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AP Language Syllabus


AP English Language and Composition

Sandra Strom

Room 2410 – Paris High School


Conference:  4th Period (11:25-12:50)


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.


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.


Texts:   My Perspectives – English Language Arts III – Pearson

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 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

·        Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller



·        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

            In advance for edays


*According to district policy, students who are failing are mandated to attend tutorials.  Tutorials this year will be virtual.  I will conduct tutorials through a live Google Meet link in my Virtual Totorial Classroom at 7:45 each morning.  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;  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

·        Personal narrative

·        Journaling

·        Essay using Aristotle’s three appeals

·        Current events project


The course begins with two personal narrative writing assignments that are a follow-up to the students’ summer reading assignment, Fahrenheit 451.  After discussing the ways that the society of Bradbury’s novel “portrayed itself” and the evidence for that portrayal in the novel, the students read an editorial by Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World Report, entitled “What Sets Us Apart.”   They then draft an essay on what sets us apart as a school or what sets them apart as individuals.  Their peer editing process of each other’s rough drafts includes content and process-specific syntactic analysis guided by a rubric and by a chart of editing symbols that is intended to be a model for all future writing in the course.  After their second draft of this essay and one-on-one teacher conferences, the students then go to the lab to word process the final draft.  The second narrative assignment follows the same process as the first.  It is an essay inspired by an old photograph of the student.  Though narrative in nature, it is also intended to provide the spingboard for discussion on the comparison of societies where memories, both visual and written, are valued and treasured and those where they are not.  Fahrenheit 451, clips from the movie Schindler’s List, and information from the Holocaust Remembrance Project are used in this lesson.  Students then compare their writings to those of Bradbury, Thomas Keneally, Anne Frank, and Elie Wiesel.  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 nine-point rubric for holistically scoring AP essays, which will be the expectation for each of the writing pieces in the course.  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 with Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” where 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, 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.  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 play The 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 nine 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.


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, Hemingway, Hawthorne, and Twain.


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.  It is the traditional American author paper, but I require that they write a critical paper on the author’s work.  They research critical commentary on an aspect of an author’s work and then must pose an arguable thesis wherein they attack, defend, or qualify an aspect of the author’s work which they then support with their research.  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.


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.  In addition, this six weeks, students practice descriptive and narrative assignments that are so critical to success on the State of Texas TAKS assessment test.


The principle 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.


Allusions in literature (mythological, Biblical, Shakespearean); AP Review (Terms / Timed readings and writings), Dream Project

·        The Bible

·        Mythology (selected sections) -  Edith Hamilton

·        The Iliad (selected sections) – Homer

·        Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller

·        Allusion one-pager

·        AP Prompt essays

·        Dream Project


Most of the last period is spent in final review and preparation for the AP tests.  We do work on Biblical and mythological allusions because many of my students take both English AP tests at the end of their junior year.  We start the unit by working on their analytical voice and reviewing the process of selecting appropriate evidence and embedding it seamlessly.  The tone essay they write for this is on the Ralph Ellison piece “February.”  They then read an analytical essay from a much earlier time, Dryden’s “Essay on Dramatic Poesy” and compare the voices of the different periods.


Students read and analyze sections of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.  We pair this with several pieces on the American Dream and its place in modern life, in addition to the profound symbolism of the piece.  Students do a project on their version of the American Dream and their dreams for their life.


We wrapped up our review this year with additional practice on the synthesis essay, a study of political cartoons as visual evidence, and multiple choice passages with questions about footnotes and documentation, fairly recent additions to the Language and Comp test.



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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3rd period - 10:45-11:30 a.m.