English Language and Literature
Master the English language
In the English Language Arts curriculum, students are expected to be proficient in reading, writing, speaking, and analysis, all at once. So why are these lumped together in one class? Because they’re all related! Just like when you learn a new language, you start with speaking it, then you learn how to write down what you can say, and soon you’re reading books! And here’s where things change for English: because you already speak it, to truly master the language you have to read it more and speak it more! Because the more you read, the more familiar you can get with different styles of writing, different literary eras, and also you’ll probably encounter new words, which you have to look up and ideally keep in a book, so you can expand your vocabulary! Further down the road, you start analyzing what you’re reading. First you study grammar and figures of speech, and once you’ve got those down, you move onto literary analysis, until you can write a whole paper on a text, a book or several works of literature. That’s a lot of work! But it gets easier as you do it, and the secret is to stay in touch with your own sensitivity and opinion, because that’s what you need in the higher grades and in college.
So how do top students in English or English Literature class make it to the top? They go above and beyond! If you only stick to the basics and the minimum requirements, it’ll be harder to get a sense of the bigger picture. If you’re studying Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s a good idea to have a look at another one of Shalespeare's plays to see how different each work is. The more you understand how unique the play you're studying is, the more precise you can be about it in class, and the better you'll do. Being curious pays off! But what if you're studying a whole novel and you have to write a paper about a how a social issue is represented in the book, for instance, how women are represented in The Great Gatsby? Sure, reading all of Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s novels will help a little, but you don’t want to go off-topic and talk about his work as a whole too much. So what now? Find out what other scholars have discovered on the topic: if you're allowed to do research at home, then look up scholarly articles about The Great Gatsby, and try to find points of view that will serve your argumentation. But if you can’t use other people’s research, then the only solution is to read the book again and again, through and through, backwards and forwards, by theme, by chapter, by character, any way you can think of! That’s exactly what scholars do when they write their articles and theses, so give it a try! The better you get at analyzing literature, the better your grades will be.
So to excel in English class, whether it’s English Language Arts in middle school or high school, or a college paper, the key is learning to analyze works of literature both generally and in-detail. And if you think about it, that’s really all that is done in English class, from the get-go: until high school, children read books appropriate to their level, preferably involving some historic or social issue to learn about as well. Then, as teenagers turn into young adults, more complex works are studied, and analysis becomes more in-depth. Eventually, famous past interpretations wil be discussed and debated, as students refine their literary analysis to the highest level. Whether or not you want to major in English Literature in college, if you’re struggling with English, it may simply mean you have to learn how to read more, or more attentively. And if you don’t know what to read, there are multiple lists of classic works of American and British literature available online. But you don’t have to read only official “classics”: there are so many beautiful, complex, riveting books being published every year, it defintely won’t hurt to have a look at one of those too! You could even join a book club or apply to be on the panel of judges for a literary prize, because though you may not know it yet, you already have an opinion and a unique perception of literatrue, and it matters!
Let’s turn you into the best English Literature student ever!