ADVANCED PLACEMENT ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND COMPOSITION
Introduction to Course and Course Overview
AP English Language and Composition (School for Advanced Studies) offers students a year of intense training in reading and writing to prepare them for success on the AP Language and Composition Examination, to ready them for skills necessary for college-level studies and enable them to become contributing members of their communities as lifelong learners. This rigorous and demanding class focuses on the rhetorical analysis of fiction and non-fiction, and works of American literature. Students learn to identify an author’s purpose and strategies and examine the ways people think about and use language. Students read and analyze models of good writing and write compositions of various lengths and complexity, participating in peer response and rigorous revision. Students are introduced to analytical tools designed to develop levels of questioning at the factual, inferential, and analytical tiers of knowledge, which ultimately provide them with mastery of the highest forms of analysis and synthesis, necessary for participation in class discussions and note taking. They are able to write effective prose at first year college level. Students are expected to complete outside reading on time and, independently, produce class discussion notes using the Cornell method. In this course, the rhetorical interpretation of text primarily focuses on the Classical, Rogerian, and Toulmin models which demand that claims, taken with the writer’s purpose, the intended audience, and speaker’s persona, will lead to argument for persuasion using both a thesis and opposite thesis, necessary skills for successful academic writing. Students in AP English Language and Composition read difficult nonfiction text with speed, annotating and outlining as they recognize shifts of perspective and tone. They quote with authority and precision, discern the writer’s purpose and interpret responses elicited from audiences, and synthesize how authors manipulate readers to prove theses in various modes of written discourse.
Rigor skills taught during this year-long course include Bloom’s Taxonomy and Bloom’s Affective Taxonomy to provide students with a way to measure ongoing learning, the five Language Registers (Frozen, Formal, Consultative, Casual, and Intimate) and students are able to perfect the middle language register by choosing a nationally syndicated op/ed columnist, follow that writer’s column bi-monthly, and construct responses using strategies that address the ethos (ethics), pathos (emotions), and logos (logic) of nonfiction and current events’ columns; Levels of Questioning, which includes level one (factual), level two (interpretative), and level three (evaluative); the Cornell Note taking method, outlining and journaling; the Rhetorical Square approach to unpacking nonfiction pieces (Audience, Purpose, Persona, Argument); Sentence Mimicking and Pivoting Text; the grammar of irony and the grammar of paradox; the classical, Rogerian, and Toulmin argumentations models; rhetorical modes of discourse; student-teaching conferencing, including rubrics, revisions, and rewrites.*
**GLAAPSI, July 2005 Marcy Bowman AP Packet
Students are encouraged to read widely, and through exposure to various genres, voices, and ideas, students’ reading tastes are broadened as their levels of appreciation and enjoyment and critical faculties are heightened.
Close reading is a critical skill that is ideally developed over many years and this course builds on these skills by providing frequent instruction and opportunities for students to dissect passages and texts. Two overarching elements, the understanding of which serves students well, are diction and syntax. Students need to be word savvy. Recognizing the power of diction—individual words as well as word patterns—is a primary focus. Vocabulary lists are used; class discussions include studies of the nuances of words’ meaning and words’ connotative and denotative meanings are reviewed.
Syntax is taught so that writers manage to achieve syntactical variety in their own writing despite any difficulties in analyzing the element. Students consider the power of the individual simple, compound, complex, compound-complex sentences and their juxtaposition within structured writing; they look carefully at subordination, coordination, and the author’s tone as it relates to the use of the declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory sentences.
Repetition, parallelism, rhetorical questions, tone, and transitions are devices students are familiar with and figurative language, including metaphorical devices such as apostrophe, simile, metaphors, hyperbole, irony, paradox, and sarcasm become part of the strategies used to grasp overall meaning of text through close reading.
In this course, students develop clearly articulated departmental expectations, including exchanging essays in triads to ascertain voice, making suggestions, revisions, and suggestions to classmates, and participating in both student-teacher as well as student-student feedback. Departments also share student writing at professional developments with teachers of other disciplines to gain insight as to how students approach writing assignments in other common core subjects.
The writing process, including brainstorming, planning, prewriting, drafting, revising, and rewriting is another component students use to achieve excellence in their final draft of un-timed compositions.
According to the Advanced Placement Course Description in English “stylistic development” is nurtured by emphasizing the following:
• A wide ranging vocabulary used appropriately and effectively
• A variety of sentence structures, including appropriate use of subordination and coordination
• A logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques to increase coherence, such as repetition, transitions, and emphasis
• A balance of generalization and specific illustrative details, and
• An effective use of rhetoric, including controlling tone, establishing and maintaining voice, and achieving appropriate emphasis through diction and sentence structure.
Topics for writing are limitless, and the greater the variety, the greater the opportunity for the student to develop style and a sharp sense of audience. Composition may include some research components, particularly in the Junior Defense of Thesis where the process of collecting and organizing information is used to perfect a thesis that is proven both in written prose and oral discourse.
Timed writing is vital as well. This kind of assignment is valid for two reasons; it replicates the students’ writing experience on the AP Exam where they are, in a time frame of about forty minutes, asked to read a prompt, usually including a passage, and write an effective essay response. Second, this product-oriented writing is a reality. Students in colleges, as with many professionals, are regularly faced with such demands for which rapid assimilation of information and immediate responses are critical to the quality of their work.
The holistic scoring of essays is used throughout this course since this type of scoring allows essays to be read quickly and carefully by the instructor, who then judges it against scoring guides and rubrics developed in response to the nature of the composition question and the desired response to the prompt.
This course also provides ample opportunities for students to take sample multiple-choice question exams. These multiple-choice questions are demanding, with possible answers frequently separated by subtle distinctions and the more opportunities for practice, the further chance of perfecting the skills to choose the correct answer from a group of distractors.
Writing and Reading Text Credit: Teacher’s Guide Advanced Placement Program, AP English Language and Composition; College Entrance Examination Board and Educational Testing Service ©1998
Students cover an immense amount of grammar, particularly in the areas of parts of speech, agreement, sentence structure, subordination and coordination, and conventions of grammar usage and mechanics. Grammar is often taught in isolation but that does not negate the requirement that students are held responsible on both timed and untimed writing assignments to utilize skills learned to perfect documents on the first draft so that many revisions are not needed for succeeding drafts.
Late Work Policy
It is the policy of this class that students who are absent and provide an acceptable excuse may make up assignments or tests the day following their return to class; the assignment or test will be scored and returned to students. Students must mark on the assignment or test the following information: the specific date of absence, the day they first returned to class, the assignment number and date the assignment is actually submitted. If an assignment or test is not completed on the day following the return to class, the assignment or test will be scored as “credit” and not receive a letter grade. That “credit” neither raises nor lowers the students’ overall grade average. Verified truancies and unexcused absences from class will result in no credit received for work submitted.
Assigned vocabulary work must be received by due dates; five points will be deducted from test scores for work not received when due and ten points will be deducted from test scores for no work received.
Summer assignments that are not submitted by due date will be scored as “0,” which may negatively affect a student’s overall course score and earned class grade point average. Assignments that are completed and submitted late will receive only a “credit,” and not earn a letter grade; in this case a student must complete the work to avoid receiving a “0” but will still earn no letter grade for work that was completed. It is in the student’s best interest to meet deadlines and submit work of the highest quality by due dates.
*This policy supersedes all previous late work policy information.
Material Covered: September 3-December 19, 2008
Students begin fall semester with a summer reading selection assessed by submission of an Advanced Placement Long Form, based on a novel that was assigned as independent reading off-track. This assignment is their first paper for this course and is used as an immediate way to measure students’ analysis of an author's use of rhetorical strategies, offering critical reading practice, and in particular close reading of important and difficult text that students will encounter throughout the semester.
Students also choose an Op/Ed Columnist at the beginning of the semester and follow that writer on a regular basis, practicing the consultative/formal language register by responding to the writers’ arguments.
Levels of Questioning are introduced at the beginning of the school year and students are given practice this strategy by condensing and summarizing Cornell Notes taken both in class and out-of-class on selected readings. Level One Questions are questions that students can write that can be explicitly answered by facts contained in the text or information accessible in other resources. Level Two Questions are textually implicit, requiring analysis and interpretation of specific parts of the text. Level Three Questions are much more open-ended and go beyond the text and are intended to provoke a discussion of an abstract idea or issue. Credit for the levels of questions explanation are from an AP Workshop at California State University where the Great Books Foundation was discussed.
Timed Writing #1: An AP Exam Prompt using a short prose passage titled “Hunger of Memory,” from author Richard Rodriguez is used to introduce students to a sample writing task they might face on the actual Spring AP English Language Exam.
The Colonial Period up to 1790 is also covered at the start of this semester. Puritans and American Beginnings (Scott-Foresman Publishing; Literature and Integrated Studies) introduces students to the writings of William Bradford in “Of Plymouth Plantation,” and “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards’ masterful sermon that sets the stage for class discussion of literary terms such as tone, syntax, diction, including specific syntactical devices such as rhetorical questions and the mimicking of loose, periodic, balanced, and interrupted sentences.
Students spend time analyzing compositions they have written for the Rodriguez AP Prompt, specifically in preparation for a class discussion on tone. The Rhetorical Square, which addresses subject (and speaker), occasion, audience, and purpose is reviewed, since it will provide a solid foundation for future essay prompts that are generally written on a weekly basis.
Timed Writing #2: AP Exam Prompt, featuring a short passage titled “Moments of Being,” by Virginia Woolf
Novel #1: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is read independently with talking points recorded chapter by chapter as students record entries in a journal format; class discussions are held weekly with each student contributing orally to ascertain author’s purpose, characters’ motivations, and the overall theme of the work. This novel is an ongoing assignment throughout the semester.
Students are introduced to the New Republic, Spirit of Independence and America (Scott-Foresman; Literature and Integrated Studies) with literature selections that cover a time period of 1790-1820. Highlights of this unit are the study of Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” Thomas Paine’s “The American Crisis,” and “Speech in the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry.
Timed Writing #3: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural AP Prompt; students are able to use a nine-point generic rubric to self-evaluate their essays and the essays of classmates; students may also engage in discussion with the teacher on a weekly basis and challenge the scores received on essays, using the wording of the rubric to provide evidence that the essay may perhaps have deserved a higher score.
Reading and Writing Strategies such as sentence mimicking and text pivoting are further practiced at this point, providing students with additional skills in checking for comprehension about material covered in class and assures their understanding of the complexities of crafting interesting and varied sentences, connecting the use of proper diction with syntax, and incorporating sentence variety by using subordinate clauses and subordinating conjunctions. Sentence mimicking in particular demonstrates insightful and well-constructed patterns of adapted writing that form the initial building blocks of the paragraph, and therefore, the thought-on-paper processes that will eventually lead to the effective paragraph composition for essays of argument that prove theses.
Vocabulary Workshop (Sadlier, Oxford) is used on a weekly basis; units specifically designed for challenging vocabulary are introduced as students become responsible for identifying the meanings, the connotations, the diacritical markings, and the pronunciation of twenty words weekly; tests are given on a regular basis to confirm understanding and mastery of new vocabulary; students are reminded that vocabulary is important when it is used in real-world contexts, both in written compositions and oral discourse, and are encouraged to remember that, “One does not own a word until it is used, not just memorized.” The American Heritage Dictionary’s 100 Words High School Students Should Know is also utilized and ten new words are introduced weekly, as students are also tested on each set of ten.
Text from “The Declaration of Independence” and the short anthology biography of Thomas Jefferson closes the Spirit of Independence unit of study.
Timed Writing #4: Frederick Douglass Essay from Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass is composed and submitted; syntax and figurative language are the essence of this assignment, as students are provided with supplementary materials such as a four-page narrative on Douglass’ autobiography and read and annotate an additional Douglass prose selection, “What The Black Man Wants.”
American Romanticism and the Transcendentalists includes the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman from the anthology (Scott-Foresman; Literature and Integrated Studies) and is begun at this point in the semester and covers the literature period of 1820-1865.
Emerson’s “Self Reliance,” Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” and an excerpt from Thoreau’s Walden are covered during this period.
Timed Writing #5: James Baldwin’s 1979 Essay on Language (a 1995 AP prompt)
Multiple-choice exam practice from the Cliff’s AP Preparation Guide is begun, and bi-weekly essays are written as in-class timed writing assignments, using selected prompts from that same book.
Introduction to the Argumentative Essay and Argument Comprehensive Review is introduced as students learn to identify the pathos, ethos, and logos strategies used by writers to achieve their varied purposes for writing.
The Continental Nation (1865-1900) period is covered using selections such as Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and Robert E. Lee’s “Farewell Order to the Army of Northern Virginia.”
Timed Writing #6: Crevecoeur’s “Letter to an American Farmer”
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is introduced and journaled talking points are recorded chapter by chapter as students engage in weekly class discussions. This novel is an ongoing assignment throughout the semester.
Vocabulary Workshop and “100 Words High School Students Should Know” continues during this period. Readings for these five weeks also include “Roman Fever,” by Edith Wharton, “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather, William Faukner’s “Barn Burning”, Anne Sexton’s poem “Her Kind”, the poems of Langston Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and Richard Wright’s “Big Back Good Man.” Each selection includes questions about meaning, language, theme, and purpose so students may perfect their understanding and analysis of short passages of fiction. Additional nonfiction selections from Bedford Reader, the heart of any AP English Language Course, are introduced in the second semester of studies.
Textbooks used in this course include The Bedford Reader, Cliffs AP Preparation Guide, Vocabulary Workshop Level “F”, and Glencoe Writer’s Choice. Various nonfiction pieces are used from composition rhetorics and readers, as are newspaper editorials, opinion-editorial pieces written by individual columnists, and storyboards, photographs, and newspaper editorial cartoons.
Kennedy, X.J., Dorothy Kennedy, and Jane E. Aaron, The
Bedford Reader. Boston: Bedford Books of St.
Martin’s Press, 1997.
Cliffs AP English Language and Composition (2nd Edition) Swovelin ©2001
Vocabulary Workshop Level “F” Shostak (Sadlier-Oxford Publishing) 2005
Anthology: Writer’s Choice Grammar and Composition; Glencoe ©2005
Anthology: Literature and Integrated Studies; Scott-Foresman Publishing ©1997
Useful Web Sites
Online Writing Lab
MLA Style Citations
Research Paper Works Cited formatting
Oxford English Dictionary
Vocabulary for the AP student
Strunk and White
Rules of style for written prose
Teacher Web log
Weekly blog postings of assignments due
AP diagnostic tests; literary terms; study strategies
Go My Access/Vantage Learning
Intellimetric prompts and rubric-scored writing
Exercise Central http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/exercisecentral
Online quizzes for each reading selection
College Board Online
Grading System (Marks Thresholds)
Marks on individual assignments are based on the following scale:
A 92.5 % or better
B 82.5 % or better
C 72.5 % or better
D 62.5 % or better
Midterm and final examinations are administered; other quizzes are given throughout the course and include tests on meaning, language, and writing strategies from texts, tests on vocabulary, the connotative and denotative meanings of words, and tests on literary terms necessary for success on the multiple-choice and essays portions of the AP Language Exam.