Teaching First Year Composition in the High School Classroom


The idea of teaching first year composition (FYC) in high school has received mixed reactions from different scholars and educationists. Though the course has significantly influenced the students’ writing skills in post secondary education, some scholars have strongly criticized its essence not only in high school but also in colleges and universities. For some decades, FYC has been considered a mandatory introductory course that can help first year students in colleges and universities gain professional writing skills. However, the course duration is not regular to all colleges and universities. Some institution teach writing basics, which take as short as one term, while other institutions consider extending the duration of the course up to three terms.

The supporters of FYC in high school consider many benefits that will be realized by the high school students. The critics of this course consider its relevance in the students’ career and academic path. The main aim of introducing the course in high school is equipping the young learners with vital writing skills that would introduce them to various writing skills required in different disciplines and professions. It is expected that in high school, learners gain basic knowledge that significantly determines their future specialization and professionalism. Therefore, providing a firm writing foundation from the high school level would significantly boost students’ understanding of their career subjects.

There is a growing need to incorporate FYC in high school. This is because of increased demand for professional writers in modern institutions and organizations. As some scholars have argued, enforcing writing skill early in learners’ academic journey is a vital approach that supports mastery of vital writing basics. Additionally, students who engage in writing composition as a critical practice have the opportunity of becoming persuasive and critical writers, thinkers, and readers. Not only does the writing skill boost writing performance but also helps in achieving success in other courses. One of the strong arguments used to support FYC in high schools is the fact that writing practice facilitates learners’ ability to work across various arguments and make proper discernment on the value of various ideas and theories across the curriculum. Being able to discern and understand theories is a fundamental requirement of creating strong and applicable theories. It is not possible to critique other researchers’ theories without proper basics of theories.

Career advisors have created a major concern in writing and expression skills. Writing instructions are significant preparation for learners entering a marketplace where employers continually voice the need for effective written and oral communicators. Currently, almost all professions require substantial knowledge in writing. Whether an engineer, a nurse, a technologist, an architect, a doctor, a zoologist or a business man, writing skill are required when writing business plan, application letters, research projects, and proposals among others. Writing skill is the first general consideration that is regarded in all professions.

Over the years, the debate on the importance of FYC has been catalyzed by students’ perception about the mandatory course in colleges and universities. In the institutions of high learning, majority of the students, especially those in fields, such as engineering, mathematics, architecture, medicine, and scientific courses believe their writing skills are less important in practical application of their studies. These students believe that writing is not a fundamental tool for expressing their professional skills.

Though it is important to establish first year composition in high school, there is also a great need to consider a different approach when enforcing the course in high school. First, the course should be framed in a manner that addresses rhetorical situation in the leaner’s career path. That is, if FYC becomes a mandatory subject in high school, learners should write addressing specific audience so that their work demonstrates awareness of purpose and audience needs. Similarly, teaching vital organizing principles, such as process analysis, comparison and contrast, and causes and effects, should be emphasized in order to equip the learners with vital skills that will enable them make an appropriate choice on how to present their ideas.

Secondly, the course should be incorporated in high school curriculum development program in order to avoid irregular teaching models. Similarly, the duration of the course should be uniform in all high school institutions to ensure effective balance in administering the writing knowledge.

The main argument that has been used by scholars opposed to the idea of introducing first year composition in high school is “general writing skills instructions” derived from the course. Majority of the critics feel that these “general writing skills instructions” do not sufficiently address the students’ needs in tackling complex genre and subtle rhetorical practices. The writing skill instructions are too general, such that they do not address specific study contents that should be introduced as writing skills.

Considering this criticism, it is important to design a curriculum that addresses specific requirements that student require in their career subjects. In order to create a better FYC course that can accommodate the high school student, it is important to include participation from teachers of different courses and the student who will be the direct beneficiaries of the new course.

Though critics have offered substantial arguments against enforcement of FYC in high school level, they are not sufficient to ascertain course disapproval. The benefits expected from teaching FYC in high school are more elaborate and necessary.