AP LANGUAGE & Comp NEWBIEHi This is my first year teaching AP language although I've had the training twice. Looking for ideas on how to get the year off to a strong start. All advice is welcome

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scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I did think of one other thing.  Students often come to my class with a negative idea about course content.  The idea of nonfiction sounds boring to them, but usually when we've completed the semester, my students love nonfiction.  Last year I tried a choice nonfiction book project.  I gave my students a list to choose from but told them that they could also bring in their own suggestions for me to look over for approval.  I taught three sections of AP Lang.; so I told each section that no one in the same section could read the same book as someone else.  This fostered some excitement about the project because students felt that they were "competing" for their book choices.  Most of my students had a very positive reaction to the project, and three of my male students began reading other books on the list--on their own!!  Some of the most popular book choices were Freakonomics, Blink (by Malcolm Gladwell), Columbine, In Cold Blood, and Devil in the White City.

I do use fiction in AP Lang. as well because it helps prepare my students for AP Lit. (which they take their senior year at my school), and it enables me to demonstrate how students can use literary support in their writing.  For the past three years, I've taught The Kite Runner, and it's a hit.  Using a wide variety of genres and incorporating Socratic discussions have enabled me to make the class varied and more enjoyable.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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All of these suggestions are very good.  I would strongly suggest speaking with the other teachers who are teaching the AP course in other sections to make sure that all of you are on the same page in terms of content and sequencing.  This really helps out anyone who is new to a particular element.  In the different subjects in which I have taught, my first year was spent asking other colleagues questions such as, "Where are you?" or "What are you doing next week?"  It helped give a structure to me and also helped the students fully understand that each teacher teaching the content was aligned in what was being taught.  Once I got my bearings, I was able to branch out within this context to do things that I felt worked and minimize those that didn't.  The use of colleagues, if present, can be extremely helpful.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Great suggestions here so far.  I would spend some time at the beginning of the year getting them used to writing several times per week, both in homework and in class.  you can start with basic reaction pieces to poems or other literature, and proceed to logical construction of timed essays, thesis statements and argumentation.  If students get in the habit of writing early and often during the school year, they are more likely to practice and develop the craft of composition and analysis.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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I'm going to suggest something different than the others. You're new to this. It's a new school year. Make sure you take some time at the very beginning to establish a strong foundation on which you and your students can build good, strong relationships. The foundation must be there before they will really care about any of the content area materials. "Students need to know how much you care, before they care how much you know."

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I agree with the previous posts.  Give your students as many tools for their academic toolbox as possible...close reading strategies, analysis, rhetoric, and strong writing skills.  Beyond that, read and discuss as many pieces of literary merit as possible since you never know what they will see on the AP exam.  You want them to be confident in their knowledge base, but not intimidated if they come up against a piece of literature they aren't familiar with on the test. 

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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If you can figure out (from talking to your students' previous teachers) what they have already discussed and studied in their honors English classes, that really helps.  For example, a couple of years ago, I asked the teachers of our pre-AP class if they could start teaching and reviewing rhetorical strategies with their students.  Because I teach on a 90-minute 4X4 block schedule, I have limited time with my students for one semester and must know what is completely new to them and what is review.

As the previous poster noted, speeches, brief essays, letters, etc., play a large role in AP Lang., but I use those for review and focus on the dynamics of argument and the synthesis question with my students.

One other suggestion--most of our AP students are great at comprehending passages and identifying devices/strategies, but their analysis needs a great deal of work.  So, from the beginning, model analysis with your students and use the sample essays from APCentral to show them what a 9 essay looks like.

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

I always begin AP Language with a heavy review (or introduction, for some) to rhetorical analysis. With such a focused shift to argumentation in the past few years, students absolutely need a solid foundation in critical reading skills. Short speeches, political pieces, and classical and contemporary examples of effective rhetoric make up the first few weeks on my syllabus. They can usually be read in one class period, or the reading can be assigned for homework with analysis in class the following day. Some texts I've used in the past have included John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and Patrick Henry's speech before the Virginia delegates, just to give you some ideas.

It's essential that you guide students in their analysis of the first few pieces. Show them how to annotate, familiarize them with the vocabulary of analysis (literary devices, syntax, rhetorical modes, etc.), and be sure to always make the connection to author's purpose and the effects on the audience.  Once students grow comfortable with the process of close critical reading, assign other short texts individually or in small groups. Have the students guide the rest of the class through the analysis, encouraging dialogue and questions throughout. Afterward, be sure to review what the students have accurately identified/explained, and point out any other pertinent information.

You can also introduce them to free-response questions, walking through the passages in the same manner as the other texts. Or, you can cover multiple-choice questions that have been used on the test. I would suggest using these as whole-class or group activities at the beginning of the year, until students are comfortable enough to tackle them on their own. There's lots of released material available online, and I'm sure you've gotten plenty at your training. Some of the free-response questions I've used early in the year include the infamous "Cat Bill" essay, the Alfred M. Green speech in 1861, and the 2 passages on the Okefenokee swamp. But again, there's so much material available, you should be able to match the texts to your students' needs.

I hope this helps. Good luck, and enjoy your year!

writeteacher1's profile pic

writeteacher1 | Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I'm going to suggest something different than the others. You're new to this. It's a new school year. Make sure you take some time at the very beginning to establish a strong foundation on which you and your students can build good, strong relationships. The foundation must be there before they will really care about any of the content area materials. "Students need to know how much you care, before they care how much you know."

Thanks for reminding me of this.  You are absolutely right. Nothing I do will matter if they don't think I care.

 

 

writeteacher1's profile pic

writeteacher1 | Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I always begin AP Language with a heavy review (or introduction, for some) to rhetorical analysis. With such a focused shift to argumentation in the past few years, students absolutely need a solid foundation in critical reading skills. Short speeches, political pieces, and classical and contemporary examples of effective rhetoric make up the first few weeks on my syllabus. They can usually be read in one class period, or the reading can be assigned for homework with analysis in class the following day. Some texts I've used in the past have included John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and Patrick Henry's speech before the Virginia delegates, just to give you some ideas.

It's essential that you guide students in their analysis of the first few pieces. Show them how to annotate, familiarize them with the vocabulary of analysis (literary devices, syntax, rhetorical modes, etc.), and be sure to always make the connection to author's purpose and the effects on the audience.  Once students grow comfortable with the process of close critical reading, assign other short texts individually or in small groups. Have the students guide the rest of the class through the analysis, encouraging dialogue and questions throughout. Afterward, be sure to review what the students have accurately identified/explained, and point out any other pertinent information.

You can also introduce them to free-response questions, walking through the passages in the same manner as the other texts. Or, you can cover multiple-choice questions that have been used on the test. I would suggest using these as whole-class or group activities at the beginning of the year, until students are comfortable enough to tackle them on their own. There's lots of released material available online, and I'm sure you've gotten plenty at your training. Some of the free-response questions I've used early in the year include the infamous "Cat Bill" essay, the Alfred M. Green speech in 1861, and the 2 passages on the Okefenokee swamp. But again, there's so much material available, you should be able to match the texts to your students' needs.

I hope this helps. Good luck, and enjoy your year!

thanks, especially for emphasizing the analysis piece. I will also look up the pieces you suggested. any ideas on other activities are welcome too.

writeteacher1's profile pic

writeteacher1 | Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

If you can figure out (from talking to your students' previous teachers) what they have already discussed and studied in their honors English classes, that really helps.  For example, a couple of years ago, I asked the teachers of our pre-AP class if they could start teaching and reviewing rhetorical strategies with their students.  Because I teach on a 90-minute 4X4 block schedule, I have limited time with my students for one semester and must know what is completely new to them and what is review.

As the previous poster noted, speeches, brief essays, letters, etc., play a large role in AP Lang., but I use those for review and focus on the dynamics of argument and the synthesis question with my students.

One other suggestion--most of our AP students are great at comprehending passages and identifying devices/strategies, but their analysis needs a great deal of work.  So, from the beginning, model analysis with your students and use the sample essays from APCentral to show them what a 9 essay looks like.

Great. This is a really big help. I think I have so much information I'm trying to decide where to start. I'll take any other ideas, especially ones that are engaging. I want to hook them quickly.

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