always amazed me was when I'd see movies or TV shows that show kids eating lunch outside at picnic tables.  Where I grew up and lived later on in adulthood, that WAS NOT something that happened at any school I ever saw.  It was kind of jarring, I thought.  Proof positive that movies from Hollywood/LA/southern California makers portrayed what THEY thought was usual, never mind that it was NOT usual in much of the rest of the country.

Actually, if they did it the other way around I would find it jarring. We never ate inside unless it was raining or something. So I don't think LA/Hollywood was doing anything wrong.
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2017, 08:09:57 AM »
A number of school post their course sequences online these days, which can be quite useful for a number of purposes.

To the OP: Because US school curricula vary somewhat from state to state, you'll want to look at schools in the state in which your story is set. Also, be sure you're looking at public schools; private ones can be completely different. I'm not sure how different UK schools are in other respects, but many schools also have significant numbers of photos, which can give you an idea of what school architecture tends to be like, though that does vary quite a bit.


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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2017, 08:34:29 AM »
Actually, if they did it the other way around I would find it jarring. We never ate inside unless it was raining or something. So I don't think LA/Hollywood was doing anything wrong.

No, not 'wrong,' but possibly just assuming that their experience (or their kids' experience) is the experience of the rest of the country, and that everyone could identify... which isn't necessarily the case.
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2017, 09:02:59 AM »
Actually, if they did it the other way around I would find it jarring. We never ate inside unless it was raining or something. So I don't think LA/Hollywood was doing anything wrong.

Same at the high school I went to, which wasn't in California. High schools in the US really vary a lot. The HS in the town I live in now doesn't even have a cafeteria. They let the students leave at noon and get fast food, or they can eat at the middle school cafeteria (which is apparently social suicide and the kids would rather be hungry than do that). All of the schools around here are also closing on Fridays to save money.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2017, 09:04:26 AM »
Hollywood was just being Hollywood. They think there's no life on the other side of the mountain, until you land on the other coast, the northeast coast, anything south of there doesn't count. To Hollywood screen and television writers, cops in every state in the country ask for license and registration, every city or town has a Department of Water and Power, juvenile offenders to go juvie, children are taken from parents by Child Protective Services, teenagers race for pink slips, a restricted license is a learner's permit which you get from the Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV), state police are never anything other than the Highway Patrol, county sheriffs answer to city mayors, the white zone is for loading and unloading only, you take the 101 not 101, lane splitting is legal, students eat outside at picnic tables year round, school lockers are outside, and the rest is too political for Kboards.

Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2017, 09:15:10 AM »
There's no lack of American produced high school shows. While not always an accurate portrayal of highs school, they're still pretty good shoveling American high school culture.

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Offline Lydiajoyce

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2017, 10:20:07 AM »
Lots of good info here. I would add, our private schools are what you call public. Our public schools are the state funded schools meant for everyone not going to private school, (which parents pay for). Grades are mostly numbered 1st through 12th, though high school will also use the terms freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior.

Offline notjohn

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2017, 10:27:38 AM »
For openers, an American high school (not necessarily true for an oldfashioned private school like Phillips Exeter Academy) has students in grades 9 through 12, called freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors. It has been so long since I graduated that I won't attempt to speak of the curriculum, which in any event was public/private, an even more oldfashioned town high school that was also a boarding school for kids from all over.

There is no national curriculum, though the Feds do their best to create and enforce one. We are probably now in a lull in that remorseless process. Every state does pretty much its own thing, just as they do in a shrinking number of other aspects of our lives.
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2017, 11:28:38 AM »
We also don't call it "secondary school." In the US there's pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school (or junior high), and high school.


We use high school here as well, but would use secondary in the case of something like a news item. "Secondary school teachers across the province are in a position to strike." Something like that.

OP, I'm pretty sure the UK is like us and will say Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 and so on, but the US uses 1st Grade, 2nd Grade and so on. So your high school student probably shouldn't ever refer to themselves as being in Grade 10--or whatever.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2017, 11:30:21 AM »
OP, I'm pretty sure the UK is like us and will say Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 and so on, but the US uses 1st Grade, 2nd Grade and so on. So your high school student probably shouldn't ever refer to themselves as being in Grade 10--or whatever.

High school would usually say freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2017, 11:34:25 AM »
i'm going to bring up something else.  Why set your book in an American school when you went to school in Britain? 

there are too many little things that are different that someone somewhere will nitpick a detail you got wrong.

that said, there are too many differences between schools to make generalizations, so you will get things right and wrong no matter what you do.

first decide if you're going rural, suburban or urban.  religious school or secular.  age of students. 

to the person who stated that high schools were 4 grades, that's not always true.  in NYC, some schools are only 3 grades and some are four, and some that are four actually have people coming in at both 9th and 10th grades.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2017, 11:41:33 AM »
High school would usually say freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.

Thanks. For the most part we're a ditto when it comes to things US/Canada, but there is the "u" and a few other things that we maintain the British influence on.  But we'll never say maths and we'll never say whilst.  ;D

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2017, 11:48:49 AM »

We use high school here as well, but would use secondary in the case of something like a news item. "Secondary school teachers across the province are in a position to strike." Something like that.

OP, I'm pretty sure the UK is like us and will say Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 and so on, but the US uses 1st Grade, 2nd Grade and so on. So your high school student probably shouldn't ever refer to themselves as being in Grade 10--or whatever.
In the unlikely event that anyone from outside the UK is thinking of setting a book in a UK school, this is not the case as far as I know. I think England (and Wales?) use Year 1, Year 2 etc, while, the last I heard, in Scotland we have P1 to P7 (for primary) and S1 to S6 (for secondary).

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2017, 11:50:16 AM »
High school would usually say freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.

Not to make things more confusing, but a lot of kids do say they're in 9th grade, or 10th grade.  Probably not so much with 11th or 12th, I think those kids are more disposed to say junior or senior.  Maybe after all those years of being in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, they naturally say 9th, and possibly 10th, before they get used to being "freshmen" and "sophomores."


Note:  I would also spell out the numbers:  the character's daughter is in fifth grade.  The neighbor boy who offered to rake leaves was in seventh grade, etc.
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #24 on: September 12, 2017, 11:51:56 AM »
American schools:

Grade School: Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, (6th grade also if secondary is junior high instead of middle school)
Junior High: 7th grade, 8th grade / or if Middle School (which has become more popular since I was in school) 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade
High School:  9th grade - Freshman, 10th grade - Sophomore, 11th grade - Junior, 12th grade - Senior
After that, we refer to university education as College (where Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, applies for a B.S. or B.A. degree and a 5th/6th year for a Masters before Doctoral programs).

All levels contain core classes of English, Math, Science and History.  Upper levels are further broken down into English 1, English 2, English 3, and English 4 (required four years) with various literature classes available like English Literature, American Literature, etc.  Math is Algebra I, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry (most times served together with some basic Statistics curriculum), Calculus 1, Calculus 2 (the Algebra and Geometry courses can be taken in Jr High/Middle School).  Science is a wide variety, encompassing Freshman Science, Social Science, Biology, Physics, Principles of Technology, Computer Science, too many to name.  History has less requirements for graduation (unfortunately), mainly being U.S. History, but there are electives in Ancient History, History of the Middle Ages, Modern World History, and the like.

Hope you're finding the assistance you need.