Author Topic: I need help! Classes in American schools?  (Read 1458 times)  

Online ImaWriter

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #25 on: September 12, 2017, 12:02:23 PM »
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).

Interesting! Thanks for setting me straight. Because one day I may have a character that grew up in the UK--and moves to NA--and references their school years.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #26 on: September 12, 2017, 01:25:25 PM »
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).

To add to this, I would second/third the recommendation to check the state (and city) you are setting the story.  Our two cities here (in Texas) now do:

Elementary school: K-4th grade
Intermediate school: 5th & 6th grade
Middle School: 7th & 8th grade
High School: 9th-12th grades

When I was in school in NC, it was:

Elementary school: K-5th grades
Middle School: 6th-8th grades
High School: 9th-12th grades

Never heard it called secondary in either state.  Also, at least in NC, we had Head Start through Operation Breakthrough which did preschool and essentially Pre-K (what we called it back then).  So when they started school could also have an affect on what they had.

Online Vale

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #27 on: September 12, 2017, 01:37:41 PM »
I don't know if they have this in the UK, but AP (Advanced Placement) classes start sophomore or junior year and there's a test at the end of the school year that gives you college credit based on how you do. Most schools have them as an option, and most students looking at going straight into college will take at least a few of them.

The International Baccalaureate Programme is also in the US, if you're familiar with it. An IB student would take special IB classes, would take the AP exams without taking any AP classes (IB is considered harder than AP), and would then have IB classes at the end of the year which grant college credit and also are required for the special IB diploma. IB curriculum is standardized world-wide, so it's popular in states with poor education track records. The IB high school diploma is also useful for students who plan to go to school outside of the United States. You'd generally have four years of history (US, World, European, etc), four years of a foreign language (Spanish and French are standard, but German and other languages may be offered), four years of Math (Algebra, Geometry, Trig, Pre-Calcululus), four years of English covering literature in different countries (King Lear, Thousand Cranes, Pedro Paramo, Black Rain, along with some US works like Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God), and then something like computer science or psychology as an elective. Even if you "fail" to do well enough on your exams to get an IB degree, you still get a US high school diploma.

Offline Lydiajoyce

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #28 on: September 12, 2017, 01:46:36 PM »
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.

This is true. I went to two high schools. The first one had five grades,  starting in 8th, the second had three starting in tenth.

My poor sister had one year in the first high school and had to go back to middle school for a year after we moved.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #30 on: September 12, 2017, 02:17:19 PM »

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.

This is true. I went to two high schools. The first one had five grades,  starting in 8th, the second had three starting in tenth.


And I've heard of school systems that were considering rolling 9th grade back under the middle-school umbrella, and having high school be only three years (tenth, eleventh, twelfth).   So there really any number of iterations in the US. 

For the most part, though, the most common schools are:  elementary (K-5, sometimes K-6), middle school/junior high (6-8), and high school (9-12).  Where I grew up, our school was a "junior/senior high school," which housed grades 7-12 in one building.  This isn't that common anymore, I don't think, at least not where I live now, although maybe it's still a thing in less populated areas and small school districts.
Jena

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #31 on: September 12, 2017, 02:45:09 PM »
Everyone has great suggestions on what American schools are like. I'm an elementary school teacher. So most of my experience are with the younger kids, but I'd say curriculum has changed in the last 20 years. Some haven't. Researching the area where the kids are because the US is so big, it's hard to imagine how different the US is throughout the country depending on the region. So, important to research the area of US where the book is taking place.

I grew up in California, and taught here besides. So, the only idea of how the rest of the country had education wise was from 80s TV and movies. But those can still be helpful. In a way, the only things that change are styles and music. But the kids are basically the same. The language is a bit different, but some slang has stayed the same.

Shows and Movies to watch:
ANY John Hughes movie: because he tended to go against Hollywood grain, based his stories on the suburbs of Chicago. I had a friend grow up there and she said they were pretty accurate and portrayed the area. Mostly conflicts between the bad and good side of the tracks, or rich vs. poor kids. Most public schools don't have uniforms, except some in my area instituted them to cut down on gang colors and gang activity.

John Hughes off the top of my head:
The Breakfast Club (Entire movie in school library and surrounding school building)
Pretty In Pink
Some Kind of Wonderful (Underdog movie and last by him. My favorite!)
(of course) Ferris Beuller's Day Off (Gives you an idea of how teenagers thought of and probably still do think of high school)

SAVED By THe Bell: Yes, late 80s show, but mostly takes place in American High School. Styles and music are different, but gives an idea how the schools work. THough, the principals tend to be less bumpkins.

GLEE: is a more modern one to watch. I think their high school is in Ohio.

FAME: the original one in the 80s (early 80s) takes place in New York. I know they redid the movie, and the more recent FAME is not better. I think the original was more gritty, even though it was 80s. Maybe because the actors and actresses they used were really talented and more real than later casting.

Hope that helps. I'm married to a Brit, and I have to ask him all the time about the English school system sometimes if I have a question about it. And I'm still learning. The whole A level classes is weird for me, even though I hear his friends and him still talk about them. They were all Uni friends, and still are quite close even after having families, etc. It is kind of like that too with people in high school.

In American schools, Some get close and form close knit groups. Some people just entire high school, get out, and really enjoy college relationships. I think that is why NEW ADULT is so much more popular. There is a NEW ADULTHOOD now happening.

But there are also the whole hierarchy of groups in high school still: geeks, band geeks, jocks, etc. They might have other names these days, but some names are still used. I think NERD is used more often now.
For that research, watch the movie:

MEAN GIRLS (more modern version)
HEATHERS (80s version of girl clicks)

I'm sure English schools have this too. My husband went to all of the Grammar schools which really confused me since American schools didn't track out the smart, academic kids to different school systems like that. I heard they are gone now in England, but American school systems do track kids. Track means to separate kids by academic levels. There are GENERAL ed classes for English and different Math classes. Then, there are the AP classes, where you get college credit with the special end of year test. Anyway, that is one way the geeks get separated out from the regular kids. But like, it's all about groups, etc. in High School.

SO, hope that helps. Not sure what kind of book you're writing, but if it is a YA, then you'll need all of this in it.

GOOD LUCK!

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Online Jena H

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #32 on: September 12, 2017, 03:20:27 PM »
Also, this may be a factor of where I went to high school, or when.   But we never had the "Mean Girls" thing at our school.  There were groups (cliques) but no meanness between them.  The 'popular' people interacted with the 'nerds' and the athletes didn't bully anyone.  And I never felt peer pressure when I was in school, at least not to the degree shown in TV/movies/books.  But again, I might be the outlier.    ???
Jena

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #33 on: September 12, 2017, 03:58:21 PM »
Movies aren't probably the best bet to learn the school system and classroom structures of the American education system.  Those are more about the characters and a rather extreme take on the reality of cliques.  My experience was closer to Jena H's, I suppose.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #34 on: September 12, 2017, 05:47:13 PM »
Also, this may be a factor of where I went to high school, or when.   But we never had the "Mean Girls" thing at our school.  There were groups (cliques) but no meanness between them.  The 'popular' people interacted with the 'nerds' and the athletes didn't bully anyone.  And I never felt peer pressure when I was in school, at least not to the degree shown in TV/movies/books.  But again, I might be the outlier.    ???

My experience was largely the same.
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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #35 on: September 12, 2017, 07:16:29 PM »
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, when I went to school around 1980, we had a courtyard off the cafeteria. I don't recall tables, but there were benches you could eat at in the fall and spring. This was north of Chicago, so eating out from November through mid-April. lol

My daughter is a senior in high school now and they have tables outside as well. We are in Wisconsin, so again, limited use, but it's possible. I imagine in warmer climates, it would be a thing.

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #36 on: September 12, 2017, 08:19:13 PM »
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.

Same here.  Every school I went to, you were required to eat in the cafeteria and different groups had different lunch periods, it wasn't everyone all at once.  Even in high school, only for like one year were students allowed to go off campus for lunch, which was when I was a freshman.  Then it only applied to seniors and they ruined it for everyone else by annoying local restaurants and stores, so then after that, it was not allowed anymore.

Also, this may be a factor of where I went to high school, or when.   But we never had the "Mean Girls" thing at our school.  There were groups (cliques) but no meanness between them.  The 'popular' people interacted with the 'nerds' and the athletes didn't bully anyone.  And I never felt peer pressure when I was in school, at least not to the degree shown in TV/movies/books.  But again, I might be the outlier.    ???

It was never to the ridiculous levels seen on TV, barring one, but from 5th grade on, I was bullied by what I'd call "mean girls".  It was a pair in elementary and middle schools (with one clearly the dominate of the two), and a trio in high school.  Mostly verbal crap, mild pranks and things to embarrass me.  The middle school one was the only one to get remotely physical (pulled by hair once), but she had some serious issues.  She would call my house (no idea how she got my number) and tricked my dad into thinking she was her mom calling to "work out our differences" and would then act like she was all into him and tried to seduce him.  Fortunately we figured that one out before it got to far down that road as she was a crappy actress.  Closest I came to soap opera-level high school stuff. :-P

Offline Matt.Banks

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #37 on: September 12, 2017, 09:31:29 PM »
Another aspect to consider is size. I forget the exact number but my graduating class was over 500. But I have friends who went to schools with only 100 in their high school class. That's going to affect the dynamics a little bit because not everyone is going to know everyone and it can be somewhat insulating in that especially if students are heavily tracked (Pre-Advanced Placement, Advanced Placement, Honors etc) and depending on extracurricular activities, you may not even know of someone even if they are on the football team or one of the popular kids.

If your story takes place at a big school one thing to consider is the staff size. A small school might only have 1 English teacher for all freshmen students but a larger school might have 4 English teachers. And sometimes people try to game it, one teacher might have a reputation for being easier than another teacher so students might try to have their schedule changed to get the easier class. If there is a classmate you are trying to avoid, not having an option to change classes could be a point of conflict.

It also has an affect on friendship dynamics. There were friends I had in elementary school and middle school and we didn't have classes together in high school and were on different lunch schedules so we drifted apart because we hardly saw each other. Likewise, someone you went to school with previously but didn't know you could end up with several classes with them. You can use that aspect to add tension in your story as maybe one person wants to hold onto a friendship but it's difficult.

Also lunch can vary. I know at some schools students can go outside during lunch but at my school we had to stay inside. You finished eating and put away your tray and waited inside the cafeteria for the bell to ring. With my school being so large it makes sense, easier to keep an eye on students if they are all in the cafeteria, if we could go outside, it's possible some students could leave without being noticed.

Also consider the dynamic of having a car. I rode the bus my first two years of high school but my junior year I started driving and that really was liberating! My parents were really strict, I couldn't let anyone ride in the car with me, I could only go to school or extracurricular activities not just drive somewhere to hang out with friends etc.

Hopefully we've given you plenty of information you can use!

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #38 on: September 13, 2017, 05:36:56 AM »
Another aspect to consider is size. I forget the exact number but my graduating class was over 500. But I have friends who went to schools with only 100 in their high school class. That's going to affect the dynamics a little bit because not everyone is going to know everyone and it can be somewhat insulating in that especially if students are heavily tracked (Pre-Advanced Placement, Advanced Placement, Honors etc) and depending on extracurricular activities, you may not even know of someone even if they are on the football team or one of the popular kids.


I was in one of those 100-person classes.  Our graduating class had about that many students.  Of course, I didn't realize at the time that I went to a 'small school.'   8)
Jena

Online MaryMcDonald

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #39 on: September 13, 2017, 05:53:38 AM »
I was in one of those 100-person classes.  Our graduating class had about that many students.  Of course, I didn't realize at the time that I went to a 'small school.'   8)

My sons graduated from one of the largest high schools in the US. It wasn't quite as large when they went there, but I just checked and it's in the top 10, and I think many of the largest enrollment schools are actually virtual high schools, not physical schools. My sons' school has an enrollment of 4400 students. Graduating classes would be over 800, I imagine. I know when my sons graduated over a decade ago, their classes were over 700.

And the next town over was just slightly smaller with 4200 students. My nieces and nephews went there. They always have a university venue for graduation ceremonies because their school facilities weren't big enough.

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Offline KiraCarter

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #40 on: September 13, 2017, 09:04:40 AM »
Quote
Another aspect to consider is size. I forget the exact number but my graduating class was over 500. But I have friends who went to schools with only 100 in their high school class. That's going to affect the dynamics a little bit because not everyone is going to know everyone and it can be somewhat insulating in that especially if students are heavily tracked (Pre-Advanced Placement, Advanced Placement, Honors etc) and depending on extracurricular activities, you may not even know of someone even if they are on the football team or one of the popular kids.

This could really affect the dynamics of the school. I went to a very small rural high school with a declining population (around 100 kids when I graduated). My class started off with 45 students when I was a freshman, and 23 seniors walked across the graduation stage (lots of kids left to go to the big high school that was about a half hour away). And my class was big compared to the ones that came after us.

With a school this small, everybody knew everybody (sometimes a nice thing, often not), and everybody knew everybody's business. There was a bit of bullying, and even if you weren't a target, you were very much stuck in your clique.

And you were also stuck with more or less the same teachers for four years. Luckily, I had a good English teacher, but the science teacher...let's just say it's a good thing I wasn't trying to go into the sciences.


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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #41 on: September 13, 2017, 09:16:54 AM »
Aw, I feel sorry for the students who have to stay inside all day long.

Online Bill Hiatt

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #42 on: September 13, 2017, 09:24:11 AM »
But there are also the whole hierarchy of groups in high school still: geeks, band geeks, jocks, etc. They might have other names these days, but some names are still used. I think NERD is used more often now.
For that research, watch the movie:
As someone who taught high school for thirty-four years, I'm going to respectfully disagree with some of your analysis.

The first thing to keep in mind is that high school students are as diverse as any other large group of people. Yes, adolescents as a group are more impulsive (brain development issue) and tend more toward being night people than morning people (also a development issue), but even those two generalizations aren't always true. If you are using characters in that age range, it's important not to stereotype them.

Any large group of people will tend over time to divide itself into smaller subgroups, but not quite in the way you suggest. These days student interactions are more like Venn diagrams with a lot of overlap than like a whole bunch of completely isolated circles. For instance, there are a lot of scholar athletes who excel in the academic classroom and on the athletic field. Some of them have friends who are strictly academics or strictly athletes, and some friendships cut completely across those lines. Some students already know what their goals are, while others are still shopping around and trying a lot of different things. Their friendships are reflective of this experimentation, too.

I like John Hughes, and I chuckled over Saved by the Bell, but films and TV shows aren't as good research as talking to actual teenagers, maybe even arranging some visits to schools. Comedies in particular may capture some facets of the teenage experience while distorting others for humorous effect. And while some kids are alienated from school, others love it, so no, Ferris Bueller isn't necessarily typical of how students see school. (Note that there is a pervasive tendency to portray principals as incompetent or evil--that's isn't true, either, except in isolated cases.) The Jane Lynch character is Glee is a good example of distortion for humorous effect. Some teachers may be bossy, competitive with others over budget allocation and spotlight, even at times underhanded, but no one in real life is going to drug the principal and take compromising pictures to blackmail him or try to infect him with a serious disease so she can take over the school (and if someone did do that, he or she would end up in jail, not with a wrist slap!)


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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #43 on: September 13, 2017, 09:47:56 AM »
Using this thread as an excuse to go watch "Heathers" for the fifteenth time.
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Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #44 on: September 13, 2017, 01:37:48 PM »
No one's mentioned Blackboard Jungle yet?   :-X


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x53MiglduxY" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x53MiglduxY</a>


Or how about The Principal:


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Re: I need help! Classes in American schools?
« Reply #45 on: September 13, 2017, 04:03:11 PM »
We had one of three different lunch times and had to eat in the closed-in courtyard or cafeteria. The only time we got to go outside of the doors were coming to school in the morning and leaving at the end of the day or the security guards would catch you and you'd get in trouble. Thinking back, there were a lot of bomb threats when I was in high school. Is that still something kids deal with today? It felt like every other weak we'd have to sit around and do nothing while they searched the school. Someone tried to bring frisbees once so we'd have something to do while out on the front yard waiting to see if the school would explode or not, but that didn't go over well with the principal.