Learn English – American Schools, Part 1

How countries set up schools always interests me.  In this episode, I talk about the normal way most public schools in America are organized and what they teach.

55 – American School System – Part 1 – 13 Nov 2019

Hey there. This is Maria from English without Fear. Today I’m going to talk about school, American schools. When do children start to go to school and what are the different levels or stages of school? So, sit back, relax, listen, and just try to understand as much as you can.

(Intro: English without Fear where you can learn to speak English, listening to stories)

Everyone in America is interested in school. Parents want their children to go to good schools. Children are interested in school because they like to be with their friends and they like learning new things. And the government, the American government, is interested in school because our American government wants the schools to prepare children to become good citizens:

  • to learn a skill
  • or learn how to function, how to be an adult in society so that they can help their families, their communities, 
  • and pay taxes.

Finally, businesses are interested in schools because they want skilled workers who can think and communicate well and do good work. 

Let’s talk about when children in America first go to school. A lot of children, a lot of American kids begin or start school at age three or four. This is called preschool. Not every child goes to preschool, but a lot.

Usually families have to pay for preschool. But some states like Florida pay for preschool. In Florida where one of my sons lives, the state of Florida pays for preschool for every single four-year-old. That’s kind of nice. 

Well, what do children do in preschool? Usually preschool is for three or four hours –  two, three, four days a week. Children learn to work and play well together. They learn routines. They learn how to follow directions. So, preschool is very important for young children.

Well, what happens after preschool? When children turn five they start what we call ‘big school’. To them it’s big school! They begin kindergarten.

Kindergarten is for five-year-olds. And usually it’s all day long, which means six hours a day. And it’s the first year in elementary school. Elementary school goes from age five at kindergarten all the way up to age 10 or 11 when they finish fifth grade.

So, you have kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, fifth grade. And those children go to a school called elementary school.

They learn how to read, they learn how to write, how to do math. They learn some science, some history. And they have a bit of choice. They might choose to start a band musical instrument. Some elementary schools even offer a second language like Spanish or French or even Chinese in America.

What happens after elementary school? Then children go to something called middle school. Yes, middle school is for children who are about eleven years old and they go for three years. And when they finish middle school they are about 14 years old.

Middle school is interesting because children usually have different teachers. In elementary school when they are younger they might have one teacher for the year, one classroom teacher. But in middle school they have a math teacher, an English teacher, a science teacher and so on. 

They usually start or continue a second language. They also have music, art, PE (physical education). And they have some choice about certain things to study. They have sports and clubs after school.

Middle school children enjoy a little bit more freedom in school. They don’t have to line up and follow the teacher. They have lockers for their books. Then, when children finish middle school, they go onto high school.

High school is for students, 14 all the way up to 18. It’s four years: ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade. When they complete 12th grade, they graduate and get, receive a high school diploma.

High school can be very difficult for students who want to get into a good college. They have to take very hard or difficult courses. They have to take lots of tests. They have to write essays about why a college or university should accept them. So, high school is very busy.

Sometimes there are high school programs that teach a skill or a trade. I have a friend whose son learned welding in school. And another student learned basic nursing. You can learn child care in high school. So, students who don’t want to go onto university or college when they graduate from high school, they can go into a job or get further job skills and that is good. That is good. That is good.

What else happens in high school? Some students work. Both my sons had jobs during high school. One son worked at the grocery store on Saturdays. One son worked a couple days after school at a video game shop. He really liked that! They wanted money to be able to go out with friends, that kind of thing.

A lot of American students play sports. Sports in America are very serious. And school and sports go hand in hand. Some students get involved in theater, in dance, in horseback riding, ahh… in computer tech clubs, things like that. So, high school is when students begin to pursue or follow or develop new interests.

That system of schooling is pretty standard. But there are other ways that American children are educated. And next time I will tell you about one of those ways.

So, what about in your country? How is school the same or similar, or how is it different from what I told you from what you know about American schools? Leave me a comment in the video below. 

And if you’re a teacher of some English language learners and you would like the transcript, the written transcript for today’s episode, go to EnglishwithoutFear.com Enter your email to sign up for my newsletter. And when I have your email, you’ll go on a list where I automatically send out a link to the new episode and the written transcript. So, this is Maria from English without Fear. I’ll look forward to talking to you next time. Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.

(outro: Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.)

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