We are starting to debate what type(s) of summer reading and writing should be assigned to AP12 students. Any thoughts
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Literary critique would be great, but this is AP 12, and I think I would step it up a notch. What about having them critique and compare two related novels or two different genres that are related such as a fictional book about a topic and a nonfiction book that addresses the same topic?
Another idea would be to have them write something in the same style as the author. This forces them to pay attention to diction and syntax, among other things. To really get this right, students have to read. The selection probably needs to be a shorter one with a distinctive style. That may be a difficult find in terms of a novel at this stage for these students, so perhaps something non-fiction, such as excerpts from autobiographies or essays. Twain and Orwell are two good choices, as are Loren Eiseley and Annie Dillard, but the possibilities are endless.
Just to expand the idea of #3, you might want to choose a particular genre or type of novel and go into that genre in depth, getting them to compare to types of that genre. I have had great success with my Grade 12 students getting them to look at bildungsroman last year. This year we are doing Gothic. Last year we studied in class Jane Eyre and Great Expectations, and their job was to pick one of those and compare it with another bildungsroman of their choice. This year we have done Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray, and they need to do the same thing. This helps them develop the skills they need to study literature by themselves and also gives them in-depth knowledge about one particular genre.
This will largely depend on whether or not your AP 12 group is Literature or Language. Our school has AP Literature in the 12th grade and is adding AP Language to the 11th grade year.
If you are teaching AP Lit, the choices are innumerable, and should include a contemporary as well as a classic novel. The teachers here also include short stories or poems to pair with the longer works in order to emphasize a particular theme or literary technique, term, or approach.
Our teachers assign these works for summer reading:
Read two of the following:
The Poisonwood Bible
The Color Purple
A Farewell to Arms
The Life of Pi
The students are expected to keep detailed notes or two-column notes (one column the quotes they think are important; the other column explanations of the quotes, comments on the book, questions they have about technique, etc.) and make at least ten notations for each of the two books they choose to read.
AP Language would be more nonfiction, rhetoric, and documentary type reading/writing. Some of the choices I've seen include, but are not limited to: Seabiscuit; Rocket Boys; In Cold Blood; Flags of Our Fathers; Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything; and 1776.
Amy's suggestion (#6 above) about keeping detailed/two-column notes is really great, I think--for AP summer readers and for readers, in general. These kinds of activities get students actively engaged in their reading; they require that kids think, interact, and respond to what they have read. Keeping a reading journal accomplishes the same objectives.
It is really important, though, that students take their notes or keep their journals as they read and not go back later to construct responses. To encourage students to interact with their reading along the way, sometimes I would ask them to review their reading journals when they had finished and assess how they had changed (personally or intellectually) as they had moved through their books. Frequently, they were surprised by what they discovered about themselves.
We have used How to Read Literature Like a Professor as one part of the summer reading, and then have the students apply the ideas of various chapters to a fictional selection they also read during the summer. We have done different novels, but have a lot of success with Pride and Prejudice, The Awakening, The Kite Runner, Cry the Beloved Country, and Huckleberry Finn. We have found that these novels work well for "novel as a whole" discussions which is something to think about for summer assignments.
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