Course Syllabus

AP Language and Composition

Christy Kingham - -

Course Overview: 

By the end of this course, students will gain “textual power”, becoming more alert to an author’s purpose, the needs of an audience, the demands of the subject and the resources of language: syntax, word choice, and tone. In this introductory college-level course, you will read and carefully analyze a broad and challenging range of selections.  This course is designed to prepare and implement the skills needed to succeed in college level courses, on the Advanced Placement exam,  and to manage the Common Core English Regents for New York City. The focus of AP Language is understanding, analyzing, discussing, and writing nonfiction prose, connecting fiction prose to rhetoric and argumentation, and using multiple sources to develop and support your own arguments. The class is connected to many strains of ideology in American History and Literature, but the class will explore a myriad of both canonical and contemporary texts that are essential for all learners.

AP Language and Composition Course Objectives By May you will have achieved everything on this list:

Reading, Analysis and Observation  

Evaluate and assess arguments in a range of non-fiction  

Identify rhetorical patterns and thoughtfully consider their effect

Identify author style, tone, purpose, etc.  

Analyze a variety of images (cartoons, photos, paintings, graphics, etc.)  

Construct thoughtful/useful annotations  

Follow current events/issues

Identify the arguments involved in these issues  

See everything as an argument


Analyze sample essays and identify good writing  

Write under time constraints  

Write in a variety of forms for a variety of audiences  

Formulate meaningful arguments  

Synthesize a range of perspectives in order to construct original argument  

Organize arguments and writing cohesively using transitions

 Acknowledge differing points of view  

Support arguments with evidence  

Properly incorporate quotes, documents and citation  

Include a variety of sentence structures  

Reflect upon and evaluate your own writing  

Move through the steps of the writing process (revise, revise, revise)  

Employ a variety of academic vocabulary  

Emulate, adopt and employ the writing style of authors studied in class  

Convey complicated ideas concisely and gracefully

 Adopt a distinctive authorial voice that aids purpose

Course: A.P Language and Composition 

Grade: 11

Teacher: Christy Kingham

The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria

Total Weeks:  36 weeks

Course Overview: Students in this introductory college-level course read and carefully analyze a broad and challenging range of selections.  This course is designed to prepare and implement the skills needed to succeed in college level courses, not only succeed on the Advanced Placement exam, but to also manage the Common Core English Regents for New York City. The focus of AP Language is understanding, analyzing, discussing, and writing nonfiction prose, connecting fiction prose to rhetoric and argumentation, and using multiple sources to develop and support your own arguments. The class is connected to many strains of ideology in American History and Literature, but the class will explore a myriad of both canonical and contemporary texts that are essential for all learners.

Course Goals: By the end of this course, students will gain “textual power”, becoming more alert to an author’s purpose, the needs of an audience, the demands of the subject and the resources of language: syntax, word choice, and tone.

 Central Fiction Texts Utilized:

              The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

              Macbeth, William Shakespeare


Central Non-Fiction Texts Utilized:

The Color of Water, James McBride

The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing Rhetoric (2nd Ed) by Shea, Scanlon, and Aufses

Everything’s an Argument by Lunsford, Ruszkiewicz, and Walters

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Diddion

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

The Republic by Plato (particularly “The Allegory of the Cave”)



            “Should Batman Kill the Joker?” White & Arp

            On Writing, Stephen King

            Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott

           “Hip Hop Planet” by James Baldwin

        “Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexi

        “God’s Judgment on White America” by Malcolm X

        “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King

        “Declaration of Sentiments” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

        “What It Means to be Colored” by Zora Neale Hurston

        “The Stranger in the Photo is Me” by Donald Murray

            “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan

            “A Plague of Tics,” David Sedaris*  

            “Happy Meals and the Old Spice Guy,” Joanna Weiss  

             Deford, NPR Audio Orientalism by Edward Said

            “Shooting Dad,” Sarah Vowell*                                                                  

            This American Life, Act I-NRA vs. NEA  

            My Zombie Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather

            Undead,” Chuck Klosterman


The Course in Units

Unit 1- Introduction to the Course and Rhetorical Awareness.  Is everything an argument?  (5 Weeks)

The first half of the school year, students will explore expository and argumentative writing topics to build upon the skills that they should have acquired during 9th and 10th grade. They will practice looking for significance in a text or image and analyzing it for argument. They will have weekly writing exercises, vocabulary presentations, image analysis, and discussion protocols to acclimate students to the requirements of the AP Language exam.

  • Introduction to AP Language (3 Weeks)  In this introduction, students will learn close reading strategies. They will investigate and create meaningful commentary via annotations that respond to author’s purpose in writing.  Students will be introduced to multiple-choice strategies and practice multiple -choice skills including close reading and critical thinking.
  • Skill focus:
  • Details and Diction
  • Argument and purpose
  • Close Reading and Critical Thinking
  • Test taking strategies
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Short nonfiction essays as an introduction to the AP language course
  • Model effective reading strategies including annotation and elements of SOAPSTone
  • Model multiple choice strategies
  • Activities/Assessments
  • Annotation Assignments
  • SOAPSTone assignments
  • Understanding authorial purpose
  • Dialectical journals
  • AP Language Multiple-Choice practice
  • Texts:
  •  “A Plague of Tics,” David Sedaris*
  •  “Shooting Dad,” Sarah Vowell*  This American Life, Act I-NRA vs. NEA Sarah Vowell performs “Shooting Dad” §
  • The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me, Sherman Alexie
  • My Zombie Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead,” Chuck Klosterman
  • “Should Batman Kill the Joker?” Mark D White and Robert Arp
  • “Happy Meals and the Old Spice Guy,” Joanna Weiss
  • “In Sports, There is No Such Thing as a Bad Hustle,” Frank Deford NPR Audio

  • Understanding Rhetoric and Style (2-3 Weeks) As we focus on an introduction to rhetoric and style, students will explore the role of popular culture within modern society. This exploration will lead to a close examination of, Advertising, Television, Popular Music and Video Gaming. Within the context of this unit, students will define the role of popular culture and its purpose. Students will explore within the excerpted pieces the themes of entertainment, advertising and marketing, and ethics. Students will construct their own arguments about different facets of popular culture and examine the role of non-visual texts, specifically commercials and images.

  • Skill Focus:
  • Details and Diction
  •  Understanding Rhetoric
  •  Identifying Argument and Purpose
  • Building Archival Knowledge
  • Constructing Original Argument
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Use of nonfiction texts that supports style analysis /understanding of rhetoric.
  • Model active reading strategies and annotation skills.
  • Teach deconstruction strategies for Synthesis/Argument free-response questions.
  • Model written composition strategies
  • Model multiple-choice strategies.
  • Activities/Assessments
  •  Close Reading Exercises
  • Annotation Assignments
  • SOAPSTone Assignments
  • Identifying Argument Assignments
  • Synthesis/Argument Deconstruction Lessons
  • AP Language Multiple- Choice Practice
  • Texts                                        
  • The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers, and Family Life, Marie Winn
  • Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal
  • “Hip Hop Planet,” James McBride                                        
  • “Why Good Advertising Works (Even When You Think It Doesn’t),” Nigel Hollis
  • The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg                                        
  • Room for Debate “Are Reality Shows Worse Than Other TV?” worse-than-other-tv
  • “Why We Like to Watch Rich People”

Unit 2- Understanding and Developing Argument  (5 Weeks) The goal of this particular aspect of the unit is focus on the many voices, people, and ideas related to America. We will move almost chronologically from the early parts of the America to the revolutionary time to the movement by the voices of the “Others”, such as African-Americans, Hispanics, and women. The final assessment based on this unit will culminate with a synthesis essay that asks “What is America”?

  • Skill Focus:
  • Refining Close Reading and Critical Thinking  
  • Using Annotation to Build Argument and Commentary  
  • Researching and Understanding Current Events
  • Building Personal Knowledge and Observations  
  • Synthesizing Information  
  • Writing Persuasively
  • Marshaling Evidence
  • Constructing Original Argumentation
  • Creating Meaningful Commentary
  • Instructional Strategies:
  •  Assigned nonfiction that supports style analysis /understanding of rhetoric.
  • Model active reading strategies and annotation skills.
  • Deconstruction strategies for Synthesis/Argument free-response questions.
  • Model written composition strategies
  •  Model multiple-choice strategies.
  • Activities/Assessment
  •  Close Reading Exercises
  •  “Room for Debate”Lessons
  • Rhetorical Analysis Deconstruction Lessons
  • Author Voice and Purpose Lessons
  • Argumentation Exercises
  •  Writing Templates
  • Free Response On-Demand Essay Writing
  •  AP Language Multiple- Choice Practice                                         
  • Texts:
  • The Mayflower Compact
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine
  • “The Preamble” of The Constitution
  •  “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Fredrick Douglass
  • “Second Inaugural Address” by Abraham Lincoln (2002 AP English Language Exam)
  • “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau
  • “The Battle of Ants
  • “Arguments of Definition” from Everything’s an Argument
  • Orientalism by Edward Said
  • “The Allegory of the Cave” from The Republic by Plato
  • “The Qualities of the Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli
  • “The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolution” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King
  • “God’s Judgment on White America” by Malcolm X
  • “The Position of Poverty” by John Kenneth Galbraith
  • “On Becoming American” by Junot Diaz (NPR)

Unit 3-Essay as Art- A study of justice. (5 weeks) Students will explore the ideas of power through lenses of race, gender, and language. Students will explore what America means from those who are not of the hegemonic form. We will also integrate visual images and popular culture into the mix in preparation for the AP exam. Students will compare the novel and the non-fiction memoirs’ depictions of the African-American experience. The final assessment will be a compare-contrast essay that formulates an argument about America based on the ideas garnered from multiple authors. After the unit is done, students will look at works of African-American writers to synthesize an argument based on texts that all point to a certain idea. They will also look various other influential texts that are related to this topic; these works stem from the non-fiction work and influenced the novel. They need to consider the African-American experience and its complex connections to the idea of what America is. They need to incorporate their knowledge from the beginning of the year in the first unit with this unit. Through the audiovisual element of Spike Lee’s 1989 film and Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, students will practice analyzing visual images and incorporate their ideas into their writing. The connection to the visual will aid in their analysis of all types of sources.

  • Skill Focus:
  •  Understanding Argument
  • Close Reading
  • Identifying Argument and Purpose
  • Building Archival Knowledge
  • Constructing Original Argument
  •  Constructing Commentary

  • Instructional Strategies:
  • Assigned nonfiction supports deep understanding of argumentation.
  • Model active reading strategies and annotation skills. 
  • Teaches deconstruction strategies for Rhetorical Analysis/Argument free-response questions.
  • Model written composition strategies
  • Model multiple-choice strategies.
  • Activities/Assessment
  • Close Reading Exercises
  •  “Room for Debate” Lessons
  • Rhetorical Analysis Deconstruction Lessons
  • Author Voice and Purpose Lessons
  • Argumentation Exercises
  • Writing Templates
  • On-demand writing - rhetorical analysis and argument free response
  • AP Language Multiple- Choice Practice


  • Texts:
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • “Visual Arguments” Chapter 15 in Everything’s an Argument
  • “Fallacies of Argument” Chapter 19 in Everything’s an Argument
  • “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory” by bell hooks
  • Lectures on Liberation by Angela Davis
  • “Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol and Billie Holiday
  • Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
  • 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
  • “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr.  
  • “Learning to Read and Write” by Frederick Douglass
  • “I, Too” by Langston Hughes
  • “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman
  • “Sweat” by Zora Neal-Hurston
  • “On Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does It Mean to be Soulful?” by Zadie Smith
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • “Hip Hop Planet” by James Baldwin
  • Do the Right Thing: A Screenplay by Spike Lee
  • The Problem We All Face by Norman Rockwell

Unit Four: A study of Style and Influences (5 Weeks) In preparation for the research-based causal argument, students will review research skills, including identification and evaluation of primary and secondary sources; organization and integration of source material; and documentation and organization of researched argument. The major project of the semester is a research-based causal argument examining the contextual influences (historical, cultural, environmental, etc) on a selected pre-twentieth century essayist and the impact and effects of those influences on his or her style, purpose, and intent in at least one representative essay. The causal argument is different from a traditional research paper because the student must consider and present alternative causes and effects in direct opposition to his or her position. Students are required to synthesize at least five sources into their project. Additionally, students must present an annotated bibliography of the sources that they selected as well as cite the sources that they have used within their argument.

This unit will connect to the texts they have read thus far in our course as well as authors they have selected and researched. The study of genre also connects to this unit. As the weeks progress, students will study the characteristics of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries and approximately 25 representative essays from the time. Each student selects a pre-twentieth century essayist from an established list and is responsible for writing a short, casual paper in the style of the writer, which will receive peer feedback before it is formatively evaluated by the teacher. They will also create a brief presentation to lead a discussion of that particular writer’s work. The study provides students the opportunity to look at the growth of language and ideas. The culmination of this study will lead to a larger research-based causal argument.

  • Skill Focus:
  • Refining Original Argument based upon Research/Reading/Experience
  • Understanding Concession and Counterargument  
  • Researching and Understanding Current Events
  • Building Personal Knowledge and Observations
  • Evaluating and Reflecting on Writing
  • Instructional Strategies:

  • Activities/Assessment


  • Texts:
  • “Casual Arguments” Chapter 11 in Everything’s an Argument
  • “That’s Don Fey” by Tina Fey from Bossypants
  • “Go Carolina” by David Sedaris from Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan
  • “Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexi
  • “What It Means to be Colored” by Zora Neale Hurston
  • “The Stranger in the Photo is Me” by Donald Murray
  • “Accidental Hero” by Zadie Smith
  • “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros
  • “The ‘F Word’” by Firoozeh Dumas

Unit 5- (5 Weeks) “Watch your Tone!” In this unit, students will practice developing their own writing style and voice. They will be challenged to refine original arguments, counterarguments, and concession and will refine commentary skills in.  They will work to clearly identify tone in author’s writing and improve their own voice/tone in their own writing.  Students will consider the role of satire, its arguments, and its purpose.  

  • Skill Focus:
  • Honing Close Reading and Critical Thinking  
  • Identifying Argument and Purpose  
  • Synthesizing Argument  
  • Test Taking Strategies
  • Close Reading Exercises and Argumentation Exercises  
  • Argument Prompt Deconstruction and Writing  
  • Composition Strategies and Prompt Deconstruction Lessons  
  • Multiple Choice Assessment  
  • Close reading of essays, editorials, and  full length nonfiction

  • Instructional Strategies:
  • Model deconstruction of satire/satirical writing structures.  
  • Model identifying and discussing tone clearly in student writing.
  • Model multiple-choice strategies.

  • Activities/Assessment
  • Close Reading Bell Ringers  
  • Voice Exercises  
  • Deconstruction Lessons
  •  Review and Revision Exercises  
  • Timed Free Response Essays  
  • AP Language Multiple Choice Practice


  • Texts:
  • The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls  
  • Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth, Richard Wright  
  • Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez  
  • Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life (Camino del Sol), Luis Alberto Urrea
  • “On Being a Cripple,” Nancy Mairs  
  • “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan  
  • “Learning to Read,” Malcolm X  
  • “Graduation,” Maya Angelou
  •  “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” Gloria Anzaldua

Unit 5 - Explicit Test Prep (3 weeks)

During the month of April, students will hone their time management skills and prepare for the exam by repeatedly practicing. It is
important to give students many opportunities to write and complete multiple-choice under the appropriate time constraints. While students may still be reading materials outside of the classroom, outside reading will only be short excerpts or materials focused on current events.   We will focus on a cycle of consistent practice, reflection, refining and practicing again.


  • Writing and Reading Under Pressure
  • Refining Time Management  
  • Evaluating and Reflecting on Writing
  • Exam deconstruction

Unit 6- Narrative Non-Fiction and The College Essay (5 Weeks)

After the test, through a study of narrative non-fiction, students will re-explore the tools writers use to effectively transact with a reader.  Students will then transfer these skills to their own narrative non-fiction writing- culminating in the college essay.  By considering the college essays as a strong piece of narrative non-fiction, students will have a chance for their honesty, creativity and personal philosophies to emerge in this work and beyond.

  • Skill Focus:
  • A study of the elements  of story telling in non-fiction
  • Revision

  • Activities/Assessment:
  • This I Believe Essay
  • College Essays
  • Literary Analysis
  • Class discussions
  • Genre Study


  • Texts:
  • Whole Class Text: James McBride, The Color of Water
  • Narrative Non-Fiction Excerpts from the following authors:
  • Amy Tan, Michael Lewis, Philip Gourevich, Sherman Alexie, Michael Chabon,David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Erma Bombec David Foster Wallace, Sedaris, Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, Woody Allen, P.J. O'Rourke, Steve Martin, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Dave Eggers, Augusten Boroughs, Jeanette Walls, Joan Dideon, John McPhee, Philip Lopate, Jumpah Lahiri, Sherman Alexie, James McBride, James Baldwin (see my website for specific texts)
  • Analysis


The students will receive a plethora of strategies in order to draw from as they encounter very challenging texts. These strategies and techniques are intended to aid and boost students in attacking different types of questions, writing pieces, and responses.


The fall semester is intended to address and introduce the structure of arguments and varying styles of argumentative essays. Students will complete three major arguments, each consisting of about 750 to 1,000 words and each one fully described in our textbook, Everything’s an Argument: an argument of proposal, an argument of definition, and an argument of evaluation. The essay will proceed from the proposal stage through formative drafts with feedback from teacher and peers to a final draft. The teacher will return each draft to the student with suggestions for revision. Students will have to complete three essays. In the first they have to create a definition for what America is and synthesize at least five texts that they have read thus far in the semester for the texts read in relation to the topic of America. This argumentative essay will analyze what America is and offer counter-arguments to this claim based on sources the student has found. The second is a self-selected topic for an expository essay topic they want to explore in The Great Gatsby. The final essay will be an analytical essay based on a close-reading of a text from the semester in an expository fashion. Students must use resources to help them cite sources from a recognized editorial style, such as Thesis and Organization (Little, Brown Compact Handbook, 19-26), MLA Text Citation (Little, Brown Compact Handbook, 356-63), MLA Works Cited (Little, Brown Compact Handbook, 363-88, 397), MLA Paper Format (Little, Brown Compact Handbook, 388-96), and Syntax (Sentence Composing for College, 1-96). The essays will always have feedback before and after the student revises to develop skills while also addressing logical organization, coherence, and specific techniques, such as repetition, transitions, and emphasis.


The spring semester intends to deepen students’ writing skills and prepare them for the exam in May. They will complete five essays through a variety of assignments (expository, analytical, and argumentative) by the end of the semester. The first essay will be based on a series of images about various groups in the United States. They will learn how to analyze visual images into arguments. Students will learn OPTIC, a new strategy for analyzing visual arguments, which is fully described in the Teaching Strategies section of the syllabus. In addition, students will learn how to connect these visual images to written texts and enhance their argument and serve as alternative forms of text themselves. They will look at depictions of women, African-Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, and Hispanics through iconography to create an argument connected to overarching idea of the class. The second essay will compare and contrast the idea of freedom in black cultures using short texts. Students will offer counter-arguments and claims to support their ideas. They must connect the ideas to non-fiction texts that will enhance their analysis. The third essay will be a synthesis essay on the African-American experience based on a variety of texts read as the students explore The Bluest Eye. They must create an argument based on the sources and synthesize at least four into an essay much like the AP exam. The fourth essay is a casual argument based on the end of the first semester project. Students will become stronger thinkers, readers, speakers, and the goal of this class, writers as a result of working with all these forms of writing. The final essay is in the style and format of their choosing connected to William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. For all of this writing, students are directed to carefully evaluate, employ, and properly cite primary and secondary sources, using MLA documentation. After the exam is done, students will work on their personal essays for college in preparation for senior year.


In the first eight weeks of the semester, students will practice close-reading and argumentative writing. They will practice timed writing activities related to topics of What does America mean? They will look at various texts, from various genres and voices, to create a full-definition of this topic. The writing will be based on topics from that particular week. They will keep their thoughts in the journal. Students must select the texts that they are most comfortable with in order to clearly explain the author’s assertions and then defend or challenge it, noting the complexity of the issues and acknowledging objections to the student’s point of view. These short writing exercises will be approximately 300 to 500 words, in order to address key concepts in argumentation, such as counterclaim, author’s choices, and creating a strong, valid argument with relevant evidence. Additionally, they will respond using technology in a blog created particularly for this class. This blog will also include supports, ideas, and resources to help students better access, organize, and synthesize their knowledge. As students become more comfortable with these informal pieces of writing and we review clarity, style, voice, and organization of an argument, students are required to include at least one example of the following syntactical techniques in the journal and blog entries: coordination, subordination, varied sentence beginning, period sentence, and parallelism. As students develop their own style of writing through sentence structure, they will also learn organizational strategies, such as transitional paragraphs, appropriate balance and sequencing of generalization and specific details. Finally, students will develop their skills on independently responding to a text without the assistance of a prompt. They will openly respond to ideas, much like the final task of the AP Language exam and the SAT; however, they will come up with the focus and thesis of their essays through these assertion journals. Throughout the whole experience, the teacher will provide actionable feedback before and after the students revise their work. A central classroom policy is that every piece of writing can be revised for a better grade to prove mastery of particular skills.


Using Tom Boley’s strategy, SOAPStone, included in the College Board workshops, students will analyze prose and visual texts to better engage with the material in a more sophisticated manner. Additionally, strategies, such as CURE, and others, will be introduced in relation to the major canonical fictional texts that we read. The students will look at images and connect their ideas to the written texts that they encounter. They will use the central themes to create an argument that includes counterclaims and supporting evidence for their central claims.


Students will work on improving their vocabulary skills and practice using unknown terms using context clues, the dictionary, and the internet. The goal is for each one to develop a wide range of vocabulary and use it appropriately. The expectation is that students incorporate these words into their writing effectively to ameliorate their ideas and add sophistication to their writing. Finally, students will present to their classes unknown words that he/she has found in the texts that we explore. Students are expected to present and teach the synonym, antonym, and the proper contextual use of the word in a sentence.


The students will collaborate in a variety of activities designed to better improve their thought process. Discussions will be linked to writing activities that will immediately follow the discussion or the day after the seminar. They will have Socratic seminars, Speed Dating discussions, and small group circles that will have them independently interact with their peers to arrive at big ideas.


Writing style and word choices are a major component in writing. Students will review and improve their skills with writing styles, such as appositive phrases, participial phrases, and absolute phrases, to improve the quality and sophistication of their writing. Through writing exercises that complete sentence and paragraph imitation, they are expected to highlight these phrases in major compositions. Through instruction and effective feedback, they will be able to recognize and incorporate figures of rhetoric in any piece of writing. We will address the keys of syntax and diction in figuring out their style as well as ways to address schemes and tropes. We will examine a wide range of schemes in context, such as parallelism, antithesis, isocolon, zeugma, anastrophe, paranthesis, ellipsis, asyndeton, polysyndeton, alliteration, anaphora epistrophe, anadiplosis, antimetabole, chiasmus, erotema, hypophora, and epiplexis. Additionally, we will focus in on tropes, such as similes, metaphors, synecdoche, metonymy, antonomasia, personification, anthimeria, litotes, oxymoron, and paradox. Through this procedure and practice students will gain access to finding their voice as a writer, in terms of tone, control, and diction, and from revision, they will develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for their own words.


During the fall semester, students must complete six timed writing essay questions, one of which is on the final exam. Each timed writing assignment will link up to a writing task on the AP Language and Composition exam. The goal is to have students gain confidence and expertise in the high pressure environment of the test. They will practice a synthesis, close-reading, and free-response essays at least twice in a timed atmosphere.

In the spring semester, students complete eight timed essays to develop skills in writing rhetorical analysis essay. Just like the fall, these timed writing activities naturally progress to integrate all the skills that they have garnered throughout the course. Students are working with various aspects of the AP English Language and Composition Exam. They will be able to choose the essay sections of the exam that they are struggling with to practice more and receive additional feedback. Additionally, they can revise and retry this task if they see fit.


Each student will receive a composition notebook to record 12 entries on a variety of topics. They will use this time to free-write, address issues of the day, complete imitation exercises, collaboratively write a response, and reflect upon themes and ideas related to the class. Discussion centers on how writers will use a notebook as a way to catch the bits and pieces of life and experience for their writing projects. As a student work on his/her notebook, we as a class will study the personal reflective essay as a writing form. This process will enable students in the second semester when we actually address Personal Statements for the College Process.


This text analysis strategy serves as a method for students to craft a more thoughtful thesis statement. Developed by Tommy Boley, this writing approach enables students to think about and plan out all the factors that go into a well-developed thesis that will drive their writing.

S-peaker: the individual or collective voice of the text

O-ccasion: the event or catalyst causing the writing of the text to occur

A-udience: the group of readers to whom the piece is directed

P-urpose: the readon behind the text

S-ubject: the general topic and/or main idea

Tone: the attitude of the author


A syntax analysis chart is an excellent approach for the evaluation/analysis of style and enables student’s to effectively revise their own writing when considering the syntax of other writers. This strategy entails the students creating a five-column table with the following headings: Sentence Number, First Four Words, Special Features, Verbs, and Number of Words. Using this reflective tool not only assists and supports students examine how style contributes to meaning and purpose, but also helps students identify various writing problems, such as repetitiveness, run-ons, sentence fragments, weak verbs, and lack of syntactic variety. Furthermore, students are made aware of their own developing voice and diction.


Annotation is the key to making one’s thinking visible, and through close reading, students will learn effective strategies and approaches to processing a text. Students will follow steps, learn to find significance and appropriate evidence, and arrive at conclusions that will aid in working under time constraints. The annotated texts should naturally lead into the argumentative piece. One particular approach will involve students annotating two texts carefully, then in groups students will prepare a “say/does analysis” and identify the underlying intentions of each text.


The OPTIC strategy is highlighted in Walter Pauk’s book, How to Study in College and provides students with key concepts to think about when approaching any kind of visual text. A sample OPTIC lesson would include the following steps:

  1. Provide student with a single visual text that presents a position or point of view on an issue.
  1. Pair students and lead them through the OPTIC strategy, step by step.
  1. Debrief the effectiveness of the strategy in analyzing visuals.
  2. Compare and contrast the visual with a piece of expository text dealing with the same subject but perhaps with an opposing counterclaim or distinct position. Students will look at two different opinions, a children’s picture book on Ruby Bridges and a PBS documentary with Tavis Smiley called Ruby Bridges in Context. All three texts could be used to discuss different positions on the effects of history and education in relation to the African-American experience.

Students will practice all of these skills in a safe, comfortable environment, and in order to do so, they will work with their peers, strategically partnered and grouped. Through their exploration of ideas, they will be able to clarify, discuss, and engage with a text while receiving and giving valuable feedback that they can use in their own writing. In this course, students should expect to work with other students to practice key components of every strategy. Think-Pair-Share, Socratic seminars, peer-review, and other protocols for independent student work will push the rigor deeper and allow students to interact with each other while also assisting each other in the finesse of their skills.


Students are given a grade in a fashion similar to the final results of the AP Language Exam. Each student is assessed through their mastery of Standards Based Grading, where the skills behind each writing piece are assessed and refined through each assignment. Each graded assignment will receive a grade from 65-100 based on the complexity and overall importance of the objectives of the course. Typically each assignment within each quarter equates to about one-eighth of the total average. The course, however, is cumulative, and the grade that matters most is the cumulative grade. The intention here is to model the college environment.

Students are mostly assessed on major assignments such as out-of-class-essays, timed writings exercises, Socratic seminars, grammar exercises, annotated readings, assertion journals, practice on multiple-choice questions, informal writing, and class participation. Students can revise and improve any piece of writing that is not to the standards of the class in order to practice the skill.

The grade breakdown looks as such, with marking periods/quarters serving as progress reports to check in and discuss with the students in order for them to reflect and assess their progress.

1 – 0% (Off Topic/Missing/Needs Substantial Work – these works demonstrate very little or no success in developing a position, structuring an argument, and understanding the text. They are simplistic in their explanations, have a weak control of writing, and do not allude or cite to even one of the sources).

2 – 65% (Emerging Mastery – these works demonstrate little success in developing a position and hints at a structure, but fails to achieve it. The work substitutes a simpler task by merely summarizing or responding tangentially with unrelated, inaccurate, or inappropriate explanations. The prose of the essay reveals consistent weakness in writing and a lack of control).

3 – 75% (Approaching Mastery – These works inadequately develop a position. The student can analyze, evaluate, and synthesize, but the evidence and explanations are inappropriate, insufficient, or less convincing. The student attempts and approaches the mastery of development, but the link between the argument and evidence is weak. The student may misunderstanding, misrepresent, or oversimplify; in turn, the prose generally conveys the student’s ideas, but may be less consistent in controlling elements of effective writing).

4 – 85% (Mastery – These essays adequately develop a position and synthesize the text(s) through evaluation and analysis that leads to evidence and explanations that are appropriate and sufficient. The language contains lapses in diction or syntax, but generally the prose is clear. The student has clearly demonstrated the skills needed in order to properly analyze the text).

5 – 100% (Exceeding Mastery – These essays effectively develop a position and move beyond mastery by being an exemplar. The effective use of evidence leads to explanations that are appropriate, convincing and logical. They are faithful to the complexity of a task, and the writing meets the criteria through a sophisticated argument, thorough development, and impressive control of language. The prose demonstrates a consistent ability to control a wide range of element of effective writing – and with revision – is flawless).


The following paragraph must be submitted with proposals and drafts of student assignments. Students must sign below the paragraph to indicate that they are aware of this policy:

        Plagiarism is using another person’s thoughts and accomplishments without proper

        acknowledgement or documentation. It is an unconscionable offense and a serious breach

        of the honor code. In keeping with the policy, students will receive a zero for plagiarized work.



The penultimate unit for this year is final look at argumentation and analysis. Students will complete two forms of writing after looking at various models that are exemplars for tone, mood, analysis, anecdotes, and story-telling. The first essay will be a casual argument that builds upon research gathered on an essayist of the student’s choosing. The student will analyze the writer using the style and structures that the writer used in his/her writing. Hence, if it is a satirist, the essays should be in the form of a satire. Following this writing task (and after the AP Exam in May), the students will also complete the first drafts of their personal essay that will follow them to senior year as they prepare for college. They need to take the elements and skills acquired from this class and apply it to their personal statement. They will look at various, previous examples from students of past years to gain inspiration. Additionally, the writer’s notebooks, assertion journals, and their favorite writing pieces will be looked at again to see how much they have accomplished this year.

“Casual Arguments” Chapter 11 in Everything’s an Argument

“That’s Don Fey” by Tina Fey from Bossypants

“Go Carolina” by David Sedaris from Me Talk Pretty One Day

“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan

“Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexi

“What It Means to be Colored” by Zora Neale Hurston

“The Stranger in the Photo is Me” by Donald Murray

“Accidental Hero” by Zadie Smith

“Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros

“The ‘F Word’” by Firoozeh Dumas

Sixth/Final Unit: A BRAVE NEW WORLD – William Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST

In the final unit of the year, students will prepare for the AP Exam and work through Shakespeare’s play, which alludes to America. They will also look at the intertextual connections to imperialism and ideas from the beginning of the class. Finally, students will write an essay in a style and format they feel most comfortable (either expository, argumentative, or analytical). There will, of course, as in all of the essays for this class, be a drafting process where students receive and give feedback to each other. The teacher will provide feedback before and after the processes to ensure the quality and sophistication of their writing.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

A Tempest by Aimé Césaire

“Shakespeare’s Sister” by Virginia Woolf