Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Suggestions for AP English Language and Composition After-School Review Sessions


It's difficult to say ahead of time what I will do at each session. When students arrive (often few show up because they are teenagers whose lives are jam packed with activities), I triage by going around the room, asking each student what he/she needs the most help with.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Teaching Argumentation Using a Model: Analysis of "Is Survival Selfish?" (HMH Collections, Page 317)


(A version of Wallace's essay in its entirety can be found by clicking on the following link. The introduction is different from the textbook, but otherwise the essay remains the same: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/01/is-survival-selfish/34962)

"Is Survival Selfish?" an argumentative essay by Lane Wallace that originally appeared in The Atlantic magazine on January 29, 2010, is a good example of a poor argument. I will use this essay in my class as a way to teach students what not to do in an argument. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

INSIGHT Activity: Interconnecting Numerous Sources Inspires Great Higher Thinking--Encouraging Text-Dependent Responses



Synthesis of All Texts Read in Course as well as Other Disciplines

INSIGHT: Interconnecting Numerous Sources Inspires Great Higher Thinking
It is a sound teaching strategy to periodically review/reinforce all learning/reading that occurred thus far in a given curriculum. (This technique is supported by the Spacing Effect in Psychology, whereby students more easily remember information when that information is studied/reviewed at spaced intervals over a longer stretch of time.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Analysis--Speech in the Virginia Convention


I often use models as a way to teach analysis.


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Scholars: It is good to read examples of analytical writing because it helps you understand how to write your own analysis essays. The habit of reading and studying models (examples) is the best way to learn how to write more effectively. Below is an analysis that I wrote on Patrick Henry's Speech in the Virginia Convention. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Poetry Explication Handout--Encouraging Text-Dependent Responses


  1. Read the poem through at least twice. Look up the definitions of any words that you don’t know.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

AP English Language and Composition Guide for Free Response Essays

The first essay rubric below is one that I created by synthesizing ideas from a variety of sources--handouts from English workshops, Internet sites, and most of all, my own observations/experience as an AP Reader and teacher. Unfortunately, I do not have all the necessary attribution, as I have been adding to this rubric and subtracting from it over many years. I want to thank all those anonymous sources for their ideas and inspiration. The rubric, as well as all the other materials included in the Guide for Free Response Essays, is not a product of The College Board (the company that creates the AP Exam), although it does contain some language from College Board rubrics and valuable input that I receive every year from fellow AP Readers.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

AP English Language and Composition--Factors that Contribute to a Lower Grade on the Argumentative Essay

Argument Over a Card Game, Jan Steen (no date)
Factors that Contribute to a Lower Grade on the AP English Argumentative Essay

These are musings/thoughts of mine, not those of The College Board. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Teaching Argumentation: Analysis of "Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Connect" (HMH Collections, Grade 9, page 123)

Analysis of “Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Connect” (123)

Below is an analysis of the latter part of de Waal's essay. I use the de Waal's text (in its present form) to instruct students about argumentation, claims, counterclaims, addressing counterclaims, and types of evidence. I frontload the discussion by explaining that this article was excerpted from another text or book, and most likely de Waal included appropriate citations or endnotes for his research, so that students understand my critique is in no way meant to disparage de Waal's authority, but rather to utilize his essay as a vehicle for teaching argumentation.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Style Handout for AP English Language and Composition

In the Style of Kairouan (Paul Klee, 1914)

How to Comment on Style


What is Style?  (You should be able to comment on the style of different writers and compare and contrast those styles.)

Definition:  The characteristic manner of expression in prose or verse; how a particular writer says things.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Analysis of "Rituals of Memory" by Kimberly Blaeser (HMH Collections, Grade 9)

Memory, Agnes Lawrence Pelton (1937)
Kimberly Blaeser, in her essay "Rituals of Memory," argues that memory is a vital part of our being, "perhaps our strongest link to the sacred center, the pulsing core." She weaves together the varied themes of memory, culture, rituals, family, education, and religion to posit that all of these strands create the important stories of our "entangled" identities.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

AP English Language and Composition--The Analysis Essay

Break Ground, Grant Wood (1936)
I give the following advice to my AP English Language and Composition students:

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These are musings/thoughts of mine, not those of The College Board.  Handwrite these notes in the affirmative to reinforce your learning.  The title of your notes should be "Factors That Contribute to a Higher Score on the AP English Language and Composition Analysis Essay."

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sample Writing Prompt

It’s no secret that lack of preparedness can lead to big problems. Is being unprepared worth the problems, frustration, waste of time, and tremendous aggravation that not having foresight causes? 

Write an essay in which you take a position on whether or not lack of preparedness is worth the problems, frustration, waste of time, and tremendous aggravation that results. Make sure to include information from the cartoons in your essay.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

AP English Language and Composition--Analysis Prompt

I give students the following suggestions for the Analysis Prompt on the AP English Language and Composition Exam.

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Analysis Essay Formula
Three People, Rufino Tamayo (1970)
  • No more than 4 or 5 sentences for the introductory paragraph.  Be sure that you have a strong thesis statement (can be two sentences) that directly and specifically outlines what you will be discussing in your essay.  Use key words from the prompt (or synonyms for key words).  If there isn't a clear thesis in the opening paragraph, the AP Reader has a difficult time assessing whether or not you adequately fulfilled the assignment as he/she reads the body paragraphs.  Be sure to address all aspects of the prompt in your thesis (if it is two parts), and of course, save the elaboration for the body of your essay.  Your thesis should be your "anchor," or "North Star" as you write the paper.  No elaboration or examples in the opening paragraph (save that for the body paragraphs).

Friday, February 27, 2015

AP English Language and Composition--Synthesis Prompt

Synthesis of Movement, Giacomo Balla (1914)
Responding to the Synthesis Prompt

I give the following suggestions to my students.

The Synthesis Prompt appears first in the Free-Response Section of the AP English Language and Composition Exam.  Synthesis is a blending of ideas from other sources to create a new whole (your essay).  In this exam, there will be either 6 or 7 Sources (A through G) that you will need to read and gather ideas to support your argument--your response to the prompt. At least one of the Sources will be visual (a chart, a graph, a picture, a cartoon).  The directions on the exam tell you that you must incorporate at least 3 different Sources into your discussion (essay).  You may think of the Synthesis Essay as a mini Research Paper.  You are being tested on your ability to read, evaluate, and utilize the Sources in a coherent written argument.  Below are some pointers that I have come up with after teaching AP English for many years, as well as from my experience as an AP Reader.  The suggestions below are not necessarily part of the rubric from The College Board.  They are based on the conclusions that I have drawn after reading and evaluating many Synthesis Essays over the years.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Modeling Responding to an AP English Language and Composition Argumentative Prompt

Below is an example of a written response to the AP English Language and Composition Argumentative Prompt (2011). I will use this in my classroom to model for students the writing process on the AP Exam. (The response was written in a 40-minute timed session when I attended an AP Summer Institute.) I want to show students that AP Readers understand that their writing is a draft and that they will not be marked down because of cross-outs and penmanship that is difficult to read. The caveat I would tell students is to of course try to write as legibly as possible. If the penmanship is very poor, the AP Reader will struggle and may miss important content in the student response.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Write an Evaluative Essay

I use the following rubric with my Freshman English class:

"Evaluation is the act of considering or examining something in order to judge its value, quality, or importance" (Encarta World English Dictionary).  In an Evaluative Essay on Literature you choose to compare and contrast the qualities of a few texts based on certain criteria and then make a judgment/evaluation about which text you feel was most successful.

For example, you might compare/contrast stories from a particular writing genre, such as Mystery/Horror/Suspense stories.  First you need to decide the criteria that you will use to evaluate the different texts.  For literature, your criteria would be some of the elements of fiction.  Consider plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, figurative language (similes, metaphors, personification), description/imagery, mood (emotional atmosphere), climax, theme, ending, foreshadowing, irony, pacing, etc.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Vocabulary Development


Over the years I've experimented with ways to increase vocabulary skills in students.  Formerly, I would give straight quizzes/tests on the vocabulary, but found that testing alone was not a very productive way for students to learn the vocabulary.  They might remember the words briefly for the test, but quickly their knowledge of the vocabulary dissipated. Now I give the students a list of words and two weeks to complete an assignment such as the one below:

Learning and the Brain--Myths about Learning

The following information was culled and, at times, adapted from a lecture series by Professor Monisha Pasupathi, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah. ("How We Learn," © The Teaching Company, 2012). I highly recommend Professor Pasupathi's series of lectures.
http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/how-we-learn.html

Myth 1: Learning is aware and purposeful.
  • We don't always have awareness of the learning process or its outcomes. In addition, we learn all the time and we often do so without awareness that we're leaning--without meaning to learn anything at all.