AP Lang and Comp A

Class info

College professors frequently lament the poor writing skills of the students who enter their classrooms, particularly straight out of high school. This course is designed to help you succeed in not only a freshman composition course, but in college altogether. To achieve this goal, students must learn to think critically, read analytically, and communicate with clarity and confidence. A basis of this course will be to learn how to read closely and annotate a variety of formats, genres, and topics. 

While students may earn college credit if they receive a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP English Language and Composition Exam (depending on their chosen college), the ultimate goal of this course is to prepare students for the rigors of college writing.  

End of the Semester

To finish out the semester, we talked about the Known-New Contract to try and improve the flow of students’ writing. Students also completed a timed Rhetorical Analysis practice essay which we then examined and revised in class. Lastly, we reviewed for and took a final consisting of timed Rhetorical Analysis and Synthesis essays.

Monday, 12/5

At the start of class I checked and handed back the outlines students started last class and completed for homework. Students then chose one of the three paragraphs from this outline to build out into a full body paragraph, which I collected. Then we watched an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to look for and discuss use of rhetorical devices in another medium.

Thursday, 12/1

We continued our study of Rhetorical Devices today with tropes. Just like Tuesday, I used a handout and slides to review these devices and discuss examples for each. Afterwards, students looked for tropes in the Marquart passage, and then began outlining a hypothetical essay dealing with all three major components of rhetorical analysis — schemes, tropes, and rhetorical triangle. Homework: finish this outline which I will collect at the start of class on Monday.

Tuesday, 11/29

We began our study of Rhetorical Devices today. I read aloud to students the Marquart passage from the 2010 alternate AP exam. Students first annotated the passage for all elements of the rhetorical triangle. I then passed out a handout and reviewed via slides the first half of our rhetorical devices — schemes. I discussed the definitions and examples with students, and they took notes alongside the definitions I provided regarding usage and effect of these devices. Then we returned to the Marquart passage and students identified schemes she employed in her writing, which we then shared and discussed. I also gave out copies of the outline students will complete in lieu of writing an essay in order to practice looking for schemes, as well as tropes which we’ll cover on Thursday. There wasn’t really time to begin the outlines, so we’ll do those on Thursday as well. Some reminders: this Friday is the last day I will accept late or revised work; also, students will be writing a practice timed essay employing all rhetorical analysis next Wednesday in class; the final will be another timed rhetorical analysis essay along with a timed synthesis essay.

Friday, 11/18

After running through some of the details of our ongoing assignments (websites are due before midnight Sunday night, individual components of that project are due the first day back from break, and revisions/late research projects will not be accepted after Dec. 2), as well as reviewing the components of claim/data/explain/pertain that we learned with the Steve Jobs speech, students worked on peer review of the Benjamin Bannaker rhetorical analysis essay that was due two weeks ago. Following peer review, we held a Socratic seminar on Occupy Wall Street and the related police actions over the previous few days (and months). Homework: in addition to the individual component of the website project, please answer the following prompt on Virtual Campus as a follow-up reflection to our Socratic seminar.

  • What is your perspective on the police actions against the protestors in various cities/campuses? Do you think their actions were justified? (You may need to be specific about which city or university.)
  • If you were mayor of some of these cities (or chancellor/president of some of these universities), what would you do?

Wednesday, 11/16

Today was the last work day for the group website project. We went over the rubrics as well as the personal reflection component. The personal reflections are due when you return from Thanksgiving break, while the sites themselves are due before 12:00 a.m., 11/21 — this is an extension that I suspect most students won’t need, however I want to make sure everyone had enough time to talk to their clients, and I also was not able to get the Current Events readings ready before today. Speaking of, we are discussing Occupy Wall Street in Current Events on Friday. Please read this article from the New York Times. I also passed out excerpts from the Wikipedia article on Occupy Wall Street (basically he first half or so). Your ticket in the door for our Socratic Seminar on Friday is a hard copy of one additional article about the Occupy movement. Homework: any remaining work on the website project, read the CE texts, print and bring in one of your own.

Monday, 11/14

Today was another work day for the website project due on Friday.

Thursday, 11/10

Today was a work day for the website project. Students formulated plans for their sites and for which group member was going to complete which part of the work. Some students/groups also attempted to meet with their clients. Homework: continue working on the website project.

Tuesday, 11/8

We went over some additional elements of the rhetorical triangle today to help introduce the website group project. After putting everyone into groups, we went to the library for a presentation on some of the technical aspects by Ms. Giersdorf. The rest of class was time for group members to collaborate on filling out the website planning handout, which was due at the end of class.

Friday, 11/4

Students turned in their take-home essays and seminar questions right at the beginning of class. We did an in-class activity to practice analyzing visual texts (print advertisements) for the Rhetorical Triangle. We then held a Socratic Seminar to discuss the issue of marijuana legalization. Homework: post your response to this question on Virtual Campus — What do you think will happen? Do you expect a Federal legalization of marijuana in the next 30 years? (Note: I’m not asking whether you support this or not.) Why? Include elements of Friday’s Socratic seminar and try to find one online source to support your viewpoint and link to it.

Wednesday, 11/2

After talking a little bit about the upcoming website group project, and in one class wrapping up the R.A. analysis annotation practice from Monday, I passed out articles for students to read in class in preparation for our Current Events discussion on Friday — one from The New York Times and one from the Freakonomics blog. Students read both articles and formulated 3-5 small, 3-5 medium, and 3-5 large questions about the topic, legalization of marijuana. These questions will be the ticket in the door for the Socratic seminar. Homework: please finish the R.A. take-home essay for Friday, as well as reading and questions for Current Events if you didn’t finish them in class.

Tuesday, 10/31

After looking at the Rhetorical Analysis practice body paragraphs from yesterday, it was clear that we needed to spend more time with them. We revisited claim/data/commentary and talked about how to implement it in these body paragraphs (and how to integrate quotes as examples). Students then re-wrote one of the three body paragraphs they turned in last class and re-submitted it with the originals. We then spent some time talking about how to annotate a Rhetorical Analysis text on the AP exam. Homework: complete the latest take-home essay for Friday.

Thursday, 10/27

We finished our discussion of the Jobs Stanford Commencement speech from last class, examining his use of Logos using the printed text of the speech to identify claims and support for those claims. I then asked students to practice rhetorical analysis of the Jobs speech using just the rhetorical triangle, and producing just three body paragraphs (not an entire essay), which everyone turned in at the end of class. Homework: I passed out the next take-home essay, due Friday, 11/4; students are to only analyze this text for the rhetorical triangle.

Tuesday, 10/25

We dove into studying the Rhetorical Triangle today. Students read about logos, ethos, and pathos and summarized what they read. We talked about how a balance of all three is necessary to have an effective speech or piece of writing. Students then watched Steve Jobs’s 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University and analyzed it for effectiveness using these criteria. We got through some of the discussion of this in class, and we will finish up on Thursday.

Friday, 10/21

The research papers were due at the start of class today. Any not in on time (and not already granted extensions) are late — those students have lost their revision option on this summative assignment and they will have a zero until I get their papers. We did an expanded Current Events Friday today on the politics surrounding President Obama’s Jobs Bill. The goal of this Current Events Friday was for students to showcase their synthesis skills as well as to dip their toes into rhetorical analysis. We watched four videos — two of the President’s Weekly Addresses (9/17 and 10/1) along with two Republican Weekly Addresses (Rep. Peter Roskam [R-IL], 9/17, and Sen. John Thune [R-SD], 10/8). For these videos, I asked students to consider:

  • What is the speaker’s/writer’s purpose?
  • What is the intended audience? Possible secondary audience?
  • Is it effective?

I then handed out a packet with a number of printed sources — a New York Times article, President Obama’s Jobs Bill Summary
, the House Republican’s Jobs Plan Summary, a New York Times editorial
, and a Wall Street Journal editorial
. I asked students to read these, think about what prior knowledge they might have about this topic, consider the same three questions above, and also come up with small, medium, and large questions. After all of that, we had an abbreviated Socratic Seminar discussion. Homework: please answer the following questions on Virtual Campus for your post-Current Events reflection

Wedensday, 10/19

Today was our third and final work day for the Equity Research Project. Students continued taking notes on sources and writing their papers. Homework: your completed research paper is due at the start of class on Friday.

Monday, 10/17

Today was our second work day for the Equity Research Project. Students continued locating sources, taking notes, and started working on organization of their papers. Homework: I need to see a solid thesis and some sort of outline of our paper next class.

Wednesday, 10/12

Today was our first work day for the Equity Research Project. Students worked on research and taking notes on sources. Many students also spent time further refining or tweaking their topics. Homework: you must have a Works Cited with 6 possible sources shared with me by the start of class on Monday.

Monday, 10/10

Today we began the research project in earnest. After reviewing the assignment handout/rubric, I walked students through the process of root cause analysis to help them refine and narrow their topics. The second part of class was for beginning the research component. Homework: none that I’m collecting, but you will not be able to complete the research project by the 10/21 due date if you only work on it during class, so continue working on your research.

Thursday, 10/6

We finished discussing the gender bias article in class today, spending time with seven different forms of bias that could be applied to other deviations from mainstream culture. After this, I gave everyone some information about the research paper, including the possible research topics — of the 12 listed on the slides, students will choose one to research and write about. Then there was some time for choosing a topic and preliminary research. Homework: you must have a topic chosen from the list on the slides by next class.

Tuesday, 10/4

We spent part of class today discussing the Ehrenreich text and our seminar last Friday as well as checking out the website Spent. We also read most of an article (that we’ll finish Thursday) about gender inequity in schools as a way of introducing the research project that will be due in about 2 weeks. More on the research project next class as well.

Friday, 9/30

The first half of class today was spent peer reviewing each other’s take-home synthesis essays on canonical literature. I handed out copies of a simplified synthesis essay rubric I created while struggling to grade the last set of take-home essays. The second half of class was for our Socratic seminar on Nickel and Dimed. Homework: answer the following questions in the Virtual Campus forum for Current Events Week 2

  • Did your questions get answered? Adequately? Why or why not?
  • How did this affect your understanding of the text?
  • If they didn’t, how could your questions have changed the direction of the seminar?

Wednesday, 9/28

Today was our last quiz on Nickel and Dimed. We then reviewed Costa’s Levels of Questioning and started writing some questions for the Socratic seminar over the book on Friday. Afterwards, we continued working on logical fallacies. Homework: complete the take-home essay and write 3-4 large questions for the seminar, both due Friday.

Monday, 9/26

We finished discussing the first culture reading and then went over part of a second describing the pillars of American macro culture. We then began studying logical fallacies, which we will continue next class. Homework: finish Ehrenreich for Wednesday; complete the current take-home essay for Friday.

Thursday, 9/22

After going over the first part of the “Culture Is” packet, students read the second half, practicing annotations and answering some additional questions along the way. Homework: finish Ehrenreich for Wednesday; finish the latest take-home essay for Friday.

Tuesday, 9/20

After a quiz over the third chapter of Nickel & Dimed, students typed and posted their current events reflections onto our Virtual Campus page for this purpose. If you were absent, you will need to set up your access to this page before the next current events discussion (Friday, 9/30). Then we did an activity to help students identify privilege in their lives, and I assigned the first part of the culture reading for homework. I also passed out the next take-home synthesis essay. Homework: read the first half of the culture reading and complete the worksheet for Thursday; finish Nickel & Dimed for next Wednesday, 9/28; complete the new take-home synthesis essay for Friday, 9/30.

Friday, 9/16

The first half of class was spent going over the synthesis essays in groups — looking at claim, data, commentary as well as how well students got their sources talking to one another. The second half of class was our first current events friday discussion in the form of a Socratic seminar. Homework: take one of the specific sub-topics discussed today (e.g., China, immigration, poverty, technology, export of jobs) and spend 1-2 paragraphs making your final comments on it and how it connects to all of the sources — mine, yours, someone else’s — or do so with your own sub-topic; also, please read the third chapter of Ehrenreich.

Wednesday, 9/14

We finished talking about annotations of the synthesis essay sources today. Then I introduced the concept of discourse patterns and we did a few activities to introduce the concept of equity. Homework: for Friday, bring in one additional source for our current events discussion and bring in your completed take-home synthesis essay; for Tuesday, read ch. 3 of Ehrenreich.

Monday, 9/12

Following a visit from our counseling department, we went over the sources for the take-home synthesis essay — I modeled a close reading of the prompt as well as the first two sources. We read and annotated the third source as a class (the B8 section only got half-way through the third source). Then we switched gears to the texts for current-events Friday at the end of this week. We listened to, and read along with the transcripts of, these two NPR pieces asking the question, “Has America Fallen Behind?” Homework: for Wednesday, finish annotating the synthesis essay sources; for Friday, write your take-home synthesis essay and bring in one additional article/source that connects in any way to our current events topic; for Monday, read ch. 3 of Ehrenreich.

Thursday, 9/8

Students took a quiz over the “Scrubbing in Maine” chapter in the Ehrenreich text, and we briefly discussed any questions students had about this reading. We spent most of the rest of class reviewing the Synthesis essay samples students started looking at Tuesday while I was out sick. We read sample essays, tried to identify the elements they should have, and then reviewed the rubric and the comments from the College Board readers on these samples. Students then reviewed their own essays they wrote to the same prompt at the start of the semester and also traded essays with a partner to give/get additional feedback. At the end of class, I passed out a new practice Synthesis essay for students to take home. Homework: review the sources for the take-home essay for Monday and begin working on for next Friday; also, read the third chapter of Ehrenreich for 9/20.

Thursday, 9/1

The good news: no practice test today! The bad news: there was a quiz on the introduction and first chapter of the Ehrenreich text. We reviewed the multiple choice practice test from last week — each student scored his or her own test, and then we talked about some data related to those scores and how they related to overall scores on the test that year. Afterwards, we returned to Nickel and Dimed to discuss the reading due today and some of the bigger questions raised by the text. Homework: read ch. 2 of Ehrenreich by 9/8.

Tuesday, 8/30

We are finally finishing up our first full practice test today with Rhetorical Analysis and Argumentative practice essays (see here for copies of all three practice essays). Homework: the assigned reading, the introduction and ch. 1 from Nickel and Dimed, is due next class.

Friday, 8/26

After collecting late signature slips and the multiple choice tests (which we didn’t have time to go over today), we did finally review the color-coded essays, talking about reflecting on one’s own writing as well as the ideal proportion of claim to data to commentary. Then, I gave a quick overview of all three essays on the AP Lang Exam — the Synthesis Essay, the Rhetorical Analysis Essay, and the Argumentative Essay. The last half of class was dedicated to a practice Synthesis Essay, which I collected right before students left. Homework: remember to read the introduction and first chapter of Nickel and Dimed for next Thursday.

Wednesday, 8/24

We started class by reading and discussing this article on child poverty rates rising. I also passed out copies of Nickel and Dimed. We put off our discussion of the color-coded paragraphs because I wanted to make sure we would have enough time for the practice AP multiple choice test. Most students finished this in the hour remaining. Homework: read the introduction and the first chapter of Nickel and Dimed for next Thursday; also, any students who did not finish the multiple choice practice test should do so for next class.

Monday, 8/22

After visiting the auditorium for yearbook/ID photos, we reviewed the course syllabus. We briefly discussed the texts and assignment students received last Friday from the sub, and then we went over a slide deck on the Claim, Data, Commentary pattern. Students then re-read their essays and underlined Claims in one color, Data in a second, and Commentary in a third. Homework: finish the Claim/Data/Commentary annotation of the year-round school essays, and bring in the syllabus signature slip showing that a parent received and read the syllabus.


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