Ap english Language and Composition Syllabus

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AP English Language and Composition Syllabus
Course Overview and Objectives
The overall objective of this course is to present the students with the methodology and skills needed to read and write effectively at a level comparable to those found in a first year college course. As stated in the 2007-08 AP Course Audit Manual: “Student[s] [are to] become skilled readers of prose written in a variety of disciplines and rhetorical contexts and become skilled writers who compose for a variety of purposes, aware of interactions among a writer’s purposes, audience expectations, and subjects”. These skills are further demonstrated through “the development of research skills that enable the student to evaluate, use and cite source material” (36).
With the above acting as the basic framework for the course the texts, materials, and arrangement of the course focus on the American literature experience. All major reading assignments, excepting 1984 as summer reading and Hamlet, are drawn from American literature. The primary objective in the reading will be analysis of how writers employ rhetorical devices in order to affect the reader.

These devices include (but are not limited to): pathos, logos, ethos, nomos, tone, style, voice, irony, rhetorical questions, parallelism, alliteration, metaphor, simile, paradox, and oxymoron, allusion, analogy, style, rhetoric, thesis, theme, anecdote, exposition, foreshadow, hyperbole, imagery, mood, motif, onomatopoeia, parody, persona, personification, pun, synecdoche, metonymy, understatement, repetition, rhetorical questions, aphorism.

Reading sources will be drawn from, but not limited to, the following:
50 Essays: A Portable Anthology by Samuel Cohen, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Specific essays to be used for reading particularly for rhetorical analysis:

“Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner

“Woman’s Brains” by Stephen Gould

“What’s Wrong with Animal Rights” by Vicki Hearne

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King

“Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” by Jessica Mitford

“Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell

“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift

“Where I Lived and What I Lived For” by Henry David Thoreau

“Television: The Plug-In Drug” by Marie Wynn
The Bedford Reader by X.J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Jane E. Aaron, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006.

This text is used for analysis of various cartoons and pictures that generate discussion and introductions to various writing modes. This book will also form the basis for how to approach each writing mode. Various chapters will serve for imitative forms and how to “recipes” on each of the four modes.

Chapters and brief essays of particular interest from The Bedford Reader include:

“Process Analysis”

“Comparison Contrast”

“Arguments and Persuasion”

“Cause and Effect”

Adventures in American Literature. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1996.

Specific works for analysis include, but not limited to:

“Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards

From The Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin

“Speech in the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry

From The Crisis, Number 1 by Thomas Paine

“The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving

“To a Waterfowl” and “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant

“The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

Selections from Emerson’s Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

From Walden by Henry David Thoreau

“The Minister’s Black Veil” and “Dr. Heidigger’s Experiment” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Novels include the following:

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (summer reading)

1984 by George Orwell (summer reading)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dramas include the following:

Inherit the Wind by Robert E. Lee and Jerome Lawrence

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

The readings from the sources listed will serve to generate written responses that will involve expository, analytical, argumentative, imitative pieces. These written pieces will be developed through various stages. The writing process of pre-writing, drafting, evaluating (self, peer, and teacher evaluation will be practiced on most assignments), revising, and final copy.

Not all assignments will receive this process as the skill of time restricted in-class essay writing will also be practiced as the course progresses through the year.

More about the writing component of the course will discussed later.


The AP Course Audit Manual states that it is expected that students develop “a wide-ranging vocabulary used appropriately and effectively”(37). To this end, students in this course are assigned weekly vocabulary units from the Vocabulary Workshop Level

F and G
by Jerome Shostak, published by Sadlier Oxford. This vocabulary is meant to enhance the writing of the students and the approach taken in class is not the mere acquisition of words but rather teaching the students the subtle nuisances of word choice and how connotations of words can affect their writing.

The early part of this course will include a review of key grammatical concepts (appositives phrases, subordinate clauses, participial phrases, and prepositional phrases) that will aid the students in sophisticated sentence formation. This will include understanding the concepts of subordination and coordination. There is an emphasis on sentence variety that can be generated through clauses and phrases. The students are taught to use sentence structure as a means to create tone and voice in their writing. A brief unit on sentence combining is used to help the students create brevity and clarity in their writing. Students are also introduced to semi-colons, dashes, parenthesis, and ellipsis as other ways to add voice, tone, style, and sophistication to their writing.


All AP students will participate in the WordMasters competitions. These are given four times per year. These provide excellent preparation for the type of question they will encounter in the objective portion of the AP Exam. Our district subscribes to this nationally competitive program, and our AP students are then ranked against other students from around the country who took the same quiz. Of the four quizzes, there is typically one with poetry, one nonfiction essay, one short story, and one unknown.

Course Plan

1st semester

Since this is the first AP level course for most of my students, part of the early portion of the course focuses on establishing the atmosphere for college level work.

The first semester lays the ground work for the writing that is to be done later. Although there are writing assignments in the first semester, the focus is more on gathering the basic skills needed for upper level writing. This includes development of the grammar and vocabulary concepts outlined above. The first half of the year also lays the foundation of American literature themes, namely the unifying theme of the unique American perspective and the American Dream as portrayed in literature.
1st Quarter (8 weeks)

Summer reading

After brief objective testing on the summer reading novels of 1984 and The Jungle, the students are introduced to the concepts of thesis, style, tone, and voice. The students are then assigned out of class writing demonstrating how these elements are incorporated in 1984. This assignment is a transition for most of the students as most have never been asked to analyze how a writer expresses herself/himself, as opposed to what the writer says or why she/he says it. The students are also expected to support their topics using direct reference from the novel in the MLA format. This assignment’s ancillary purpose is to help ascertain the writing levels for each student.

After the students have had a chance to review the teacher generated responses and feedback to this writing, a similar assignment is given on The Jungle; however, this is a timed in-class essay. Again this assignment’s primary purpose is to set the level of expectation that they need to be able to create well-formed arguments within a relatively short time frame of a 48 minute period. The students will gradually learn to break their dependence on the computer and its word processing capabilities.
American Literature

The first quarter of the year introduces the concept of the American Dream which will serve as the unifying concept of the course. Very little history is needed to be taught as most of the students are well-versed in American history at this point. We begin by examining the earliest visions of America as defined by Northern versus Southern settlers. The Puritan view of the Northerners is illustrated through “Sinners at the Hands…”, and the Southern farmer’s view is seen through William Byrd’s from A History of the Dividing Line. These pieces serve as introductions to the comparison/contrast essay and students are assigned an essay analyzing the differences in styles found in each of these pieces and how these differences reflect their visions for the New World. This is a “low key practice” writing that will serve as preparation for a major comparison contrast to follow.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter is then assigned for reading. An objective test is given to insure close reading. The Socratic method of instruction is introduced and students are then grouped to lead discussions about the themes of guilt and sin as portrayed in this novel. After the students have examined the way theme is used in the novel and how characterization and symbols aid in this, the class is then assigned “The Minister’s Black Veil”. After reading this the class is then assigned a three to five page comparison/contrast essay on the portrayals of sin and guilt and its effects on the communities in these Hawthorne stories as well as the characters. This serves as the major writing assignment of the 1st quarter.
To introduce the concepts of pathos, logos, ethos, and nomos, a video clip of the final scenes from A Few Good Men is used. Students are asked to write about how each of these devices is used by the attorneys and witnesses to sway their opponents. These concepts will serve underpinnings for the entire year as we view writers’ purposes.
The next unit in American literature introduces the Colonial Period and the focus is on the rhetorical devices used in speech by Patrick Henry and in essay by Thomas Paine. The use of parallelism, repetition, allusion, rhetorical questions, irony, arguments by analogy, metaphor, simile, aphorism, and hyperbole are all demonstrated. The focus of this analysis is on the methods of persuasion that are used. The students also read from Ben Franklin’s Autobiography and Poor Richard’s Almanac to see the use of aphorism and logic being demonstrated.

The SOAPStone method of analysis as found in the AP provided sources is taught to give the class a strategy for text analysis. The example from the Ben Franklin letter about the whistle is an excellent model. This method is then employed often throughout the year especially for the more challenging readings.

Vocabulary_(this_schedule_is_used_throughout_the_year,_approx._20-25_weeks)'>Vocabulary (this schedule is used throughout the year, approx. 20-25 weeks)

The course introduces 20 words per week. The main purpose each unit is to have the students see how specialized words can aid in establishing tone and voice in writing. Words are introduced each Monday, concentrating on the unique usage and connotation of each word. Students demonstrate mastery of the words through self-created sentences. These sentences are also used throughout the year as practice for grammatical concepts as they are introduced. A vocabulary quiz on the new words as well as from previous units is given each Friday.


The foundations of the year are created in this quarter as I have found it necessary to review the basic labels of clauses and phrases through an analysis of comma usage. This unit is often tedious, but it does wonders as we can now discuss the writing of the students with a common vocabulary. For example, I can say, “This sentence would be more effective with an appositive, rather than a second simple sentence.” Or “The participial phrase at the beginning will create more excitement for the reader.”

2nd Quarter (9 weeks)

The Art of Persuasion

Building on the reading from speeches and essays from the Colonial Period in American Literature, two more current persuasive selections are introduced from The Bedford Reader. These are “Why I Stopped being Vegetarian” by Laura Fraser andA Vegetarian Philosophy” by Peter Singer.

The students then write their own persuasive essays using these and the Colonial writers as models. They also demonstrate mastery of the rhetorical devises by employing several in their essays. Following peer and teacher feedback and revisions, the students are ready to create persuasive speeches.

After listening to Martin Luther King’s oration of the “I Have a Dream” speech to learn how voice and inflection help to create affect, the students then create speeches that are presented to the class and scored with a provided rubric. We then discuss the way that rhetorical devices can be employed effectively in a speech versus an essay.

Inherit the Wind

A video clip from the movie Thank You for Smoking is shown to illustrate the use of logical fallacies to persuade an audience. Examples of these fallacies seen in the film include: oversimplifications, ad hominum, begging the question, post hoc, false claims, expert testimony, either/or reasoning are seen in the movie. Then the play is read and analysis is made of the ways that characters use sarcasm and expert testimony is used to sway an audience. We discuss the role of persuasion in both a courtroom and advertising as these are the two areas my students are most familiar. The class then writes an informal brief persuasive piece (1-2 pages) in which they employ several of the fallacies to “sell” the rest of the class a fictitious product or persuade us to follow a largely unaccepted concept, such get the reader to accept the viability Greek mythology or that the Law of Gravity can be altered.

American Literature

The chronological movement continues into Romanticism with “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Hawthorne in which tone and irony are examined. Romantic poetry of William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” and “To a Waterfowl” as analyzed for their consistency with the theme of nature in Romanticism. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Raven” serve to demonstrate the ways mood and tone are developed through word choice, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. These works also illustrate the use of a narrator’s point of view as an effective means for integrating a theme. An imitative/creative writing assignment is then given where the students create their own descriptive paragraphs and incorporate the above devices to effectively create mood to the audience.


In this quarter the use of the semi-colon, colon, dash, ellipsis, and parenthesis are all taught. The focus of these punctuation marks is on how these can help a writer to develop his or her own unique voice in any given piece. The mastery of these punctuation marks is demonstrated through writing, grammar tests, and weekly vocabulary sentences.


Continues same as 1st quarter.

Mid-Term Exam

At the end of the first semester a cumulative mid-term exam is given that will show mastery of the vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, literature, and rhetorical devices covered to this point in the year. A comparison/contrast essay will be a major component of the exam.

2nd Semester

The intensity of the course is elevated this quarter as the groundwork is well-laid for more rigorous reading and writing. The focus of the second semester shifts more toward preparation for the AP Exam (which will serve in place of the final exam for the course). Vocabulary workbook is often set aside for more intense study of the vocabulary of the rhetorical elements of reading and writing. Grammar centers on sentence combining for effect. American literature centers on reading Transcendentalist essays to prepare for the more challenging reading expected in the AP curriculum. The use of the 50 Essays book allows for close analysis of reading nonfiction pieces. The reading of Huck Finn is used to further the theme of the American Dream.

3rd Quarter (9 weeks)

50 Essays: A Portable Anthology

This text is now incorporated into the course as the central source. The essays listed above are assigned for reading and “open-book” quizzes are given using the questions provided in the accompanying Teacher’s Edition. These quizzes serve as excellent samples and preparation for the objective portion of the AP Exam. At this point in the year the students have learned most of the terminology used in the questions and the challenge of the quizzes goes far beyond mere plot recall our students are so often quizzed on when they read.

The essays listed above are most commonly assigned for reading. Each essay is selected to focus on a particular aspect for study. For example, satire is studied in “Modest Proposal” and process analysis in “Formaldehyde Curtain”. Teacher prepared analysis sheets are often given to help focus the reader’s on the author’s purposes and use of rhetorical devices.

Writing assignments in this unit are largely imitative and relatively short (1-2 typed pages). Students are required to create their own satires (”Modest Proposal”), persuasive letters (“Birmingham Jail”), extended metaphors/allegories (“Shooting an Elephant”) are examples.

Research essays

To prepare the class for the use of graphs, pictures and charts as sources, the essay “A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse” by Stephen Jay Gould from The Bedford Reader is assigned and the students write a response analyzing the effectiveness of the drawings and charts used in the essay.

As a culminating assignment for the readings, the class is assigned in groups to research a particular topic that has various solutions such as the Palestinian Crisis to Gun Violence to Global Warming to Childhood Obesity. At least 10 major issues are brought to class. They are not told that these will not be the one they are to actually write about.

A lesson in qualifying sources, especially those found on the internet is essential as many students are unaware of what makes a legitimate source. The groups are then to bring to class at least one graph, one picture that illustrates a solution, one article from a major magazine, one article from a newspaper, one article from a reputable website, and one book source. When these are brought to class, each group must provide a works cited page in MLA format that includes each of the above items. These work cited pages are then grade for accuracy and attention to detail as per MLA.

The topics that were researched are then placed in a hat and drawn by the students that they will then write on for a 5 page paper with proper internal citations and works cited page. (They may not select their original topic they researched.) The students may use only the research provided by their peers, and they must incorporate any 4 of the items graphs, pictures, articles, books, magazines) listed above as research and properly cite them. They are to persuade the reader that the solution they have put forth is viable. Steps in drafting, evaluating (teacher, peer, and self) are used.
American literature

The central unit for this quarter is the Transcendentalist movement. Essays by Emerson and excerpts from Walden are used to illustrate the philosophy. These also serve as some the more challenging reading for the class (esp. Emerson) as it is their first exposure to philosophical analysis. To ease their fears with this I use the Socratic method and allow for group work as the students the various selections. As always the focus is on the rhetorical devices and the students learn to pick out how these are helpful when writing on complex issues.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This novel is assigned and an objective test is given to insure close reading. Discussion and analysis center on Huck’s quest and interpretation of the American Dream, the role of the Mississippi River, and the paternal role of Pap and Jim.

The students write a narrative/persuasive essay after reading the novel in which they assume the first person narrator role of Judge Thatcher and determine whether Huck should become a part of Jim’s family or if he should be released to the guardianship of Widow Douglas. This is the one narrative piece the class does and use it to demonstrate their understanding of dialect, persuasion and reasoning (as they justify their judgment) and knowledge of the time period as they must take into account the social mores of the 1850’s. The use of pathos and logos are to be demonstrated also.

Sentence combining skills are developed through worksheets. The focus is on economy of writing and writing for effect. Knowledge of clauses, phrases, and punctuation are demonstrated and refined.


As per previous quarters.

4th Quarter (8 weeks)

AP Exam preparation

The focus of the first portion of this quarter is specific study of and preparation for the AP Exam to be taken in the first week of May. Although, I try not to over emphasize this in the course as my main objective is to make these students college level readers and writers, I realize that this is a vital component and final measuring stick for most of these students as to their personal success in the course.

Sample objective portions of AP exams are used as practice and downloaded from the AP Central website. Sample essays are also used. Review of the AP essay rubrics is completed. After reading and practice scoring of the AP provided student samples, this class is then ready to practice writing their own in-class timed essays. These are then peer scored for practice and feedback. Then more in-class essays are written and these are then teacher scored using the AP rubrics and 1-9 scale.
The Great Gatsby

This novel serves as the culminating unit in American literature, in particular our analysis of the American Dream. An objective test is given to insure close reading of the novel. As a final essay on this topic the class is asked to write a 3-4 page expository essay on how the concept of the American Dream has changed or remained the same through the literature we read this year. No secondary sources are to be used, bur direct reference form the literature read is expected and proper MLA internal citation of these sources is expected.


In this quarter I often drop the weekly vocabulary units to focus on the other aspects of the course, especially the AP Exam.


There are no grammar units per se, but continued use of upper level punctuation and syntax is expected and reinforced in their writing from both teacher and peer feedback.

Since there is no Final Exam required for this course, assuming the student has elected to take the AP Exam (which has been strongly encouraged), the units following the exam shift in emphasis from nonfiction to more literary analysis and exclusively fiction. This is usually a welcome break from intensive writing and rhetorical study from earlier in the year. It also serves as preparation for the Literature and Composition course most of these students will take the following year.

The class does a close reading of the play especially making use of the Kenneth Branagh video version. Themes of fate and parental relations are examined.

Cat’s Cradle

This novel serves to introduce continue the concept of satire developed in “Modest Proposal” and introduces the class to black comedy. Since one of the first units they will have if they take the Literature and Composition course is Catch 22, this final reading serves as a nice bridge to the next year.

Grading for the course uses accumulated points from each quarter. The breakdown of points in any given quarter is relative, but in general:
Reading quizzes/tests 35% (This includes comprehension and rhetorical analysis)

Writing 35%

Vocabulary 15%

Grammar 15%

Each quarter has one major (4-5 pages) writing and several less formal pieces (1-2 pages) and a couple in-class essays.
Each quarter has at least one major reading, typically a novel, and many nonfiction articles and essays covering a broad range (diaries, criticism, science essays, editorials, criticisms).
Our grading scale is as follows:

93-100 A

85-92 B

77-84 C

70-76 D

Below 60 F

A 10% GPA “bump” is given to for this AP class, making this a weighted course.

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