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AP Language Syllabus


AP English Language and Composition

Sandra Strom

Room 2410 – Paris High School


Conference:  4th Period (11:45 am - 1:10 pm)


Goal:  The goal of Advanced Placement English Language and Composition is to engage students in becoming skilled readers of prose written in a variety of periods, disciplines, and rhetorical contexts, and in becoming skilled writers who compose stylistically mature prose for a variety of purposes.  Ultimately, the course should enable students to write effectively and confidently in their college courses, across the curriculum, and in their professional and personal lives.

The course overview and objectives of this course are taken from the AP English Language and Composition Course and Exam Description published by the College Board.  The choice of texts from the College Board is predominantly nonfiction, due to the emphasis on argumentation and rhetorical analysis. However, due to our district’s requirement that the junior year be a survey of American Literature, we use American fiction and nonfiction as the basis of this course.

This course is designed to comply with the curricular requirements described in the AP English Language Course and Exam Description.


Objectives:  Upon completing this course, students should be able to

∙ analyze and interpret samples of good writing, identifying and explaining an author’s use of rhetorical strategies and techniques;

∙ apply such effective strategies and techniques in their own writing;

∙ create and sustain arguments based on readings, research, and/or personal experience;

∙ demonstrate understanding and mastery of standard written English, as well as stylistic maturity in their own writing;

∙ write for a variety of purposes;

∙ produce expository, analytical, and argumentative compositions that introduce a complex central idea and develop it with appropriate evidence drawn from primary and/or secondary source material, cogent explanations, and clear transitions.


Philosophy:  My philosophy regarding the value of literature and language courses is beautifully summed up in the following quote by Edgar V. Roberts.

            The techniques students acquire in approaching literature as a reading-writing undertaking will help them in every course they will ever take, and in whatever profession they follow.  Students will always read – if not the authors contained here, then other authors, and certainly newspapers, legal documents, magazine articles, technical reports, business proposals, and much more. Although students may never again be required to write about topics like setting, structure, or poetic rhythm, they will certainly find a future need to write.  Indeed, the more effectively students learn to write about literature when taking their literature courses, the better they will be able to write late on – no matter what the topic.  It is undeniable that the power to analyze problems and make convincing written and oral presentations is a major quality of success in all fields.  To acquire the skills of disciplined reading and strong writing is therefore the best possible preparation that students can make for the future, whatever it may hold.


Behavioral Expectations:  This is a college course.  Therefore, students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner commensurate with the best universities’ standards. Personal discipline, daily preparation, and mutual respect enhance the classroom environment and ensure all participants of a positive, enriching learning experience.


Text:  My Perspectives – English Language Arts III - Pearson (Students will have access to an electronic copy and we will also have a class set of texts in my room.)

Supplementary Works:

∙ Crafting Expository Argument – Michael Degen

∙ They Say / I Say – Graff and Birkenstein

∙ Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

∙ The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

∙ The Crucible – Arthur Miller

∙ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead

∙ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain



∙ Notebook with Dividers

∙ Loose-leaf notebook paper

∙ Blue or black pens

∙ Red pen

∙ Post-it notes

∙ Highlighters

∙ Spiral notebook or composition notebook

∙ Note cards (large ones)


Grading Policy:  Standard PHS grading percentages

            Academic year will be divided into 9 week periods

            Daily work, class work, and homework – 25%

            Tests, major projects, and essays – 75%

            Semester average:  each nine week period - 40%

                                            Semester Exams - 20% 


Late Work Policy:

            One day late – 30 points off

            Two days late – 50 points off

            After that – zero


Make-up Work:

            Your responsibility to ask me

            Your responsibility to schedule in a timely fashion

            According to district policy – a day allowed for a day missed

            Ask for work in advance for edays.


*According to district policy, students who are failing are mandated to attend tutorials.  This year tutorials will be virtual.  My students can log into the Google Meet link on the AP Lit and Lang Tutorial Classroom at 7:45 in the morning for tutorial assistance.  I am also usually available after school for tutorials and make-up work (including tests).  Just schedule with me to make sure.


Basic Outline of the Year

Each nine weeks will include SAT prep vocabulary, AP multiple choice practice, reading quizzes, essays, oral work, and major tests.  Students will read and respond to a variety of related works:  short stories, speeches, biographical pieces, essays, editorials, cartoons, poems, novels, plays, memoirs, films, and more.


Laying the groundwork

Close reading, connecting device to meaning;  analytical and argumentative writing; multiple choice passage analysis, SAT vocabulary with pattern sentences, blending evidence and commentary, timed writing, rhetorical terms and devices, reader’s journal, yearlong current events project


∙ Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

∙ Colonial period literature – William Bradford, Ann Bradstreet, Jonathan Edwards

∙ The Crucible – Arthur Miller

∙ Argumentative essay

∙ Journaling

∙ Essay using Aristotle’s three appeals

∙ Current events project


We begin the year with nonfiction analysis based on memoirs from Angela Duckworth and Rick Bragg.  We do a thorough study of the Rhetorical Situation:  audience, writer or speaker, author exigence, purpose, message, and context.  We apply these elements both to the nonfiction pieces and to the summer reading from Fahrenheit 451.  We also apply these concepts to visual media, most notably how advertisers make their arguments.

 Studying this visual media, as well as later studies of political cartoons, prepares the student for the visual piece as evidence in the synthesis essay on the AP Exam.  In the grading process, we discuss, as a class, the six-point rubric for holistically scoring AP essays, which will be the expectation for each of the writing pieces in the course. In this we are guided by the rubrics and explanations in the AP English Language Course and Exam Description from the College Board.  Along with this rubric, I stress the importance of rich and appropriate vocabulary, standard English grammar, logical organization and effective transitions between ideas.  As a narrative technique, we also emphasize their own stylistic and rhetorical voices by comparing them to those of the authors we read in this opening assignment.

We then do a thorough introduction of AP strategies.  We begin with a practice of close reading and chunking text, notating what the author Says and what the author Does, to emphasize how an author or speaker moves through a text.  The students are encouraged to notate literary elements and rhetorical strategies.  They are introduced to the acronyms DIDLS (diction, imagery, detail, language, syntax) and PATTR (purpose, audience, tone, theme, rhetorical choices) as tools for analyzing and writing about literature. They are also introduced to dialectical journaling where they will select a pivotal quote from a piece of literature, such as Fahrenheit 451, and then write about the author’s purpose and significant rhetorical strategies and how these contribute to the development of meaning or to the furtherance of the central argument.  The practice of dialectical journaling will continue throughout the year with the literature that we read.  The student writings about these quotes from the authors we read will allow the students the opportunity for reflection upon the ideas of the literature, as well as the styles the authors chose to communicate those ideas.

Multiple choice passages are assigned from a variety of nonfiction texts and from AP Classroom, such as Margaret Atwood’s “Origins of Stories” and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  Students receive the passage first and annotate it, look up unfamiliar vocabulary, paraphrase each paragraph, note the author’s central assertion and supporting points.  The next day, they use their annotations as they take the multiple choice passage test. Following the test, we will deconstruct the passage and questions notating question stems, location of evidence in the text, and question type.  This introduces them to the arduous task of dissecting AP multiple choice passages.  The yearlong current events project requires them to seek out two editorials each six weeks from a list of current editorial writers, to answer a series of questions about the author’s techniques for presenting argument and opinion, and to analyze the effectiveness of these techniques. Then the students must present their editorials.  One of their editorials in this yearlong assignment must be an editorial cartoon. This allows the class experience with a breadth of issues.

The essay on rhetorical appeal that the students complete this nine weeks is based on Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  Students also write a major essay this six weeks over an issue that they have selected from the Arthur Miller playThe Crucible.  Essays at this point in the year are usually planned in advance by the students but written in class as timed writings.  At the beginning, students are allowed to outline their thesis statements, supporting points, and evidence, and to then submit their outlines to peer editors for suggestions before they write the essays in class.  The essays are graded as rough draft efforts on the six-point AP scale.  Students are later given opportunity in conference with the teacher one-on-one to respond to teacher comments about the papers and to revise their work.

The argument essays students are introduced to writing in this unit will be the culmination of an Argument Clinic designed to teach students the elements of the Classical Argument.  They will read and analyze arguments from several authors prior to the development of their own arguments. They will also become familiar with and learn to craft a defensible claim and a logical line of reasoning. Along with rhetorical analysis, argument is a key element of the Advanced Placement exam.

As a routine part of their vocabulary instruction with vocabulary words in context from the various works that they are studying, students write pattern sentences on each word, imitating the writing styles of various authors and practicing rhetorical patterns such as introductory participial phrases, absolute phrases, subordinate clauses to complicate the verb, personification, metaphor, and simile.  These pattern sentences, drawn from the works of great authors, are adapted by the students to address the particular vocabulary words that they are studying and putting into practice that week. This is only one of the ways in which we focus on style as a major component of writing skill. Students are also urged to develop their own narrative voices as, throughout the year, they examine the divergent voices of such authors as Bradbury, Miller, Hawthorne, Twain, and Douglass.


The philosophical groundwork for a new nation 

 Emphasis on rhetorical analysis, rhetorical devices, rhetorical fallacies, embedding evidence, types of argument, poetic analysis


∙ Franklin, Henry, Paine, Jefferson

∙ The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

∙ The American Romantics – Bryant, Longfellow, Hawthorne, Poe

∙ Artifact presentation

∙ Character studies

∙ Passage studies

∙ Symbol analysis

∙ Attack-defend-qualify essay

∙ Critical research paper with works cited and parenthetical documentation

∙ Current events project


As we study America’s founding philosophers, we also take a hard look at their writing styles and rhetorical choices.  Our in-depth study is of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which we take apart grammatically, as well as rhetorically.  Students work this unit on emphasizing the development of a thesis and selecting and embedding evidence into the analysis or argument.  The supporting text for this effort is Crafting Expository Argument by Michael Degen.  Students also work on sentence combining, coordination and subordination, and other syntactical exercises from this book.

Students begin poetic analysis with Ann Bradstreet’s “Upon the Burning of Our House” and use as an initial framework the TPCASTT method (title – literal, paraphrase, connotations, attitude, shift, theme, title – inferential).  The artifact presentation is a creative assignment where they present an artifact from the early American period along with a written argument for its validity and worthiness to be a part of a perpetual exhibit on American life at the Smithsonian Institution.  The character studies, passage studies, and symbol analysis are analytical pieces that are done in conjunction with the novel The Scarlet Letter, as is the attack, defend, qualify paper. 

The research paper is the first of two that junior AP students write. The research thesis is based on an argumentative claim from The Scarlet Letter.  Students craft a claim, then seek out supporting evidence from credible sources in online databases like Gale and Bloom’s. The stages of research include the following:  review of research and critical commentary, formulation of a thesis and selection of appropriate primary and secondary source material, taking of notes, outlining of the topic, establishing of a logical and arguable claim with evidence both quoted and paraphrased, use of direct and indirect citations, parenthetical documentation, and the creation of a works cited page. The research format is MLA.


The American Transcendentalists and two quintessential American poets 

 Nature, Truth, Beauty, and the development of a personal philosophy


∙ Emerson, Thoreau, and Dillard

∙ Close reading

∙ Nature journal

∙ Scenario writing

∙ Persuasive speech packet

                  Synthesis Essay

∙Current events project


During this period, in addition to ongoing multiple choice passage work, vocabulary work, and current events project work, students focus on the essays of the American transcendentalists:  Emerson’s “Nature,” and “Self-Reliance,” Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” and excerpts from Walden, and Annie Dillard’s “Nightwatch,” from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Students critically read and discuss the pieces, particularly the influences and the seminal ideas each puts forth.  They analyze them for diction and tone.  And in addition, they take them apart syntactically.  This is the precursor to their own nature journal assignment, given over a period of two weeks.  This is a departure for the students from their readers’ journals and dialectical journals and the approach of analyzing and reflecting on the writings of others.  In this assignment the students must write about their own reflections and examine their own stylistic approaches to conveying observations and insights.  Students are assigned to go to the same place on several different days and nights over a two-week period and to observe the movements of creatures, the changes in vegetation, the differences in day and night and to write about their observations.  Then, they are to take these observations about nature and to explore what they learn philosophically about their own lives.  The depth of insight from this assignment is startling.  Many students report that it is the first time that they have ever sat quietly away from the phone or computer and just observed a leaf or the flight of a bird.

Also during this period my students participate in a statewide competition through the Texas State Future Problem Solving Program.  Students write 1500 word scenarios, creative futuristic short stories based on one of the five FPS topics for the year.  The stories must be set 20 or more years in the future and must be in response to a challenge of the present and trends from the present extrapolated into the future.  A solution to the problem in the present, when enacted, creates unanticipated consequences for the characters of the future world. Though this assignment does not fit specifically into the confines of the AP Language and Composition course, I find that it is a productive creative impetus for my students and enhances the creation of their own narrative voices.


The semester ends with their final paper, which is an argumentative essay on the death penalty.  Students research argumentative format with the aid of the book Speak Your Mind by Wayne Stein.  I give them two essays on the death penalty:  “The Penalty of Death” by H. L. Mencken and “The Death Penalty Is a Step Back” by Coretta Scott King.  In addition, they must find one more source and then must write a synthesis essay from the three documents, supporting their thesis from the three sources. This paper reinforces instruction on the synthesis essay, one of the three Free Response Questions on the AP Exam.  We then hold, as a culmination, a formal class debate on this perennially controversial issue. 


The grammar of argumentation 

Words, sentences, phrases – satire and argument – social commentary


∙ Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

∙ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass

∙ Foundation Lesson packets

∙ Documented essay on issue from Huck

∙ Researched position paper with works cited and parenthetical documentation

∙ Current events project


We begin this unit with a Foundation Lesson on sentence patterns and some grammatical work on phrases.  We then listen to the beginning of John Grisham’s true crime thriller, The Innocent Man, and students write a creative piece on our town patterned after Grisham’s description of Ada, Oklahoma.  Students then edit each other’s work with rubrics before turning in the final word-processed copies.  


The principal writing assignment of this period is the researched position paper.  This is a research-based causal argument where students must present an arguable thesis and develop their argument, supporting it with primary and secondary source material. Students must not only present their case, but must also present the alternative causes and effects in opposition to their side of the argument.  Students use the Opposing Viewpoints Database, as well as books and scholarly primary and secondary sources.  The format is MLA. The students also present their issues to the class with their supporting arguments. During this unit we also read and analyze the satire of Mark Twain in his short stories and also in Huckleberry Finn.  The students do a number of things with the book, including close reading of passages, acting out of scenes, character analysis, social commentary, and prejudice simulation exercises, and culminate with a documented essay on an issue raised by the novel.


Following Huck, we read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  This powerful piece of rhetoric leads us into a study of the Civil War period, and the authors and issues of that time. 


The power of words to change lives – the argument of a well-lived life


∙ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

∙ Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech

∙ Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”

∙ Whitman and Dickinson

∙ “Song of Myself” assignment

∙ Tone essay


We continue with our reading and analysis of Douglass, doing dialectical journals on passages of the student’s choice from the book.  Additionally, students analyze Douglass’ rhetorical appeal and the tone of his portrayal of slavery as degrading to both the slave and to the owner.  We continue with a detailed look at the Gettysburg Address and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, analyzing both for diction choices and syntactical structure, especially parallelism.

Students read selections from Whitman’s Civil War poetry and from his Song of Myself. They then write their own “Song of Myself” and present these with visual representations. In groups students read different Emily Dickinson poems, grouped by theme.  They present the different aspects of these poems orally to the class and then are tested on poetic terms and analysis techniques.  They must write an AP essay on a pair of poems.


Most of the last period of the year is spent in final review and preparation for the AP tests.  We watch and take notes on review videos on the various skills in AP Classroom; we practice each FRQ; and we do extensive work and practice on the Multiple Choice component of the test.  In addition, we always take a full practice AP Language and Composition Exam on a Saturday when we can simulate testing conditions.  Then in the following week, we spend four days analyzing and deconstructing the Multiple Choice, Synthesis Essay, Rhetorical Analysis Essay, and Argument Essay. 



Academic Dishonesty Policy

Student violations of academic dishonesty are handled by the faculty member(s) involved. For clarification, see the student handbook.  Should the student object to the decision of the faculty member(s), the appeals process for instructional due process may be utilized. The following list describes the most common forms of academic dishonesty.

1.       Taking an exam for another student

2.       Having another student take an exam for you

3.       Altering or forging an official college document

4.       Paying someone to write a paper to submit as your own work

5.       Arranging with other students to give or receive answers by use of signals                  

        or cell phone texting.

6.       Copying from someone’s exam with or without that person’s knowledge

7.       Allowing another student to copy from you during an exam

8.       Writing a paper for another student

9.       Copying answers from a source without doing the work independently

10.   Getting questions or answers from someone who has already taken the     

        same exam

11.   Copying information without documenting in a paper

12.   Failing to give appropriate credit for paraphrased information

13.   Taking someone else’s original idea without giving appropriate credit

14.   “Padding” items on a bibliography or works cited

15.   Working on homework with other students when the instructor does not 

        allow it


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Classroom Number:
Conference Time:
3rd period - 10:45-11:30 a.m.