• Sophomore Student Development

    Fifteen-year-olds cannot be summed up in a single word or phrase;
    they have too many facets and phases

    Fifteen is an enigmatic age. Fifteen-year-olds cannot be summed up in a single word or phrase, they have too many facets and phases. They are energetic, too, but much of their energy is turned inward.

    They grow more aware of shades of feeling and this awareness of fine shades of difference extends into intellectual and philosophical reflections. In these instances fifteen-year-olds reveal their thoughtful, quiet, serious side.

    This inward turning may reveal itself in withdrawn, cold behavior toward others, especially adults. Sophomores are struggling to establish themselves and their independence. This struggle for independence often expresses itself in immature and undesirable behavior. Resistance to any restraints or restrictions, withdrawal from family conversations, and even open belligerence may result.

    Whether severe or mild, these manifestations of an independent spirit must be met with skillful guidance and strict measures of control. Fifteen-year-olds need clear limits and consistent enforcement and follow-through at home.

    This is a busy age. Many sophomores find themselves caught up in a maelstrom of activity: increased schoolwork, more involved co-curricular activities, and busier practice schedules. They are tied to others' schedules and demands. As a result, fifteen-year-olds need some free unstructured time at their disposal to allow them to decompress and relax.

    Sophomores are also profoundly influenced by the pressure of peer groups. They respond to the values and the mores of their crowd. Consequently, the "right" crowd can prove a valuable asset for sophomores; the "wrong" crowd, just the opposite.

    Socially, fifteen-year-olds are gregarious. They like gatherings, especially spontaneous, informal groupings of both boys and girls. They enjoy the give-and-take of discussion and conversation.

    In school, some sophomores may encounter a brief slump during which things seem to go wrong at every turn. The good news is that it's a common place occurrence and it's short-lived. Encouragement and praise for honest effort can serve as a key for getting them through it.

    This, too, is an age in which individual differences in academic and social life emerge. Leadership traits, intellectual abilities, and talents begin to define students and shape their direction.


    The sophomore English curriculum emphasizes the integration of listening, speaking, reading and writing and the teaching of language skills through significant literary works, an intensive writing program and specific units to develop verbal skills.

    Vocabulary development and fluency are emphasized throughout the sophomore year as part of preparation for college-prep standardized testing taken in the junior and senior years. Reading comprehension and analysis of patterns, arguments, and positions advanced are also emphasized through grade-appropriate reading material, including historically or culturally significant works such as Lord of the Flies, The House on Mango Street, Black Boy, Of Mice and Men, and Julius Caesar. Students also read functional material such as magazines, newspapers and on-line information.

    Writing skills development focuses on demonstrating awareness of audience and purpose and will include examples of narration, exposition, persuasion and analysis of literature. Students also demonstrate research skills through an I-Search paper unit. Incorporated into writing units is the study of grammar and the mechanics of language.

    Students expand listening and speaking skills through classroom discussion, debate, literature-based projects and research presentations. Students will study speech strategies through analysis of historically significant speeches and discussion of different media genres.

    In mathematics, tenth graders may be anywhere within a range of courses from Course I to Course III. Most sophomores will be studying Course II Geometry as part of their schedule. Nevertheless, math placement depends on ability level, and there is a range of math selections for these students: Course I Algebra (including an honors level), Course II Geometry (again with an honors level), Course III Algebra and Trigonometry (also with honors).

    As students progress through the various levels of the mathematics curriculum, they move from concrete applications to more abstract concepts and theory. Using calculators and computers to aid in solving problems and making estimates to determine whether solutions are realistic is an integral part of this sophisticated study of mathematics as students take calculus and trigonometry.

    In the sciences, sophomores are also provided with an array of courses from which to choose. As in the mathematics sequence, the course a student pursues is based on individual aptitude and interest in a given area of the science curriculum. Science course offerings range from classes in earth, life, or physical science to chemistry, biology or physics. In fact, by tenth grade some advanced science students will be taking an honors level class in chemistry. Many students will take Science Course II, an integrated college prep science course.

    Extensive lab activities and mathematical problem-solving are part of all levels of the science program. In all courses, students not only study a particular body of knowledge but also apply that knowledge in active learning situations to master the main concepts.

    A singular characteristic of the tenth grade is the course in health and traffic safety. The health curriculum presents units on the systems of the body, on the effects of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and on communicable diseases. The course investigates individual and community health problems related to physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.

    Traffic safety instruction includes units on the causes and costs of traffic accidents, traffic laws, laws of energy and motion affecting motor vehicle operation, preventative maintenance and economical use of motor vehicles, first aid and personal safety, and simulated car driving.

    The physical education curriculum consists of a variety of activities centered around team, field, dual, and individual sports, rhythmic activities, aquatics, lifetime physical fitness, and sports activities. Students gain a basic understanding of the sports they study and a fundamental background in physical skills.


    Elective offerings for tenth graders run the gamut from the fine and performing arts such as ceramics and treble choir to technical or business education courses such as word processing. Foreign languages, computer technology, fine arts, and business and technical education electives augment the core classes in tenth grade and better prepare students for postsecondary school or work.

    Electives are not something to fill out the rest of the school day; rather, they are means by which students may tailor their schooling to individual needs and desired career paths. A student who intends to enter a pre-medicine course of study at a university may decide to take physiology/anatomy as an elective. Another student interested in the field of computer science may choose to take a course in desktop publishing. A third may choose auto shop to prepare for work in an apprenticeship or technical school after graduation.


    Tenth graders should not only be active learners; they should also be increasingly more independent learners. Part of that independence is a result of their improved thinking skills and their broadened awareness of the world and their place in it.

    At this level there must also be a constant reinforcement of the important qualities of character: honesty, hard work, respect for others and their property, and personal responsibility. The skills and knowledge sophomores acquire are valuable only in the larger scope of how they use them in positively contributing to their community and the larger society.

    At the same time, the great majority of sophomores take World History, a basic course in western civilization which covers the development of western thought and philosophy from Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages and renaissance into the modern industrial world.

    Some sophomores may take European History AP (Advanced Placement) which examines the historical development of western civilizations but with more emphasis on intellectual, cultural, and social economic history. Students study the major events and trends in western civilization within the period from 1450 to 1980. Students can choose to take the AP exam at the end of the school year which may earn them future college credits.

Last Modified on August 30, 2007