Ap english Language and Composition 2014-2015

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AP English Language and Composition


Mr. Cooper

Email: CCooper@valhallaschools.org

(914) 683-5000, x6533

CONGRATULATIONS on choosing to participate in the AP English Language and Composition course! You have acknowledged a mastery of English reading and writing fundamentals, and you are about to take on quite a challenge. By the end of this course, you will be reading, writing, and thinking at an advanced college level. Reading will focus on close, in-depth analysis (especially of nonfiction writing); writing will involve a primary focus on argumentation and rhetorical technique.
The course is designed both as a survey of American literature and rhetorical analysis. We will examine several American literary units, focusing on particular techniques and themes that are supplemented with more recent works.
Students taking AP English Language and Composition are required to take the appropriate AP test in May 2015. However, please be advised that this is not an “AP test prep” course.
Course Description and Goals

From the College Board’s English Language and Composition Course Description:

An AP English Language and Composition course cultivates the reading and writing skills that students need for college success and for intellectually responsible civic engagement. The course guides students in becoming curious, critical, and responsive readers of diverse texts, and becoming flexible, reflective writers of texts addressed to diverse audiences through diverse purposes. The reading and writing students do in the course should deepen and expand their understanding of how written language functions rhetorically: to communicate writers’ intentions and elicit readers’ responses in particular situations. The course cultivates the rhetorical understanding and use of written language by directing students’ attention to writer/reader interactions in their reading and writing of various formal and informal genres (e.g., memos, letters, advertisements, political satires, personal narratives, scientific arguments, cultural critiques, research reports).
Reading and writing activities in the course also deepen students’ knowledge and control of formal conventions of written language (e.g., vocabulary, diction, syntax, spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, genre). The course helps students understand that formal conventions of the English language in its many written and spoken dialects are historically, culturally, and socially produced; that the use of these conventions may intentionally or unintentionally contribute to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a piece of writing in a particular rhetorical context; and that a particular set of language conventions defines Standard Written English, the preferred dialect for academic discourse. (College Board 2014)
Work and Participation

Students are expected to complete all assignments appropriately and on time. Late work will not be accepted. Assignments will include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Extensive reading assignments (expect several hours of reading per week)

  • Short, informal homework assignments

  • Long-term essay writing

  • In-class essay writing

  • Formal and informal in-class assignments

  • Presentations

  • Class blog posts and engagement with other student blogs

Furthermore, students are prepared every day to make informed contributions to class discussions. This requires careful reading of assigned materials with accompanying notes and annotations

Grading Policy

All assignments are given a specific point value. Major assignments and essays have higher point values than smaller, low-stakes assignments. The course grade is determined through summative point value via our school’s gradebook program, eSchoolData.

Writing and the Revision Process

The course will emphasize the writing process; for major essays, students are expected to draft multiple revisions, both for peer evaluation and instructor feedback. Since it is impossible to devote sufficient class time for feedback on an individual basis, students are expected to meet with the instructor outside of class in order to discuss revision. Students are given several opportunities for revision before the final due date. However, students who demonstrate thorough engagement with the writing process may be given an opportunity to revise again after a paper is graded. Major papers will be submitted through Turnitin.com.

Writing Expectations

From the College Board’s English Language and Composition Course Description:

Students entering an AP English Language and Composition course should possess fundamental skills in inquiry (research), analysis, and informed argument. Experiences with nonfiction are integral in understanding that writing has a purposeful, interactive value and transcends the skills that are assessed on the AP English Language and Composition Exam. Composing responses to exam prompts is not the primary writing skill students are expected to develop in the course. Instead, they should gain considerable practice in reading a wide variety of nonfiction texts—from newspaper editorials to critical essays and political treatises—in order to find out what others are thinking, saying, and doing in the world. Familiarity with these conventions will help students become informed and rhetorically competent writers who not only consider the views of others but use writing as a way to formulate and convey their own responses. (College Board 2014)

In addition to developing a higher level of vocabulary from challenging reading, students engage in limited, formal study of vocabulary. You began a working vocabulary journal as a summer assignment, and you will make formal additions to this journal throughout the school year.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

All AP students are expected to adhere to the school’s policy on plagiarism, outlined in the Student Handbook. It is a student’s responsibility to understand that if any paragraphs, sentences, phrases, or words in any of his or her work are not her own and not properly cited, he will fail the assignment, receive the appropriate disciplinary action outlined in the Student Handbook.

During each unit, we will examine the literary trends and rhetorical practices of specific periods of American literature. In addition, supplementary readings will allow students to make thematic connections and examine rhetorical devices in different contexts.
Additional readings not specifically outlined on the course syllabus may also be assigned.

Required Course Textbooks

Cohen, Samuel, ed. 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's., 2011. Print.

Shea, Renée Hausmann, Lawrence Scanlon, and Robin Dissin Aufses. The Language of

Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's,

2013. Print.

Other Major Texts

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved: A Novel. New York: Vintage International, 2004. Print.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Bantam, 1981. Print.
Wills, Garry. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. New York:

Simon & Schuster, 1992. Print.


We will begin our year with an introduction to rhetoric through our summer reading assignments. This unit will focus on Wills’ analysis of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” as well as on the writing of Lincoln’s own contemporaries. We will also learn the SOAPSTone technique, which will be an effective tool for analysis throughout the year.


  • Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg

  • Abraham Lincoln, “The Gettysburg Address”

  • Edward Everett, “Gettysburg Address”

  • Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (poem)

  • Frederick Douglass, from “My Bondage and My Freedom”

Major Assignments:

  • In-class essay: rhetorical analysis/response to Frederick Douglass piece

  • 3-5 page compare/contrast essay: Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” vs. Everett or Gray

  • Group presentations: Lincoln at Gettysburg chapter analysis / overview


We continue our introduction to rhetoric through the lens of America’s colonial and Revolutionary War eras. This unit places special emphasis on the fundamentals of argumentation, particularly appeals to pathos, logos, and ethos. Students will read a variety of pieces from this era as well as supplementary pieces to emphasize the foundations of argument. Thematic works will focus on the nature of independence.


  • The Language of Composition, Chapter 1 (p. 1-38)

  • Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

  • Thomas Jefferson et al, “The Declaration of Independence” (50 Essays p. 187)

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” (50 Essays p. 379)

  • Patrick Henry, “Speech in the Virginia Convention”

  • Thomas Paine, from “Common Sense”

  • Judith Ortiz Cofer, “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria (50 Essays p. 91)

Major Assignments:

  • In-class essay: opinion piece with appeal to pathos, logos, or ethos

  • 3-5 page persuasive essay: through the use of argumentative rhetoric and appropriate research, write from the perspective of an American colonist in order to persuade someone either to support the Revolution or remain loyal to Great Britian


We move on to the American Romantic movement with particular emphasis on the writings of Poe, Thoreau, and Emerson. Close reading and analysis of a variety of literary genres becomes the primary focus of our rhetorical study. Thematic works focus on the importance of nature and individuality.


  • The Language of Composition, Chapter 2 (p. 39-80)

  • Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven” (poem)

  • Edgar Allan Poe, “Philosophy of Composition”

  • Henry David Thoreau, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” (Language p. 1016)

  • Henry David Thoreau, “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” (50 Essays p. 403)

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Nature”

  • Bill McKibben, “Curbing Nature’s Paparazzi” (50 Essays p. 267)

  • Virginia Woolf, “The Death of the Moth” (50 Essays p. 448)

Major Assignments:

  • In-class essay: close reading essay on a selected piece

  • 3-5 page analytical / comparative essay: Using the criteria established by Edgar Allan Poe in “Philosophy of Composition,” analyze the work of another writer in the horror genre (such as Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft). Do these writers effectively maintain Poe’s criteria, or do they seem to establish their own rules of the genre? Are these writers more effective, less effective, or just as effective?


Unit IV revisits the literature of the Civil War Era, this time emphasizing new emerging American identities and styles; as the nation splits apart, the writers of the era struggle with social injustice and sense of self. We continue our emphasis of close reading through narratives, poetry, and political pieces of the time. Thematic works address overcoming adversity.


  • U.S. Congress, “The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850”

  • Frederick Douglass, “Learning to Read and Write” (50 Essays p. 129)

  • Malcolm X, “Learning to Read” (50 Essays p. 257)

  • Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?” (50 Essays p. 410)

  • Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass” (poem)

  • Emily Dickinson, selected poetry

Major Assignments

  • Group presentations on rhetoric of Walt Whitman

  • In-class essay: close reading of Whitman or Dickinson poetry

  • 2-4 page process analysis essay in the style of Douglass or Whitman


We move on to post-Civil War and turn of the century literature as writers both criticize and reflect upon American culture and politics, depicting the country as realistically as possible. Particularly we will focus on the satire of Twain and turn of the century feminist writers Chopin, Gilman, and Wharton. We will also closely examine academic writing to supplement the literature that we study.


  • Mark Twain, “Corn-Prone Opinions” (Language p. 799)

  • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal” (50 Essays p. 387)

  • Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”

  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”

  • Karen Ford, “‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and Women’s Discourse”

  • Edith Wharton, “Roman Fever”

  • Rachel Bowlby, “‘I Had Barbara’: Women’s Ties and Wharton’s ‘Roman Fever’”

Major Assignments:

  • 2-3 page satire on the topic of your choice

  • 3-5 page expository essay: turn-of-the-century authors’ views of feminism


This unit focuses on the modernist style of the early 20th Century as we delve further into argumentative writing. As we study the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and T.S. Eliot, we also delve further into presenting evidence in staking our own claims. Furthermore, we use The Great Gatsby as a starting point for analyzing flaws in arguments through examination of the narrator, Nick Carraway. Finally, we examine famous examples of argument in order to inform our own argumentative rhetoric.


  • The Language of Composition, Chapter 3 (p. 81-143)

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

  • Daniel Joseph Singal, “Towards a Definition of American Modernism”

  • T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (poem)

  • Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave” (50 Essays p. 292)

  • Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (50 Essays p. 203)

  • Susan Sontag, “Regarding the Pain of Others” (50 Essays p. 373)

Major Assignments

  • In-class essay: analysis of an effective argument

  • 3-5 page essay: informative / explanatory essay based on The Great Gatsby and Signal’s analysis of American Modernism


Using the rhetorical techniques and practices that we’ve studies so far, it’s time to “put it all together.” We will select a topic, analyze accompanying essays, and conduct research of a variety of primary sources in order to compose an argumentative research paper. This unit encourages employing the strategies of your favorite American writers while developing your own voices and styles.


  • The Language of Composition, Chapter 4 (p. 145-174)

  • Student choice: read a cluster of related essays from The Language of Composition and 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology

Major Assignments

  • 5 page synthesis essay that develops an original claim


Upon completion of the AP English Language & Composition Exam, we will turn our attention to contemporary writers and begin preparation for the NYS Regents Exam in English. After careful reading of Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, we will work to develop our own thesis statements in an essay of your own style and choice.


  • Toni Morrison, Beloved

Major Assignments

  • 5 page essay: original thesis statements based on analysis of Beloved and other related readings.

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