Here at Orcutt Academy, the freshman English curriculum offers a choice – whether to take regular or honors English. Regular English is taught by Mrs. McKenzie and honors is taught by Mr. Shaw- but are the classes much different?
It turns out, yes. Mr. Shaw has been teaching freshman honors English since 2010, and the class sizes have largely increased over the past couple years. He started with about 45 students, which more than doubled in his largest class being 93 students.
Mr. Shaw states that the main focus of his class is “learning how to think.” Many people think honors English class is for kids who are good, experienced, writers and readers, but that’s not true; it’s about learning how to analyze and think about what you read, leading the student to aid in their writing as well.
“They are building their thinking skills so when they get to the end of freshman year, they can actually begin to have something to say in their writing.”
With these newly learned skills, the last three years of English in high school begin to seem more simple and “doable.” Shaw states that the biggest difference between honors and regular English is that a lot of the assigned reading is much differently taught. In regular, students read a majority, if not all, the reading in class with the teacher; but in honors, the reading is mainly independent, and the students find themselves writing a lot more.
The students are writing at least one essay every six weeks and reading around 6-10 novels per year, whereas the students in regular English write one essay per semester and read about 3-5 novels per year.
Shaw believes all new freshmen should consider taking honors English, because it builds a foundation which they will use the rest of their high school career. If a student is willing to put in the work, it will pay off in the end and they’ll be grateful that they did. It opens up the opportunity to take honors and AP tests in the future.