Ap language & Composition

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AP Language & Composition

AP Language & Composition


C. Siebeneck, Instructor

Rm. 110

Course Overview

This advanced AP language and Composition course is designed to introduce and challenge students to “emphasize the expository, analytical, and argumentative writing that forms the basis of academic and professional communication.” Students in this course will read a variety of non-fiction selections and deepen their awareness of rhetoric and understanding of how language works. Students will also examine the use of rhetoric in visual media through photographs, editorial cartoons, and visual arts. By providing multiple experiences for writing, students will also learn to “write effectively and confidently in their college courses across the curriculum and in their personal and professional lives.” It is hoped that through their compositions students will “read primary and secondary sources carefully, to synthesize material from these texts in their own compositions, and to cite sources using conventions… such as Modern Language Association (MLA).”

Course Expectations

This is a college-level course; therefore, the expectations of student performance, curriculum materials, and workload requirements will be challenging. Each student is expected to commit to the course through active classroom participation, ongoing reading outside of the school day, continued practice in writing and revising, advanced development in vocabulary and sentence styling, and updated interests in current events. It is expected that through the completion of the course, students will participate in the AP Language & Composition exam in May of 2009.

Course Objectives

Course objectives are based on those described by the College Board and outlined in the AP English Course Description. At the end of the academic, students should-

  • Read astutely, think critically, and write clearly. Students will develop their voices to communicate understanding, discovery, and persuasion;

  • Analyze and interpret samples of good writing, identifying and explaining an author’s use of rhetorical strategies and techniques;

  • Apply effective rhetorical strategies and techniques in their own writing;

  • Write narration, description, and exposition, using effective rhetorical strategies to accomplish a desired purpose for an intended audience;

  • Create and sustain arguments based on reading, research, and personal experience;

  • Produce compositions that introduce a narrative point, a thesis, or a claim and develop them with appropriate evidence, commentary, and clear transitions;

  • Demonstrate understanding and mastery of written English and maturity in their own writings by using a variety of sentence structures and effective vocabulary;

  • Evaluate and incorporate reference documents, both written and visual text, into researched papers;

  • Demonstrate understanding of the components of citations, endnotes, and footnotes;

  • Analyze image (cartoons, graphs, pictures) as alternative text;

  • Reflect and write thoughtfully about their own writing and learning process;

  • Constructively critique his/her own writing and that of peers.

Method of Instruction

A discussion-based course will be the primary instruction tool. Additional instructional strategies of literature groups, think-pair-share, Researched Socratic Seminar, debate, lecture, journaling, and projects will enhance student learning.



  • School’s AP grading scale

  • AP essay scoring guide

  • Grades calculated using total points

Evaluation will be based on several categories:

Essays/Compositions (30%). This will include both informal and formal writing. Most composition topics, arguments, researched arguments, and synthesis essays drafts will be generated in class. Several opportunities will be provided to organize ideas, pre-write, draft, and revise. Drafts will be returned for revision and editing before final evaluation. Students will also have conferences with the instructor during and after the writing process. Opportunities for peer and whole-group revision and discussion will be part of the composition process. All compositions will be submitted using MLA format. All drafts and final compositions will be submitted via electronic format.
Essay/Composition Evaluation. While each assignment will have specific requirements relative to the thematic unit, all writing will focus on these components through pre-writing, drafting, revision, feedback, and final copy:

  • Focused presentation of thesis

  • Supported development of thesis throughout composition

  • Acquisition of sources, illustrations, or support- both from the related reading(s) and evaluated, outside sources

  • Inclusion of supporting quotations and specific examples to validate claims and generalizations

  • Use of appropriate in-text and Works Cited citation methods

  • Development of critical ideas

  • Development of topic’s coherence through organization or arrangement of ideas

  • Effective use of transitions to link ideas and maintaining voice

  • Use of precise vocabulary and syntactic variety

  • Recognition of rhetorical strategies within work to effectively communicate ideas

  • Overall analysis of the topic

Revision/Editing Process. The writing process is ongoing and, with the understanding that all students are learning, the instructor will provide feedback before and after final submissions via tailored written responses, whole group generalizations, and individualized conferences. Opportunities for peer feedback will exist. The drafting and revision process will focus on:

  • individualized student-teacher conferences

  • inclusion of appropriate and challenging vocabulary

  • control of writer’s voice through the composition

  • variety of sentence structure and strength of personal style

  • use of transitions from idea to idea

  • balancing general ideas with illustrative details

  • awareness of rhetorical mode and the relationship to intended audience

  • guidance in evaluating appropriate sources for claim support

  • appropriate use of in-text citations and Works Cited lists

Test/Quizzes (30%). Most tests will follow a multiple-choice format and emulate the structure and style of the AP exam. Quizzes may call for short answer responses based on student understanding of a text or passage. Advance notice will be given of all tests.
Projects and Presentation (20%). There will be several opportunities throughout the course for students to participate in oral presentations, individual and group projects, seminars, and debates. These experiences will allow students to present their researched arguments in an open and supportive environment.
Participation (20%). The nature of the course depends on the continuous interaction among students, teacher, and peers. Each student is required to present his/her ideas, annotation, and reaction to the topic at hand. There will be several opportunities for formal dialogues following the Researched Socratic Seminar model. Participation scores also include assignments and exercises from Weekly/Daily Activities.
Course Materials

Primary text:

Shea, Renee H., Lawrence Scanlon and Robin Dissen Aufses. The Language of Composition: Reading-Writing-Rhetoric. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2008.

Literature of study:

Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin Group, 1987.

Royte, Elizabeth. Garbage Land: On the Trail of Trash. Little, Brown & Co., 2005.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Dover Thrift Ed.
Instructor Resource texts:

Cohen, Samuel, editor. 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Diyanni, Robert, editor. One Hundred Great Essays. 3rd ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008.

Lunsford, Andrea A. and John J. Ruszkiewicz. Everything’s an Argument. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Roskelly, Hephzibah and David A. Jolliffe. Everyday Use: Rhetoric at Work in Reading and Writing. AP ed. Pearson/Longman, 2005.

Clauss, Patrick. i-claim: Visualizing Argument. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005

Downs, Doug. i-cite: Visualizing Sources. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006.

Hacker, Diane. Research and Documentation Online. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008 http://www.dianahacker.com/resdoc/home.html

Longknife, Ann and K.D. Sullivan. The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success. 4th ed. New York: Barron’s, 2002.

OWL at Purdue. MLA Formatting and Style Guide. Purdue University, 2009. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/557/01/

Additional Instructor Training:

Bush, Nancy, instructor. AP Summer Institute: AP Language & Composition. Ball State University, June 2008.

Independent Reading

Independent novels- Student Choice. All independent reading novels must meet the idea of “recognized literary achievement” and fulfill the idea of material of “quality and complexity”. See supplemental reading list for reading suggestions/selections. Students will be required to read 6 novels throughout the year.
Independent novel evaluation. Students will examine the author’s main argument presented in the work. Students will analyze the author’s argument, audience, purpose, and its effectiveness with general and specific details. In addition to the discussion, students will find and evaluate sources that both support and negate the claims presented by the author. The student will synthesize these sources into an analytical essay about the author’s argument. Revision opportunities will be provided.
Course Outline

The following units list major works and major activities that involve a variety of rhetorical modes. Within each unit additional essays, journal articles, newspaper articles, visual sources, and other resources will be presented. Each unit includes ongoing work from the Weekly/Daily Activities and involves emphasis with Over-arching Skills and Concepts. In anticipation for the May exam, ample preparation time will be devoted to the task of “practicing”.

Within each unit we will build upon the skills and objectives important for understanding of rhetoric. Our units will be centered on a common theme or topic. As readers we must ask ourselves, “What thought-provoking questions will guide us in our inquiry and point to the larger concerns of the unit?” It is hoped that the complex nature of a thematic focus will allow students to see the many diverse points of view.
Different rhetorical structures of composition writing will be encouraged: narrative, argument, comparison/contrast, cause and effect, and synthesis. Multiple essays and informal writing experiences will be included with each unit; specific guidelines will be shared at that time. However, the expectations of the various writing assignments are outlined:
Informal Writing. Informal writing is designed to provide the student with opportunities to explore various topics related to our rhetorical understanding of the text-spoken, written, or visual. Informal writing provides students with the opportunities to develop their voice and controlling tone, realize the significance of audience, focus writing from generalizations to specific, explore new vocabulary usage, incorporate challenging sentence structure into their own writing, and practice/emulate various rhetorical modes. Informal writing will incorporate specific support from the text or related resource and will be cited according to MLA format. Informal writing experiences are part of the writing process and, therefore, student writing will receive instructor feedback and the opportunity for resubmission. During the course, several informal writings will be timed.
Informal Response. Informal responses are designed for students to critically examine a component of the studied text- spoken, written, or visual- and explore the resulting ideas in peer-friendly response format. These informal responses are initial steps in logically organizing ideas that later may contribute to more formal writings. Types of informal response may include charts and graphs that visually link ideas and written expressions that reveal new ways of thinking about an idea. Informal responses are intended for sharing, commentary, and reflection from peers and instructor.
Provocative Statement. Students will receive a provocative statement or quotation taken from or related to the current text- spoken, written, or visual. Students will discuss the author’s assertion in the statement and either defend, challenge, or modify the point of view. The emphases on these exercises are to examine the significance of point of view (the author’s) and use of voice (the student’s) in writing. As the course advances, students will be expected to synthesize information from multiple sources in the Provocative Response.
Researched Argument. The researched argument focuses on an event or issue that is arguable. The student will develop a clear claim regarding the topic and develop the argument based on research. The student will be expected to evaluate primary and secondary sources through annotating, summarizing, and synthesizing a variety of sources to provide evidence for claims made. Students will attribute sources within the text using MLA format and include a Works Cited list at the conclusion of the argument. The argument will usually follow a traditional model and conclude with an audience appeal. As the researched argument is a complex process and all aspects of mature, academic writing are critical, the stages of pre-writing, drafting, revision, editing, teacher-student conferences, and final copy are essential.
Synthesis Essay. In the synthesis essay, students will read about a contemporary issue from provided sources. These sources may include readings, letters and journals, speeches, and visual sources. At least three readings and two visual sources will be included as provided sources. Students will then create an argument using three to four of the sources to support their argument. As the course progresses, students will generate timed synthesis responses from provided resources. All synthesis essays will receive instructor feedback with the opportunity for resubmission.
Researched Socratic Seminar. The Researched Socratic Seminar procedure will be outlined to the students. The topic for the Researched Socratic Seminar will be shared at least two (2) days prior to the seminar. To adequately prepare for the seminar, students will be responsible for the assigned reading, development of his/her position regarding the topic, and evaluation of additional resources for the topic. Students will be required to support claims with evidence from the required reading as well as support from the additional resources. Additional resources include related readings in the text, journal articles and readings from other texts and the web, as well as charts and graphs. Related sources and active links will be posted on the course webpage.
Weekly/Daily Activities

Vocabulary Development. Weekly vocabulary practice is critical to the development and mastery of college-level writing. Students will receive a list of vocabulary words for the week. Students will define, create synonyms and antonyms for each word, and develop writing practices using the new vocabulary. An applied skill vocabulary test will be administered at the conclusion of the week. It is hoped that students will use the vocabulary experiences to enrich their own writing.
Bell-Ringer. Daily activities include starting the class with a Bell Ringer. The Bell Ringer usually presents a question regarding the reading assignment. These questions typically ask the student to respond to the author’s style, rhetorical strategy, the effect of appeal on the audience, author’s analysis of syntax in an isolated passage, or reflecting on the author’s use of diction. The Bell-Ringer may display citations, end notes or footnotes for students to study the implications of sources. Other Bell-Ringers may show a graphic or chart for students to analyze and respond to images as an alternative text. Still other Bell-Ringers may incorporate materials from i-cite and i-claim as a practicing resource. Bell-Ringers help to reinforce the over-arching skills and concepts presented through direct instruction or as identified through the course readings.
Sentence Development. Other weekly activities involve the exercises presented in our text and the resource text, The Art of Styling Sentences, to improve student sentence structure and syntax. By practicing these exercises, it is hoped the students will have a broader understanding of syntax, and the relationship that exists between sentence structure and rhetorical function. Through emulation, students will create and revise their own writing, improving and evaluating their own sentence structure and overall style. Exercises related to examining and improving these skills include:

  • practicing models of sentence structure as described in The Art of Styling Sentences

  • identifying similar models sentence structure in our readings and in our own writings

  • understanding how various sentence structures contribute to the relationship of the rhetorical triangle and intended author purpose

  • practicing exercises in sections of “Grammar as Rhetoric and Style”: The Language of Composition

  • identifying and emulating structural and syntactical elements such as: parallel structure, concrete vs. abstract vocabulary, concise diction, cumulative, periodic, and inverted sentences

Over-Arching Skills & Concepts

These skills are ongoing and will be presented in conjunction with readings, discussion/lecture, and compositions throughout the academic year.

  • Annotation of text

  • Analysis & critical reading

  • Critical thinking strategies

  • Rhetorical triangle & the ongoing interaction of rhetoric

  • Syntax, diction, and tone

  • Subject and purpose

  • Structure of argument & arrangement

  • Argument concession & rebuttal

  • Argument fallacies

  • Type & kinds of argument

  • Argument appeals & audience effect

  • Constructing arguments (traditional and contemporary models)

  • Traditional cannons of rhetoric

  • Rhetorical strategies and modes

  • Understanding claims and warrants

  • Emphasis on author style

  • Argument-persuasion-propaganda

  • Common propaganda devices

  • SOAPStone

  • OPTIC/ SCAN (for evaluating visual text)

  • Evaluating resources, including interviews and visual text

  • Citation and documentation of primary and secondary resources in writing

Pre-Course Work

  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlooser

  • Fast Food Nation essential questions, study guide, and discussion questions

Unit 1: Consumerism & Consumption

Weekly/Daily Activities –Exercises on

  • building a strong vocabulary

  • understanding argument structure

  • identifying author voice

  • identifying author argument

  • rhetorical triangle

  • argument appeal

  • sentence structure

  • annotating the text

  • parallel structure

Focus Selections

  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlooser

  • “Serving in Florida” by Barbara Ehrenriech (excerpt from Nickeled & Dimed: On Not Getting by in America)

  • “The Impact of Wal-Mart on Small Town America” by Sandra S. Vance and Roy V. Scott (excerpt from Wal-Mart: A History of Sam Walton’s Retail Phenomenon)

  • “Supersaturation, or, The Media Torrent and Disposable Feeling” by Todd Gitlin

  • “Cable’s Clout” by Paul Farhi

  • “Watching TV Makes you Smarter” by Steven Johnson

Major Activities

  • Informal Writing: “Serving in Florida” -Ehrenreich’s style and her appeal

  • Researched Argument Practice: Fast Food Nation

  • Informal Response: constructing a counter anti-TV argument using a traditional model

  • Provocative Statement: passage from Fast Food Nation- reaction to pathos appeal

  • Researched Socratic Seminar topic: Large Retailers in Small Communities

  • Visual Text: McDonald’s Olympic publicity photograph- argument through image

  • Visual Text: Media Madness- OPTIC analysis of images

Unit 2: Learning & Communication

Weekly/Daily Activities –Exercises on

  • author’s purpose

  • using effective transitions

  • building a vocabulary

  • sentence structure

  • analogy & allegory

  • evaluating sources

  • rhetorical structures

  • annotating the text

  • rhetorical strategies

  • literary devices- schemes & tropes

  • concrete vs. abstract vocabulary

Focus Selections

  • “Superman & Me” by Sherman Alexie

  • “Aria: Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood” by Richard Rodriguez

  • From “Education” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato

  • “I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read” by Francine Prose

  • “Language Spoken at Home”

Major Activities

  • Informal Writing: Audience Appeal in “Education”- implications of extended audience

  • Informal Response: “Superman & Me” -figurative language and it’s effect

  • Personal Narrative: Ambiguity and Contradiction in Great literature

  • Provocative Response: “Allegory of the Cave”- Plato’s understanding of “absolute justice”

  • Researched Socratic Seminar: In Favor or Against Bilingual Education

  • Traditional Argument Composition: “Aria: Memoir…” -Defend, Challenge, or Modify Rodriguez’s assumption

  • Visual text: “Language Spoken at Home” -reading a chart

  • Visual text: creating an illustration of Plato’s Cave- visual text adding to layers of allegory.

Unit 3: Politics & Revolution

Weekly/Daily Activities –Exercises on

  • propaganda & propaganda devices

  • building a vocabulary

  • sentence patterns

  • annotating text

  • author’s use of diction

  • Audience

  • Maintaining voice

  • rhetorical strategies

  • syntax

  • loose, periodic, inverted sentences

  • examine tone & attitude

  • evaluating sources

Focus Selections

  • 1984 by George Orwell

  • “Every Dictator’s Nightmare” by Wole Soyinka

  • “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell

  • “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • “Why Don’t We Complain” by William Buckley, Jr.

  • “A Modest Proposal” by Johnathon Swift

  • Student Choice political speech

Major Activities

  • Informal Writing: “Every Dictator’s Nightmare” –analysis of author’s style

  • Informal Writing: “A Modest Proposal” – satire & rhetorical strategies

  • Researched Argument: 1984- relevance of dystopian novels to modern society

  • Comparison/Contrast Essay: Using “Politics and English Language” as guide, examine choice political speech

  • Provocative Response: argument through analogy

  • Researched Socratic Seminar: invasion of privacy and manipulation of public opinion

  • Visual Text: identifying propaganda in advertising images. Students locate and share images of propaganda in modern advertising.

  • Visual Text: Human Rights- political/editorial cartoons. Understanding how opinion can be shared through visual image

  • Visual Text: SCAN Guernica –analyzing the apocalyptic horrors of war

Unit 4: Environment & Naturalism

Weekly/Daily Activities –Exercises on

  • kinds of argument

  • concession & rebuttal

  • point of view and bias

  • building a vocabulary

  • annotating text

  • sentence patterns

  • identifying errors in writing

  • author purpose

  • purpose of footnotes/endnotes

Focus Selections

  • “Against Nature” by Joyce Carol Oates

  • “Once More to the Lake” by E.B. White

  • From Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

  • Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte

  • “Letter to President Pierce”, 1855” by Chief Seattle

  • “The Greenest Campuses: An Idiosyncratic Guide” by Noel Perrin

Major Activities

  • Researched Socratic Seminar: “Is Climate Change the 21st Century’s Most Urgent Environmental Problem?” by Indur M. Goklany

  • Informal Response: Deciphering symbolism in green practices

  • Informal Writing: Chief Seattle and his rhetorical purpose

  • Provocative Response: “The obligation to endure gives us the right to know.” –defend, challenge, or modify as this statement relates to our relationship with the natural world.

  • Synthesis Essay: Naturalism

  • Visual Text: Global Deaths and Climate-Related Disasters- analyzing statistics and appeal

  • Visual Text: Student Photo Essay- students capture digital photos focusing on environment for analysis regarding author argument and audience effect.

Unit 5: On Being Human

Weekly/Daily Activities –Exercises on

  • building a vocabulary

  • syntax

  • sentence structure

  • annotating a text

  • rhetorical structures

  • tone & attitude in relationship to audience

  • author style

  • rhetorical strategies

  • argument arrangement

  • language in context

Focus Selections

  • King Lear by Shakespeare

  • “The Divine Revolution” by Vaclav Havel

  • “Walking the Path Between the Worlds” by Lori Arviso Alvord

  • “Salvation” by Langston Hughes

  • “The New Community” by Amitai Etzioni

  • “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” by Jessica Mitford

Major Activities

  • Synthesis Essay: Nature: Forces

  • Informal Writing: Moral infrastructure

  • Informal Response: King Lear- rhetoric in context

  • Researched Socratic Seminar: funeral practices and the funeral industry

  • Provocative Response: “Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.” – understanding the human element of man

  • Informal Response: Beauty and Truth

  • Visual Text: excerpts from graphic novels- analyzing the graphic novel as “words and pictures in combination”

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