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High School

Your Guide to High School English at Penn Foster

English classes can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be! Learn more about how our high school English classes work, how to write a great paper, and how to get help if you’re struggling.
Desiree Sinkevich

Des Sinkevich

As a student, you may dread some subjects more than others. If you’re someone who is more science-minded or into math, trying to get through high school English can seem like a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be! Here’s your guide to high school English classes at Penn Foster – and how to do your best in them, even if you’re not a fan.

What is high school English and why do students need it? 

High school English classes are a standard part of any school’s curriculum – whether that’s a traditional public school or an online high school. Generally, you’ll need to take at least 4 English classes throughout your high school career. These classes will usually cover a range of topics, from reading, critical thinking, and how to analyze text to how to write professionally. This usually involves a lot of tasks like reading assigned novels, poetry, and short stories, as well as nonfiction books.


“Writing is definitely an important skill to have,” says Shawn Cherinchak, a Penn Foster High School English Instructor. “You need it for many things in life. Even if you’re applying for a job, you’ll need to write a cover letter. You’ll have to prepare a resume. A lot of times your boss will ask you to prepare something, so you’ll have to have some skills with writing. And if you want to further your education, you’ll need to know how to write for your professors.”


It’s important for all students to take English classes to not only have a well-rounded education, but to also learn how to communicate effectively through reading and writing.


Read more: Must-Have Apps for High School Students


How can English help you get a job or earn a promotion?

Taking just English classes alone can’t help you get a job or earn a promotion. But English is an important, foundational part of your high school curriculum that can help you learn skills that are relevant in everyday life!


Skills you learn in English classes include:

  • Written communication
  • Reading comprehension
  • Critical thinking
  • Formal and informal communication
  • How to write a letter, resume, or professional email
  • Persuasive writing
  • Research skills


On the surface, these skills may not seem like they’re especially important to getting a job, but, in fact, they touch on a lot of the key things employers look for. While some jobs may require specific technical skills, all jobs generally look for candidates who have strong communication skills and can think critically. Further, learning how to write a professional email, resume, and cover letter can go a long way in getting your application in front of a hiring manager.


Do you need to write papers in English class?

Yes. While not all assignments require writing, in most classes you’ll need to complete at least one paper. These can range from research papers to persuasive essays to business letters. All your writing assignments are geared toward helping you apply what you learned in your lessons, including grammar, research and critical thinking skills, and formatting skills.


“We have some that are just question/answer exams—they ask you a question and you give your answer—and then we have some that are essay related,” mentions Selina Rush, another Penn Foster English instructor. “You’re writing an introduction, you’re writing body paragraphs, and you’re writing a conclusion. Some of them are more personal, where you’re writing about personal experiences, personal knowledge, and you don’t have to do any sort of research. But then we also have some of our courses where you write a research paper or an argument paper. The goal is to really find something that you’re passionate about. We’ve made the exams in a way that allows the student to get excited about it.”


Read more: Penn Foster Exams and Grading Explained


How to write a good paper

Writing a good paper for your English class requires following a few basic steps.

  1. Make sure you understand the assignment/directions. Carefully read through the prompt you’re given. It’s also important to note what kind of essay/paper you’re expected to write, as well as any length requirements and formatting requirements.
  2. Prewrite/create an outline. Prewriting can help you organize your thoughts and help you write a better paper. Prewriting can involve doing some basic research and creating an outline. Your outline should include what your main point is, supporting facts and details, and how you might want to conclude your essay.
  3. Do more research! Not all papers or essays will require in-depth research, but it’s important to have sources to back up what you say.
  4. Write! Writing a good essay can take time, so don’t wait to start your paper at the last minute. When writing your essay, follow the outline you created and try to hit all the major points you mapped out.
  5. Proofread. Once you’ve finished writing your first draft, set the paper aside or take a break from your computer for a bit. Then, come back and read it through. Make sure to check for any mistakes you may have made such as typos, forgetting to finish a sentence, or unclear phrases.
  6. Edit. Make edits to your paper! It’s also a good idea to have someone else read it, if you can. A friend or family member may spot any mistakes or confusing parts you missed.
  7. Proofread – again! It’s important to proofread your work at least twice before submitting it for grading. It can help you find errors, sure, but it also allows you to go back and refine anything you may feel isn’t 100% right.


Need more help with writing papers or want access to resources that can guide you? Our Learning Resources page of the Penn Foster Digital Library can be a good place to start. You’ll find tips on writing a good essay, as well as guides for using different paper formatting, like MLA or APA. You can also access The Writer’s Block, a Penn Foster writing resource that has guides on things like proper citation, grammar, using AI for school, and the writing process.


Read more: How to Write a Quality Essay


How can you get help in high school English?

There are a few ways you can get help in your Penn Foster English classes!

  • Access guides and tutorials through the library and Learning Resource Center.
  • Use The Writer’s Block to get detailed information on writing a good paper.
  • Find help through your Learner Center.
  • Set up an appointment to speak with an instructor.
  • Find study buddies in the same class in the Student Community.


Screenshot of the Penn Foster Digital Library homepage.

One of the biggest mistakes students often make is to not reach out for help when they’re struggling. English classes can be tough for a lot of people, so it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, there’s help available to you, and that our instructors are here for you!


“We want to help you, call us,” says Brian Brown, Penn Foster High School’s Academic Manager.


Screenshot of The Writer's Block resource homepage.

Are online English classes easy? 

Easy is relative. For some people, online English classes will be a breeze because they can power through their lessons and assignments at a faster pace. But, for those who struggle with English, it can be tough to feel like you’re making any progress. It may also be hard to understand what you’re learning when you are responsible for going through your lessons and assigned reading by yourself. That’s okay!


One big benefit of online high school is that you can take each course at your own pace. That means that if you’re a math whiz or love social studies, you can power through your lessons quickly. But it also means that, with classes you struggle with, you can take your time to make sure you understand exactly what you’re learning. It also helps that you don’t have due dates for papers and exams. You can take as long as you need to finish and submit a paper, so you can increase your chances of getting a better grade.


Further, if you don’t get a great grade on a paper the first try, you’ll have feedback from your instructors in the document to help you learn what mistakes you made and how to fix them!


Learn more about online English classes with Penn Foster

Considering enrolling in online high school but want to know more about how our English classes – and curriculum, in general – work? Check out the full curriculum on our website or call to speak with an Admissions Specialist today at 1-888-427-6500!


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