Language is one of the most powerful and beautiful tools we have; it is a tool we use every day of our lives. This course focuses on helping students analyze complex elements of language, argument, and composition and employ those same valuable elements in their own writing. Our class is designed for the proactive student who possesses a love of reading and composition. It will focus on analysis and argument through extensive website discussion as well as individual essay-writing. While the primary goal of this course is to prepare your student to successfully take the AP English Language exam, the material is structured to encourage an ongoing love of language, intellectual discovery, and expression. This course is College Board certified; that means that my syllabus and curriculum have been rigorously reviewed and certified by the College Board, completing the full AP Course Audit process.
The rhetorical, argumentative, and interpretive strategies we use in this course can be applied to everyday life and discussion in a myriad of ways – students will learn to consider nonfiction, fiction, media, and even advertisements in a new and dynamic way! Students will also have the opportunity to submit select written projects to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards under my guidance. In addition to scoring well on the AP Exam, over the past 8 years my students have won many Silver Keys and Gold Keys in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
This course is organized by concept, strategy, and theme. Each module requires students to acquire and use rich vocabulary, employ standard English grammar, and to understand the importance of diction and syntax in an author’s style. Therefore, students are expected to develop the following through reading, discussion, and writing assignments:
- A wide-ranging vocabulary used appropriately and effectively.
- A variety of sentence lengths and structures.
- Knowledge of the primary rhetorical modes of discourse (expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative).
- Logical organization.
- An effective use of rhetoric including controlling tone, establishing and maintaining voice, and achieving appropriate diction and sentence structure.
For each reading assignment we discuss:
- Theme, thesis, or message
- Tone or attitude
- Classic Aristotelian appeals: Logos, Ethos, Pathos
- Diction and Style
- Use of rhetorical devices, including figurative language, antithesis, parallelism, juxtaposition, any relevant sound devices, and other relevant strategies including symbolism, satire, allegory, structure, etc.
This course seeks to achieve these goals through a study of both nonfiction and fiction:
- We will explore successful diction, syntax, and basic rhetorical devices by studying authors including but not limited to:
- Mark Twain (“Reading the Mississippi River”) and Henry David Thoreau (“Why I Went to the Woods”)
- We will analyze successful arguments, evaluate their ability to create real-world, important change, and learn how to build one ourselves by studying nonfiction pieces by Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., Patrick Henry, George Orwell, and others.
- We will explore and respond to the immense power of creative nonfiction, personal memoir, and narrative by discussing Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and short fiction by Amy Tan, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, and Harlan Ellison.
- We will examine the subtleties and social importance of irony, satire, and allegory by examining George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Jonathan Swift’s essay “A Modest Proposal.”
- We will discover the value of Aristotelian rhetorical appeals (Logos, Pathos, and Ethos) in classic, modern, and contemporary texts by studying Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and evaluating examples of visual and multimedia persuasion.
- While we prepare for AP Exam concepts and vocabulary throughout the year, we spend our final 8 weeks completing intensive AP Exam preparation.
LIVE Course Meeting Time: LIVE meetings via the ZOOM Meeting Center will occur every week on THURSDAYS AT 3PM EST. These meetings will consist of lecture material AND interactive discussion time with fellow students and myself. All course meetings are optional and will be recorded for your listening convenience. Approximately 70% of my students attend live meetings; the rest listen to lectures asynchronously to fit their schedule. Students who are unable to attend live lectures may also participate in group discussion on the course website forum. Flexibility is the goal of this course!
WEB FORUM DISCUSSION: This is an ongoing element of class; short discussion questions are posted on our website forum and students discuss (with myself and their peers) thoughtful short-form answers to our course readings. This is an excellent preparation for longer writing assignments and represents a more personal/colloquial writing aspect. It also represents an important interactive social element as students broaden their understanding through peer discussion.
CONNECTION TO AP EXAM: Students read excerpts from our reference manual, 5 Steps to a 5 AP English Language (5 Steps to a 5 on the Advanced Placement Examinations Series) by Barbara Murphy. I also provide my own in-depth handouts regarding AP Exam Format and each essay section of the exam. Our primary AP Language Prep “Boot Camp” occurs during part of the spring. The analysis, argumentative, and synthesis essays completed in response to course content are modeled to prepare students for those respective categories on the AP Exam. We focus primarily on UNTIMED ESSAYS in the fall and TIMED ESSAY WORK in the spring semester. The regular quizzes completed in each module are modeled to prepare students for the AP Exam multiple choice section. In addition to regular course curriculum, students complete multiple individual timed essay responses to practice AP prompts from EACH essay category; a variety of short practice AP quizzes; and a minimum of TWO FULL PRACTICE EXAMS.
Homework will be assigned/due weekly on our course website. Students may view the detailed syllabus at any point to see what is coming up next. I will also send out a weekly homework update email to both students AND parents. Students will read regular handouts, posts, and activities on the website.
Hours of study each week: 7-10 hours, depending on the week and the amount of bonus material the student chooses to cover. This includes required reading, extra credit, group discussion, short essays and multiple choice questions.
Weekly assignments may include:
– A weekly 50-minute LIVE MEETING.
– Interactive discussion of course texts and concepts in our website forum.
– Handouts and visual aids/presentations.
– Essays and multiple choice quizzes in preparation for the AP exam in May. These assignments are designed to develop the specific skills your student needs! Written compositions will explore analysis, argumentative, synthesis, and narrative skills.
– Reading assignments ranging from approx. 30-100 pages. Reading assignments may include major course texts AND suggested resources.
– Optional bonus assignments and an in-depth extra credit vocabulary prompt of the week.
– Longer writing assignments, including a mandatory midterm argumentative research paper. Longer assignments are typically completed over multiple weeks with detailed teacher feedback and “check in” points.
Who should enroll?
This course is intended for 10th-12th graders who (in general) have completed at least 1 year of high-school level English. Submitting an application is required.
- High speed, broadband Internet
- Sound card and microphone (for live sessions)
- Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures
Evaluation and Feedback
All homework will be submitted and critiqued via the website; I provide detailed critiques on all essays and respond to course discussion responses personally. My goal is to provide detailed essay critiques within 1 week of the essay’s due date. Students receive all critiques well before the next writing assignment is due so that they may steadily develop and improve their work with each assignment!
Over the course of this year-long class, students will write in a variety of composition categories (analysis, argumentative, narrative, research, etc.) Every essay assignment will include a detailed instructions/prompts page and a brief grading rubric. Rubrics may VARY per assignment. Aspects that may be addressed in a writing assignment critique include but are not limited to:
- Structure and Organization.
- Content: This may include the choice of examples/support, the specificity of analysis, the level of general vs. specific detail, and (if relevant) the strength of the argument.
- Diction, Grammar, and Syntax
An application is required for this course. Once a student has been accepted and is registered, I will contact families within 1-2 business days of registration. I believe very strongly in keeping parents “in the loop” at all times; I send weekly class update emails to parents as well as students. Parents also have the ability to view their child’s progress via an Observer Canvas account.