Ninth and Tenth Grade Writing Standards

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Writing standards for ninth and tenth grades define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at these grade levels. By understanding 9th and 10th grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.

What is 9th and 10th Grade Writing?
In grades nine and ten, students plan, draft, and complete written compositions on a regular basis. Ninth grade and tenth grade students practice all forms of writing and are expected to produce error-free essays that demonstrate their awareness of audience and purpose. Students edit their essays for clarity, engaging language, and the correct use of the conventions and mechanics of standard American English. An emphasis is placed on writing coherent and focused essays that convey a well-defined perspective and tightly reasoned argument.

What Writing Standards Measure
Academic standards are very specific, detailing every aspect of what students are expected to learn in each grade. Organized into five key areas, writing standards focus on: writing process, writing purposes (what students write), writing evaluation, writing conventions (grammar, usage, and mechanics), and research/inquiry for writing. The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as benchmarks in writing proficiency for grade nine and grade ten.

Grades 9 and 10: Writing Process
Writing standards for all grades focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help students become independent writers. In grades 9 and 10, students are expected to use each phase of the process as follows:

  • Prewriting: Students in 9th and 10th grades use prewriting strategies to generate ideas, develop voice, and plan their writing. Students generate ideas from multiple sources (e.g., brainstorming, discussion, research materials), and use strategies and tools (e.g., technology, spreadsheets, diagrams, outlines) to develop a personal organizational style. Students make a plan for writing that addresses purpose, audience, controlling idea, logical sequence, and a timeframe for completion.
  • Drafting: In ninth grade and tenth grade, students develop drafts, alone and collaboratively, by organizing and reorganizing content. Drafts establish a controlling thesis that conveys a clear and distinctive perspective on the subject and employ a logical organizational pattern with substantial and relevant supporting details. In ninth and tenth grades, students are expected to maintain a consistent tone and focus and use precise language, action verbs, sensory details, appropriate modifiers, and the active rather than the passive voice. Students analyze the language techniques of professional authors, (e.g., figurative language, denotation, connotation), to establish a personal style, demonstrating a command of language with confidence of expression.
  • Revising: In 9th grade and 10th grade, students revise selected drafts by improving the logic and coherence of the organization and controlling perspective, and developing meaningful relationships among ideas. Other revision techniques used by ninth- and tenth-graders include checking the accuracy of supporting details, (e.g., facts, statistics, expert opinions, definitions) and working on the precision of word choice, voice, and tone to suit the occasion, audience, and purpose.
  • Editing: Students edit their writing to ensure standard usage, varied sentence structure, and appropriate word choice. Ninth- and tenth graders also proofread for appropriateness of organization, content, style, and language conventions, using resources and reference materials (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus).
  • Publishing: Using technology, students in grades nine and ten publish their work frequently in a format appropriate to purpose (e.g., for display, multimedia). Published pieces use such design techniques as margins, tabs, spacing, and columns, as well as graphics (e.g., drawings, charts, graphs).

Use of technology: Ninth grade and tenth grade students use advanced publishing software and graphic programs to support aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts.

Grades 9 and 10: Writing Purposes
In grades nine and ten, students write in a variety of forms for various audiences and purposes (e.g., to explain, inform, analyze, entertain, reflect, persuade). Students exercise the rhetorical strategies of narration, exposition, persuasion, and description to produce essays of at least 1,500 words each. Specifically, writing standards for 9th and 10th grades stipulate that students write in the following forms:

  • Narrative/Creative: Ninth and tenth grade students write in a variety of narrative, expressive, and reflective forms, including biographical and autobiographical narratives and short stories. In these essays, students relate a sequence of events and communicate the significance of the events through concrete sensory details (e.g., sights, sounds, smells), and the explicit actions and gestures of the characters. Ninth- and tenth-graders develop the plot or events further by creating dialogue and interior monologues to depict the characters’ feelings and locating scenes and incidents in specific places. Students are expected to use literary devices and make effective use of descriptions of appearance, images, shifting perspectives, and sensory details. In addition, students learn to pace the presentation of actions to accommodate changes in time and mood.
  • Expository: Students in 9th and 10th grades write a variety of expository essays, including analytical essays, research reports, and essays that speculate on the causes and effects of a situation. Students assemble evidence in support of a thesis, including information on all relevant claims and perspectives, and compose introductory, body, and concluding paragraphs. Expository essays in these grades should address readers’ potential misunderstandings, biases, and expectations, and make distinctions between the relative value and significance of specific data, facts, and ideas. In writing expository essays, ninth- and tenth-graders are expected to convey information and technical terms from primary and secondary sources, accurately and coherently, as well as integrate quotations and citations into the text while maintaining the flow of ideas. Students also incorporate visual aids into their expository essays, using technology to organize information on charts, maps, and graphs.
  • Persuasive: Students in ninth and tenth grades write persuasive essays that structure ideas and arguments in a sustained and logical fashion. Persuasive essays in these grades should use specific rhetorical devices to support assertions (e.g., appeal to logic through reasoning; appeal to emotion or ethical belief; relate a personal anecdote, case study, or analogy). Ninth- and tenth-graders are expected to clarify and defend positions with precise and relevant evidence, including facts, expert opinions, quotations, and expressions of commonly accepted beliefs and logical reasoning. Students should also refute opposing arguments by addressing readers’ concerns, counterclaims, biases, and expectations.
  • Responses to Literature: Ninth and tenth grade students are expected to demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the significant ideas of literary works. Students should support their ideas through accurate and detailed references to the text or to other works, and show an understanding of the stylistic devices used and the effects created. Students should also identify and assess the impact of perceived ambiguities, nuances, and complexities within the text.
  • Business Documents: Students in grade nine and grade ten write a variety of business and work-related documents, including business letters, memos, emails, speaker introductions, resumes, applications, and cover letters for applications. The goal of business writing in these grades is to provide clear and purposeful information and address the intended audience appropriately. Students strive to highlight central ideas and pay attention to vocabulary, tone, and style by considering the nature of the relationship with, and the knowledge and interests of the recipient. Ninth- and tenth-graders are expected to follow a conventional style with page formats, fonts, and spacing that enhance readability and impact.
  • Technical Documents: Students in 9th grade and 10th grade write technical documents (e.g., how-to-manuals, procedures, assembly directions, meeting minutes) with the goal of reporting information and conveying ideas logically and correctly. Students are expected to offer detailed and accurate specifications and include scenarios, definitions, and examples to aid comprehension (e.g., a troubleshooting guide). Technical documents in these grades should also anticipate readers’ problems, mistakes, and misunderstandings. Ninth- and tenth-graders may also be asked to write detailed travel directions and design an accompanying graphic using the cardinal and ordinal directions, landmarks, streets and highways, and distances.

Grades 9 and 10: Writing Evaluation
Ninth and tenth grade students evaluate the writing of others, as well as their own writing. Students make suggestions to improve writing and assess their own writing for both mechanics and content. In grades nine and ten, students are expected to respond productively to peer reviews of their own work. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set goals as a writer.

Grades 9 and 10: Written English Language Conventions
Students in ninth and tenth grades are expected to produce legible work that shows a command of standard English conventions, including accurate spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. In particular, writing standards for grades nine and ten specify these key markers of proficiency:

Sentence Structure
—Understand sentence construction, including parallel structure, subordination, and proper placement of modifiers.
—Compose increasingly more involved sentences that contain clauses (e.g., main and subordinate) and phrases (e.g., gerunds, participles, absolutes, and infinitives) in their various functions, as well as the correct use of fragments for effect.

Grammar and Mechanics
—Exhibit proper English usage and control of grammar, paragraph and sentence structure, diction, and syntax.
—Demonstrate control over grammatical elements such as subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, consistency of verb tenses, comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, and possessives.
—Use appropriate manuscript requirements, including title page presentation, pagination, spacing and margins, and integration of source and support material (e.g., in-text citation, use of direct quotations, paraphrasing) with appropriate citations.

Punctuation
—Identify and correctly use the mechanics of punctuation, including commas, colons, semicolons, apostrophes, hyphens, quotation marks, italics or underscoring, and ellipses.

Capitalization
—Ninth- and tenth-graders pay particular attention to capitalization of names of academic courses and proper adjectives.

Spelling
— Use knowledge of spelling rules, orthographic patterns, generalizations, prefixes, suffixes, and roots, including Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon root words.
—Understand foreign words commonly used in English (e.g., laissez faire, croissant).

Penmanship
—Students use fluent and legible handwriting skills.

Grades 9 and 10: Research and Inquiry
In ninth and tenth grades, students use appropriate research methodology and a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research papers and other writing assignments. Students use writing as a research and learning tool in the following ways:

  • Use writing to discover, organize, and support what is known and what needs to be learned about a topic.
  • Use clear research questions and suitable research methods (e.g., library, electronic media, personal interview) to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources.
  • Synthesize information from multiple sources and identify complexities and discrepancies in the information and the different perspectives found in each medium (e.g., almanacs, microfiche, news sources, in-depth field studies, speeches, journals, technical documents).
  • Represent information in a variety of ways such as graphics, conceptual maps, and learning logs.
  • Use appropriate conventions for documentation in the text, notes, and bibliographies by adhering to those in style manuals (e.g., Modern Language Association Handbook, The Chicago Manual of Style).
  • Analyze strategies that writers in different fields use to compose.
  • Use writing as a study tool to clarify and remember information.

Ninth and Tenth Grade Writing Tests
In many states, students in grades nine and ten take standardized writing assessments, either with pencil and paper or on a computer. While tests vary, students are typically given questions about grammar and mechanics, as well as timed essay-writing exercises in which they must write an essay in response to a writing prompt. On 9th and 10th grade essay writing tests, students demonstrate their ability to produce an effective composition for a specific purpose, as well as their command of the conventions of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure.

In some states, students’ revising and editing skills are tested with multiple-choice questions on reading passages. Students are asked to indicate how a particular sentence might be corrected or improved or how the organization or development of a paragraph might be strengthened. Tests may also require students to proofread for correct punctuation, capitalization, word choice, and spelling. Another type of question asks students to write a summary statement in response to a reading passage. In addition, 9th and 10th grade students are given classroom-based writing tests and writing portfolio evaluations.

State writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standards-based tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. If students do well on school writing assignments, they should do well on such a test. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how each student is meeting grade-level expectations. These assessments are designed to pinpoint where each student needs improvement and help teachers tailor instruction to fit individual needs. State departments of education usually include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including testing guidelines and sample questions.

Writing Test Preparation
The best writing test preparation in ninth and tenth grades consists of encouraging your student to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. Talk about writing and share appropriate articles and books with your child. Students learn to write effectively when they write more often. Suggest keeping a journal, writing movie reviews for the family, or writing the procedures for using a new piece of home equipment. Any writing is valuable practice. By becoming familiar with 9th and 10th grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them to use the strategies of writing process to revise their own work.

Time4Writing Online Writing Courses Support 9th and 10th Grade Writing Standards
Time4Writing is an excellent complement to ninth and tenth grade writing curriculums. Developed by classroom teachers, Time4Writing targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standard-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.

Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Time4Writing online courses for ninth and tenth grades.

*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Time4Writing relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.

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