Ask a group of high school students about their favorite class, and you’ll receive a variety of (possibly predictable) answers: Art, music, drama, psychology, and other “fun” subjects tend to dominate the conversation. Ask about the least favorite class, and you might find that one is mentioned more than all the others. Why do so many of your friends (and perhaps you) dread high school English classes?
Often, it boils down to two factors: Reading assigned books, and writing laborious papers. Luckily for you, we have a few suggestions on how to make these activities a bit more enjoyable.
Read more. Those assigned books might seem like a drag, because you simply don’t enjoy reading at all. Exposing yourself to books of your own choice can help tremendously. Over summer breaks, weekends, or when you have spare time, read books that you’ve chosen for yourself. This can help you bridge the gap between reading for pleasure and reading as an assignment, because you begin to understand the point of reading in the first place. While some choices seem to apply to your life and interests more than others, over time you will notice common themes used throughout all literature. And of course, more frequent reading means you get faster at it, so at least those assigned readings won’t take as long.
Communicate and ask for help. Sometimes assigned readings seem boring or pointless because we’re not able to see how the themes within the books relate to our own lives. This can especially be the case with heavy materials from distant time periods, or novels focusing on other cultures. Your teacher, or even a parent or tutor who have read the book, can answer your questions and help you see the work in a new light. Once you understand the literature, you might find that it’s suddenly far more interesting.
Speak up and participate during class discussions, too. Sometimes your peers, who are your age and share similar life experiences, are the best “translators” for difficult materials.
Utilize online resources. Plenty of online tutorials like SparkNotes and Shmoop exist, to help you analyze and understand just about any book you can imagine. If you’re more of a video learner, look for brief overviews and question-and-answer sessions on YouTube.
Commit to growth. Above all, keep an open mindset regarding all of your academic endeavors. High school and college are about more than just memorizing facts; this is the time that you learn to understand the world around you, and relate to it in new ways. All of your classes carry value in this area – even your dreaded high school English class – and over time you will discover that what you learn in one course overlaps with what you learn in others. As these realizations come together to form your mature worldview, you are growing into a well-rounded, educated adult. Now that’s exciting!