English and language arts are two of the most basic and widely taught subjects in United States schools. The American National Council of Teachers of English separates English and language arts into five basic categories: reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.
In elementary school, language arts classes focus on basic reading, writing and linguistic / communication skills. Periods of silent sustained reading, cursive writing, syntax, thematic writing and vocabulary are all major focal points of elementary lessons. Through these exercises, children are expected to develop reading and writing skills at an early age.
In middle school, the English curriculum evolves and expands to include more complicated reading comprehension, such as fiction, poetry and essays. In addition, grammar and semantics become a focal point of lessons, and students begin to foster writing skills that encompass poetry, expository writing and creative writing. Students in middle school are expected to expand vocabularies and develop a mature grasp of the five categories of language arts.
High school students take mandatory English classes in which they are expected to develop analytical skills. Classes generally revolve around reading novels, essays and other forms of literature, and require students to analyze, interpret and dissect written material in order to compare, contrast and discuss elements, like theme, characters and plot. Proficient writing skills are necessary at this point as these discussions of literature typically manifest in the form of an essay or research paper. High school English is a comprehensive study, combining the five skills of language arts in order to understand literature and its value.
English is also a crucial component of college preparation, getting students ready for the extensive research and analytical skills they will be expected to utilize throughout their college careers.
Whereas language arts classes in elementary school introduce students to grammar and composition, reading classes aid students in developing their comprehension and and analytical skills. Reading classes also instruct students in vocabulary and spelling, and help them build their skills through instruction, practice and testing. The degree of reading skill increases with each grade level and prepares students for middle school and high school English, where they will apply their basic reading skills to form more complex and analytical comprehension of literature.