Ap english Language and Composition Syllabus Mrs. Kathy Saunders

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AP English Language and Composition Syllabus

Mrs. Kathy Saunders

Wheatmore High School

Trinity, North Carolina
Course Overview

Welcome to AP English Language and Composition. This semester-long course, offered to juniors as an introductory-level college class, combines American literature and the study of rhetoric. Students will carefully analyze a broad range of non-fiction prose selections, write several types of essays, develop critical reading and writing skills through daily in-class activities, out-of-class assignments, seminar discussions, conferences with peers about personal essays, and a process approach to all five communication skills: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing. Students will experience primarily American literature, both fiction and non-fiction, through thematic units interspersed with diverse genres, which model and teach writing strategies, rhetorical devices, various genres, and stylistic devices.


Assessment is done primarily through essays; however, quizzes are given on vocabulary words, daily grades are taken for class assignments, response notebooks will be evaluated periodically; revision of essays is crucial to demonstrate time and effort to improving writing skills. Certain writing assignments will be considered major grades: character sketch, narrative of biographical “light bulb” moment, comparison-contrast of two poets (your choice), argumentative speech on American culture focus, and the argumentative research paper on a contemporary social issue in America.

Specific Textbooks:

Prentice Hall Literature: The American Experience, Pearson Education, Inc., 2007.

**PH used to denote throughout

The Norton Sampler, Sixth Edition, Thomas Cooley, 2003. Purchased by student.

**NS used to denote throughout

AP English, D & S Marketing Systems, Inc., 2001.

**AP used to denote throughout

AP English, D & S Marketing Systems, Inc., 2007.

Writer’s Inc., Write Source, Inc., Wilmington, MA, 2001.

**WI used to denote throughout
Supplementary Texts:

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain/Outside Reading due Day One

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

1. Reading Strategies: Although the following are only three of many critical reading strategies taught during the semester, these will form a good foundation for rhetorical analysis. These three methods will be taught in the first two weeks, assignments based on in-class and out-of-class reading will employ these reading strategies, and students will be asked to turn several of their analyses into expository compositions, some timed writings in class, others for homework assignments. Students are asked to keep a notebook of each strategy and selection which can later be used for further analysis in compositions. Some of these are given grades to assess whether students are practicing the skills of critical analysis and the depth of their thinking.

  • Double Entry Journals--students divide a sheet of paper down the middle and on the left side note images, details, words, questions, quotes, etc. that they noticed as they are reading; on the right side of the paper, students reflect on their notation, such as, “I noticed the colors are vibrant” or “I wonder why he chose to describe the setting in so much detail?” or “This simile is vivid and rich.”

  • T-Graphs--for comparison of selections of prose/poetry or two essays, etc. Students divide a sheet with a T to set up parallelisms. On the left side, one selection is noted as it is read, and then as the student reads the second selection, notations are paralleled or contrasted to the other.

  • SOAPSTone--used for most of the non-fiction selections assigned. Students are to note the Subject, the Occasion, the Audience, the Purpose, and the Tone of each selection as they read; these notes are kept in notebooks to use in expository essays or to review the reading assignments from time to time.

  • Sample assignment: Using a T-graph, analyze Audubon’s description of the flight of birds with Annie Dillard’s description. Note on your graph imagery, diction, organization, and details. After students collect their observations, they are then asked to write their first in-class essay with Question 3 of the 2003 released prompt: Explain the effect of the author’s descriptions by comparing and contrasting. (AP) This is the first of many in-class, timed essays; this essay score is used as a baseline to assess the skill level and improvement throughout the semester. Model essays of excellent, mediocre, and poor will be used for discussion as to effectiveness or the lack thereof.

2. Vocabulary Enrichment Strategies: Students are to hand the week’s words in for a grade and keep in notebook for further enrichment. Students are asked to share randomly selected words and present to the class; students are responsible for keeping a list of the presented words and studying for quizzes given weekly. Students are expected to be able to use the words in context either in sentences or paragraphs. Students will also study over 200 word roots, prefixes, and suffixes throughout the semester. Students are tested on their ability to apply their understanding of roots to unfamiliar words.
3. Writing Strategies and Processes:

Since writing is a process and the skills are built onto and layered, the following is a basic outline of how the stages are broken down into various elements. Although these are artificial and only for the sake of discussing and planning essays, this layered, process approach is used throughout the semester. The stages and skills are later addressed with particular major writing assignments reviewing these essentials (as listed earlier).

  1. Rhetoric Study:

Terms reviewed:

rhetoric, syntax, diction, discourse, explicit, implicit, analogy, figures of speech, lexicon, critical analysis, prose, poetry, satire, genre, metonymy, etc.

  • Sample assignment: Students are asked to keep their own glossary of these terms in their notebooks, adding rhetorical terms as discovered and discussed during the course of study. Quizzes are given to check understanding and students are asked to write good sentences with specific examples to show assimilation of these linguistic terms. Students are expected to use these terms in the expository essays for clarity and focus.

B. Observation Skills: writers use specific objects, nouns, verbs, images

Specific Selections:

  • Annie Dillard essay “The Death of the Moth”, p. 4 Norton Sampler

  • Annie Dillard essay “How I Wrote the Moth Essay”, p. 8 Norton Sampler

  • Elizabeth Bishop poem “The Fish,” handout (compare to “View” essay)

  • Joan Didion essay “On Keeping a Notebook” p. 408 NS

C. Finding Own Voice: avoiding Engfish (stinky writing in which the writer has

not been truthful to his/her subject making ineffective and dull writing)

Thematic Unit One: Our Changing Values: Puritanism to Paradoxes

Outside Class Reading: Arthur Miller play The Crucible p. 1257 PH

Assigned Readings in and out-of -class:

  • Jonathan Edwards’ Sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” p. 102 PH

  • Edward Taylor poems “Huswifery” p. 94 PH and “To a Wasp Chilled…” handout

  • Stephen Vincent Benet essay “Trials at Salem” handout

  • Magazine Article “Lessons of Salem” handout

  • John Steinbeck “American and Americans” handout

  • James Thurber fables: “The Very Proper Gander” and “The Owl Who Was God”

  • George Orwell essay “Politics and the English Language” p. 373 NS


Salem Witch Trials A & E film

Edward R. Murrow documentary “See It Now” (interview with J. McCarthy)

Film Clips Good Night and Good Luck

Video segment of McCarthy hearings

Film The Crucible version with Wynona Ryder

Film The Village

The above unit will last for three weeks. Seminars are held to discuss themes, values contrasts through the eras,
Specific Selections:

  • “Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper” Martin Espada p.1132 PH

  • “Most Satisfied by Snow” Diana Change p.1133 PH

  • “Hunger in New York City” Simon J. Ortiz. P 1134

  • “What for” Garrett Hongo p. 1135 PH

  • Anne Bradstreet poems:

  • “Author to Her Book” handout

  • “To My Dear and Loving Husband” p.96 PH

  • “Upon the Burning of Our House” handout

  • “To Her Father, some verses” handout

  • Sample assignment: After discussing the four Bradstreet poems, students are asked to

choose one to show how Puritan values are viewed through the language. Students must

be specific in their examples to teach that good writers use concrete nouns and verbs. This assignment is considered a homework grade and assessed to demonstrate how important it is to pay attention to details and to support ideas/opinions. Discussion is used to point out how authors show their society through their voice; discussion as to a woman’s role in Puritan society is duly noted. The aspect of prejudice of the writer/reader is discussed.

D. Cutting Out Deadwood: Learning Conciseness

Specific Selections:

  • Kelly Simon essay “Frank Sinatra’s Gum” p. 88 NS

  • “How to Say Nothing in 1000 Words” Handout

  • Sample Assignment: Discussion as to how the essay “Frank Sinatra’s Gum”

is short and to the point; the conclusion does not tell the point, but lets the reader

experience the meaning of the narrative.

E. Making Writing Active, not passively sitting there

  • Specific Selections: Active Verb List Handout

  • “View From the Bridge” essay p. 37 NS

  • “The Miss Dennis School of Writing” essay p. 28 NS

  • Sample Assignment: Students are asked to look for active verbs in the above essays. Students are also given a list of powerful verbs to use in expository writing. Students demonstrate mastery of active voice by creating active verbs out of passive verbs.

F. Analyzing Tone

Thematic Unit Two: Dreams of Independence to Reality

Outside Class Reading: Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie

Assigned readings in and out-of-class:

  • Thomas Jefferson essay “The Declaration of Independence” p. 170 PH

  • Thomas Paine essay “The Crisis” p. 174-176 PH

  • Phillis Wheatley poems “An Hymn to the Evening” and “To His Excellency” 182-6 PH

  • Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention” p. 203-206

  • Benjamin Franklin’s “Speech in the Convention” p. 207-209 PH


Clip from Braveheart to show persuasive speech and compare to these political speeches in diction and tone.

Film version of The Glass Menagerie
The above unit is taught approximately six weeks into the semester and will last approximately three weeks. Seminars are held to discuss the changes of values

from the Puritan society to the Founding Fathers. In and out-of-class writing

assignments are given; i.e. write a comparison of one of Wheatley’s poems to Anne Bradstreet’s, or write a double entry journal picking out emotional appeal in

Patrick Henry’s speech and write a short essay incorporating some details; or

write a persuasive essay on this question: Was Amanda Wingfield a good mother? Students must be able to support opinion with evidence from the play.

A Socratic seminar is held to discuss the dreams symbolized in Williams’ play (or the decadence of the American dreams of freedom and independence).

Specific Selections:

  • Jonathan Swift essay “A Modest Proposal” p. 362 NS

  • Virginia Wolf essay “The Death of the Moth” p. 396 NS

  • Miriam Davis Colt “Heading West” p. 608

  • Chief Joseph “I Will Fight no More Forever” p.614

  • Sojourner Truth “Ain’t I a Woman?” Handout

G. Knowing Your Audience

Specific Selections:

  • Benjamin Franklin “Poor Richard’s Almanac” p.48 PH

  • Garrison Keillor essay “How To Write a Letter” p. 187 NS

  • Dekanawidah speech from “The Iroquois Constitution” p. 26 PH

  1. Exploding a Moment:


Specific Selections:

  • Zora Neale Hurston from “Dust Tracks on a Road” p 914 PH

  • Mary Mebane essay “The Back of the Bus” p. 72 NS

  • Langston Hughes essay “Salvation” handout

  • Sample assignment: Students are asked to write a personal essay narrating a time when he/she noted an important realization or a “Light-bulb” moment. These essays will be graded for organization, use of detail/imagery, and dominant effect created. These essays will come after double entry journals of the above selections have been written and noted for the following: dialogue, setting, placing speaker in scene, dominant impression or “light bulb” moment implicit or explicit. This is a major grade and revision of this narrative will be allowed after peer revision/conferencing.

Thematic Unit Three: Contrasting Dreams: Thoreau to Hughes

Outside Class Reading: The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald

Outside Reading: Into the Wild by John Krakauer

Assigned Readings in and out of class:

  • Henry David Thoreau essay “Civil Disobedience” p. 416-417 PH excerpt

  • Henry David Thoreau essay “Walden” p. 407-415 PH excerpts

  • Abraham Lincoln’s speech “The Gettysburg Address” p. 532 PH

  • Abraham Lincoln’s speech “Second Inaugural Address” p. 533 PH

  • Frederick Douglas autobiography “My Bondage and My Freedom” excerpt p. 506 P

  • Abraham Lincoln’s document “Emancipation Proclamation” p. 541 PH

  • Langston Hughes’ dream poetry (5 selections)—handouts

  • Langston Hughes’ “Bop” essay p. 265 NS

  • Nat Hentoff essay “Jazz: Music Beyond Time and Nations” p. 116 NS

  • One-Act Play “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” handout

  • E.B. White essay “Walden” Revisited Handout

Videos and Audios:

Martin Luther King’s Speech

Jazz Music selections

The above unit is taught approximately nine weeks into the semester and will last

approximately three weeks. Writing assignments are interspersed throughout such as:

In a short essay, focus on the theme of “Bop”,the essay , and how Hughes illustrates a similar theme through one or two of his dream poems. Compare and contrast the tone

of White’s “Walden” with Thoreau’s “Walden.” Concentrate on the imagery used

to describe this place. In a personal essay, write about the music you enjoy listening to and explain what it illustrates about your values. Can you draw parallels with your freedom and independence? Choose one of the five Hughes’ poems and explain why it piques your fancy. Be specific!

I. Persuasive Writing: Informal to Formal

Thematic Unit Four: The American Dream: Reality or Myth?

Outside Reading: The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain

Outside Reading: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Outside Reading: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Assigned Readings in and out of Class:

Short Stories

  • Bernard Malamud “The First Seven Years” p. 998 PH

  • Flannery O’Connor “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” p. 983 PH

  • E.L. Doctoravo “The Writer in the Family” p. 1012 PH

  • Tony Earley “Aliceville” p. 1031 PH

  • Kate Chopin “The Story of an Hour” p. 642 PH


  • Gary Soto “Like Mexicans” p. 218 NS

  • R. Rodriguez “None of This Is Fair” p. 81 NS

  • Sebastian Junger “The Lion in the Winter” p. 65 NS

  • Eric Severide “The Dark Side of the Moon” handout

  • Freeman Dyson “Science Guided By Ethics Can Lift Up the Poor” p. 154 NS

Sample Lesson: Compare the purpose and diction of Sevride’s and Dyson’s essays about science and what it has done to our world? Use a T-graph to brainstorm and then write an essay comparing/contrasting both purpose and tone.
Sample Lesson: Write a critical response to the following statement:

“….Earley has a talent that seems lost to so many contemporary writers: the ability to speak straightforwardly, expressing an honest, deep-felt emotion, without lapsing into sentimentality.”

Do you agree or disagree? Use specific evidence to support your opinion.
Major American Dream Assignment:
This is the last major assignment before the AP Exam in May and before the research paper. This is designed as a culminating assignment based on tracing American values throughout our chronology of literature and themes of American values. The objective is to interpret/symbolize/visualize an aspect of America through various mediums other than writing (songs, pictures, videos, pictures, artwork, and objects).
Students are asked to create a graphic/audio illustration of his/her interpretation of the American Dream either an aspect/theme of one or more of the novels read thus far, or a personal vision of the American Dream (after personal reflection from reading).

Students are expected to design a presentation for the class and encouraged to

use a medium in which they can symbolize their interpretations American Dream Illustration Examples:

musical selections to accompany episodes of Huck Finn or Great Gatsby; advertising images in a collage/montage to illustrate visually the American Dream as noted in one or more of the books read; construction of a puppet show or game board which symbolizes characters and motives, and/or settings; i.e. monopoly board game synthesizing ideas from one or more of the readings; create a video version of a scene from one of the books read or re-write the ending of a novel; photograph images of the American Dream in our culture today and compare and contrast to the literature read; write a song or poem that expresses a vision or an interpretation; construct a visual object that symbolizes the American Dream or interprets a book or several books. (one student created a lamp shade that was constructed of symbols from three books done on three levels (Gatsby’s materialism through Glass Menagerie’s trapped characters to Huck Finn’s “freedom” on the raft) with a character (Huck Finn) hanging onto the cord climbing up to his final dream (frontier America away from “civilized” America).

This assignment has several objectives: to teach synthesis, symbolism, graphic arts, presentation/speaking skills, and allow for students’ creativity to shine in a personal way (one music student wrote an original song and music and played it on her mandolin; another student downloaded music to score Great Gatsby’s characters and scenes; another group of three created and videoed a “parody” of Gatsby and Huck Finn’s climactic scenes with said English teacher parodied as the narrator).
Specific Selections:

  • Thomas Jefferson essay “The Declaration of Independence” p. 322 NS

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. speech “I Have a Dream” handout

  • John F. Kennedy speech “Inaugural Address” p. 1228 PH

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. essay “Letter From the Birmingham Jail” 1232 PH

  • Sample Assignment: Up to this time, students have been practicing the AP writing prompts (released items) as in-class timed writing and SAT prompts. These opinion essays are informal arguments. Students have been taught to first graph the opinion and then jot down the support for their argument. Students are now asked to read four highly formal arguments using ethos, logos, and pathos. Students must be able to pick out examples of all three types of argumentative support using a graphic organizer to note the three types.

  • Sample Assignment: Students are to write a persuasive speech about a controversial issue in their lives. Students are to set up the argument using all three types of support.

These speeches will be delivered to the class and judged according to the arguments.

This writing is done after viewing “I Have a Dream” and “Inaugural Speech” by JFK.

Welcome to AP English:

  1. The Graduation Project research paper will be completed over the course of the remainder of the semester. Please begin thinking about a topic and product that will encompass your Graduation Project.

  • A letter of intent is due the first week of the second semester.

  1. Familiarize yourself with my website; it will be a integral part of your college-prep experience.

  1. Complete one outside reading: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Assignment: create a reading log in three parts by chapter
Chapter One
Reaction to text
Notables/Quotable lines
Questions/Comments on items that are confusing or of particular interest
Use your judgment as to number of entries. Some chapters will have more than others. Think deeply and connect to literature.

  1. Purchase the Norton Sampler as referenced in the syllabus:

The Norton Sampler, Sixth Edition, Thomas Cooley, 2003.

  1. Take ownership of your success and achievement.

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