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10th grade English Language Arts skills: Find out what you need to know for your student

In 10th grade, your child's reading and writing builds upon the progress from earlier grades, with greater emphasis on critical analysis skills.
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Want to help your 10th-grader with reading and writing? Here are some of the skills your teen will be learning in the classroom.

Reading & writing

Rich and challenging texts

Read closely from rich and challenging ninth grade-level texts, with guidance when text is particularly demanding. By the end of 10th grade, read grade-level texts closely, proficiently, and independently.

Some sample texts for ninth and 10th graders:

  • "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck
  • "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe.
  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln
  • “I Have a Dream: Address Delivered at the March on Washington, D.C., for Civil Rights on August 28, 1963” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Classifying the Stars” by Annie J. Cannon.

Citing evidence

Cite evidence (facts, figures, quotes, or other information) that best supports what a literary or informational text says, as well as what it implies or suggests.

Analyzing theme development

Analyze the way an author develops the theme or central idea of a text, and which details shape and refine it. Summarize the text objectively.

Outlining arguments

Outline the argument and specific claims in a text. Evaluate whether the reasoning is valid and whether there is enough relevant and meaningful evidence to support the claims. Identify misleading statements and faulty reasoning.

Tip: Discuss the news.

Help your child become a more discerning consumer of news and information. Have an ongoing discussion with her about how you get your news and how you decide which sources to trust. Point out examples of misleading information you see, such as in ads, so that your child learns to be skeptical of some sources. Have her look for corrections in the local newspaper so that she sees examples of how news can be misreported. Bookmark some Internet sites that you consider reliable and that she can use as reference or information sources.

Understanding vocabulary

Read and understand ninth and 10th grade vocabulary, and analyze the way an author’s use of language (including word choices and imagery) affects the meaning and tone of a text.

How does the language suggest a sense of time or place in a literary text? How is the language of a court opinion different from the language of a newspaper?

Tip: Use technology to build vocab.

As your child progresses through high school, specialized vocabulary becomes increasingly important in many of her classes. If your child uses a smartphone or iPad, help her locate apps that focus on vocabulary development for specific subjects. There are many versions of digital flashcards that can help your child expand her vocabulary.

Using new words and phrases

Use different strategies to understand new words and phrases; for example, use context as a clue; use related words as a clue (conceive, conception, conceivable); consult a dictionary or thesaurus online or in print.

Developing arguments

Write arguments to support claims on important topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. Develop claims and counterclaims fairly, providing evidence for each while also pointing out their strengths and limitations.

Informative papers

Write informative or explanatory papers that examine a topic and express ideas by carefully selecting and analyzing information. Use precise language and content area vocabulary to express ideas.

Creating stories

Write stories or narratives about real or imaginary experiences. Set out a problem, situation, or observation; establish one or more points of view; and develop story elements such as characters, a well-sequenced plot, and descriptive details.

Supporting evidence

Include evidence from text to support thinking and research.

Producing and publishing

Use technology to produce and publish writing, to work with others on writing, and to link to new information.

Basic rules of English

Use basic rules of English grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in written work.

  • Use parallel structure (Joseph likes to walk, to work, and to eat.)
  • Use phrases and clauses to add variety and interest to writing.
  • Use colons and semicolons correctly.

Listening & speaking

Class discussion

Initiate and participate in class discussions about complex 9th and 10th grade topics, texts, and issues. Be prepared to draw on textual or research evidence when expressing ideas, to respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, and to make new connections based on evidence and reasoning that others present.

Evaluating points of view

Listen to and evaluate another speaker’s point of view, reasoning and use of evidence. Identify faulty reasoning or misleading evidence.

Giving a presentation

Give a well-organized presentation, expressing information, research findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically.

Research & inquiry

Research projects

Conduct short and long research projects to answer a research question, including a self-created question, or to solve a problem. Combine information from multiple print and online sources, showing an understanding of the subject.

Tip: Encourage longer writing projects.

The long days of summer are perfect for teen writers to take on bigger projects. Challenge your high schooler to uncover the stories of relatives, neighbors, or friends and to turn those stories into a published history project. For example, she might investigate who has lived in the neighborhood the longest, how the street has changed, or what happened when relatives moved to their current home. Start by helping your teen develop a list of questions. She can then interview these relatives and neighbors to find out some interesting facts and stories and write up the findings as a narrative, a poem, or even in question/answer format. Finally, she can illustrate or take photographs to make the history come alive!

Tip: Include writing in your family traditions.

Help your child be a part of your family holiday traditions and include writing at the same time. Have her interview elderly family members or friends about their traditions in celebrating the holidays. She can then turn the information from these interviews into several kinds of writing, from photos with captions to illustrated stories to poems. These writings could turn into a special and much-valued gift to the family member or friend.

Locating information

Locate information efficiently; use advanced search methods online.

Evaluating sources

Evaluate the usefulness of each source in answering the research question, and use information selectively. Cite sources appropriately to avoid plagiarizing or copying.

For tips to help your 10th-grader in English Language Arts class, check out our 10th grade English Language Arts tips page.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts and align with the Common Core State Standards.