Summer Syllabus for A.P. Language and Composition 2014-2015
Advanced Placement English is a college-level English class. True, it does require more diligence, but this fact should not frighten you. If anything, it should excite the one aspect of education that sometimes becomes lost: self-motivation. This class affords you the opportunity for great success through individual accomplishment. Therefore, choice is an important facet of the class, and not simply choice of reading material, but choice to become more determined, more analytical, more intuitive, more literary. This should be a spectacular journey, one we will share together. My expectations for myself are that I will help you become purposeful writers, self-directed learners, and critical thinkers. You will be able to discourse in an erudite manner about literary elements, techniques, and structures. Although this may sound daunting, it is not. My only expectation for you is effort. If you promise to exert yourself mentally, I promise to make the expedition interesting.
We will be reading all types of non-fiction (essays, articles, speeches, etc.) pieces, some of which are critical analyses of the various texts. Not only will the pieces be from different time periods, they will have male and female authors with diverse cultural backgrounds.
We will be writing extensively in this class. Not all writers come to this class with the same strengths. Therefore, once I have read some of your writings in journals, on essays, and on timed writings, I will have a grasp of strengths and weaknesses. A portion of your grade will be based on your growth on your individualized writing plan. You and I will help develop a plan to ensure your growth as a writer throughout the year. I discuss this further in a later section.
Journaling: Every day for the bell ringer, you will be given a quote, statistic, poem, conundrum, "would-you-rather” or “nothing-at-all” to respond to in your journals. Sometimes they will be focused on our particular reading pieces, modern occurrences, or “nothing-at-all” (free writing). These are worth 25% of your grade and are assessed rather subjectively based completely on effort. My hope is writing should become what you do, not necessarily an assignment. I will respond to your writings as a discourse. Therefore, some of your past writings will require you to write more, perhaps elaborating on a thought or idea. You will be permitted once each semester to write “Sorta,” thus a free pass if you do not like the subject.
Literary and Rhetorical Analyses: Listed on your syllabus are the various analytical essays that will be written in this class. Many will be at-home assignments with a few being timed. Except for the timed writings, you will always have a peer review one week prior to your submission of the final draft. This is called “PQP” which stands for “Praise, Question, Polish.” I simply allow you to read your classmates’ papers and provide poignant, helpful comments. I do give you directives contingent on the subject matter of the essay. After we have had our first timed-writing on a released item and know what the College Board’s expectations are, the rubric on these will be generated by the class, except for a small portion. You and I will create this criterion based on each individual writing plan, which focuses on the student’s area of weakness pertaining to his or her writing. Once certain goals have been reached, the document can be adapted over time to meet the writer’s needs. I will utilize the rubric to assess you. After I have returned the essays with annotated comments, we will discuss “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” a PowerPoint in which I have listed good, bad, and ugly writing from the class’s essays. No names will be listed. This approach allows me to address positives and negatives that may have been generated by multiple students; I have found this to be quite effective with visual learners. You will have one week to re-write the essay. The new grade will take the place of the old and will not be averaged. Since I do not care about your grade, only your progress, you can keep re-writing any essay assigned during that semester until you obtain the grade you desire. Each new re-write will receive new comments to guide your revision, so please turn in the old copies with your new. Some struggling students may be assigned writing workshops before or after school. This is not a punishment; this is help.
Timed Writings: Throughout the class, you will be taking at least ten timed writings, about one every two weeks, on released items from the College Board. You will be given forty minutes to complete them since this is the average time allotted on an A.P. exam. I will score them using the College Board’s rubric. Some testing procedures, around four, will also involve timed writings. I will provide justification for the score as well as annotated comments. The first three will be based on effort while the remaining will be based on skill. You will also be allowed to re-write these.
- To enjoy literature, its complexities, nuances, and inadequacies
- To explore different literary genres from diverse cultures
- To develop analytical and critical cognition, focused on literature
- To create a commune of erudite littérateurs, based in respect for others’ ideas
- To hone the writing craft through expository, timed, analytical, and argumentative writing
The Somerset High School English Department defines plagiarism according to the standards set by the MLA Handbook (Modern Language Association). “Plagiarism involves two kinds of wrongs. Using another person’s ideas, information or expressions without acknowledging that person’s work constitutes intellectual theft.” It should be noted that according to the MLA, “the most blatant form of plagiarism is to obtain and submit as your own a paper written by someone else. Other less conspicuous forms of plagiarism include the failure to give appropriate acknowledgement when repeating or paraphrasing another’s wording, when taking a particularly apt phrase, and when paraphrasing another’s argument or presenting another’s line of thinking.” Finally, the scholars should note that “presenting an author’s exact wording without marking it as a quotation is plagiarism, even if you cite the source.” Because plagiarism is the most serious of academic crimes, it is met with severe punishment. In keeping with the guidelines set by the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System and the Somerset High School Board of Education, if any part of a senior portfolio is plagiarized, the portfolio is considered incomplete; therefore, the senior will not graduate. The student will not receive credit for the assignment which has been plagiarized.
Giabaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th Edition. 2003. New York: Modern Language Association.
Summer Reading Texts
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
You will have tests over both of the summer reading texts the first week you return to school in August. You will also be asked to write a literary analysis focusing on one of the elements of fiction for either of the two fictional pieces. The assignment sheet and rubric are uploaded to this page.
Everything Else I Forgot
In “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman wrote,
“You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand,
nor look through the eyes of the dead,
nor feed on the specters in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either,
nor take things from me.
You shall listen to all sides and filter them for yourself.”
I could not agree more. Please do not look to me as some kind of cryptographer to DHMs (deep hidden meanings). You will be “filtering” the themes from literature for yourself. For too long, the reader has been removed from the “reading” itself. Literature teachers, including myself sometimes, forget that a reader’s emotional reaction to the text is every bit as valid as an author’s intended purpose. What you have to say about text matters. Your ideas in this classroom count. I will help guide you through the process, but on many occasions you will be teaching each other. There are millions of suns left.
Yeats once wrote, “I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” This class is going to require a tremendous amount of courage. I know gifted students are sometimes afraid to make mistakes in front of their peers for fear of ridicule. Be kind to your classmates; they are trying to make sense of this world as you are. Respect is always an important criterion for a safe, comfortable, egalitarian environment. The respect for ideas is quite imperative for intellectuals to become self-actualized, to become who they are supposed to be. Discourse is not about winning. Learning is the goal, but wisdom is the eventual outcome. You may not agree with a person’s viewpoint, but you should argue vehemently for his or her right to be heard. This is not an American precept; it is a human precept.
One of my past students said the nicest comment to me, “You don’t really teach English; you teach life.” I agree wholeheartedly because I have the best occupation in the world to do so. English (reading, writing, speaking, and thinking) affords us the opportunity to discuss humanity, re-think humanity, re-define humanity. It is by no means the only discipline that allows this concept. Each discipline (science, mathematics, social studies, philosophy, art, etc.) is simply a different way of understanding the world. We will be reading writings from all of them in an attempt to get you to realize they are really one and the same. I will be utilizing one of them more than the others. In Greek, philo means love, and sophia means wisdom; therefore, philosophia is the love of wisdom. Since this academic pursuit is considered antiquated and outmoded by some, I believe it is my duty to build your mindfulness on a foundation of our past intellectuals. We will stroll with Plato, Aristotle, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Augustine, Descartes, Hume, Locke, Paine, Rousseau, Malthus, Skinner, Freud, Chomsky, Sartre, and Camus. They will not give you answers, but more importantly, they provide invaluable questions to being.
I appreciate you choosing to be in this class. I respect your decision to be more. Thank you.