AP English Language & Composition Syllabus

AP English Language & Composition
James W. Cook
Gloucester (MA) High School
Gloucester, MA

Course Overview

AP English Language and Composition at Gloucester (MA) High School is an introductory college-level course in which students study rhetorical analysis, argument, and synthesis through composition activities (prewriting, writing, self-assessment, peer-assessment, and revising) and close reading of demanding texts with an emphasis on nonfiction.

Through active, analytical reading students identify and explain rhetorical strategies and techniques used by authors in a variety of language-based and visual texts (memoirs, essays, speeches, plays, novels, letters, comics, photographs, etc.). Students also employ those strategies and techniques in their own expository, analytical, and argumentative compositions for a wide variety of purposes and audiences. Furthermore, students extend these rhetorical strategies and techniques into researched argument papers in which they evaluate and synthesize several reference texts to develop and support a sophisticated central assertion with appropriate citation of primary and secondary sources.

To achieve these goals students will progress through a series of units in which they learn rhetorical strategies and techniques and apply their understanding of these techniques to a diverse range of texts from graphic memoir to documentary film, from twenty-first century letters-to-the-editor to late sixteenth century essays, from English drama of the renaissance to book-length researched argument about their own city, Gloucester Massachusetts. The reading and analysis of texts will lead to the production of each student’s own writing, including timed one-draft writing of the sort required on the AP exam and processed writing, requiring pre-writing activities, drafts, self-assessment, peer-assessment, written and oral feedback from the teacher, and extensive rewriting.

The objectives and approaches presented in this course overview were written in close consultation with the latest AP English Language and Composition Course Description, other AP Central materials, and AP English Language and Composition: Workshop Handbook, 2009-2010.

Semester One
Introduction to close reading & rhetorical analysis; introduction to integrated units; further studies in audience, occasion, purpose, and technique; application of rhetorical strategies to one’s own arguments; introduction to the synthesis essay

Unit 1: Book-length argument (and an introduction to rhetorical analysis)
Understanding purpose and technique in book-length narrative arguments
                                                                        summer and two weeks
Essential Questions
How can a reader analyze a text in order to determine its purpose?
How can a reader analyze a text in order to understand how a writer’s choices (strategies and techniques) contribute to a purpose?
One rhetorical strategy is to employ several different stories to illustrate a point. How do authors use a series of stories to construct an argument? How does research contribute to this strategy?

Key Texts
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan (non-fiction)
Century of the Wind, Eduardo Galeano (history—anecdotes, facetiae,
satire, etc.)

Summer reading creates a common ground upon which we will build an understanding of close reading and rhetorical analysis. During the summer before the course begins students explore the relationship between purpose and technique in Michael Pollan The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a work of nonfiction that constructs its argument using anecdote, observation and research, and Eduardo Galeano’s Century of the Wind, a pointed history of the Americas in the twentieth century told through extensively researched poetic vignettes. What arguments are Pollan and Galeano making? How do the language choices each makes contribute to their arguments? These two books anticipate one of the course’s ultimate goals: the synthesis of many sources into a single argument.

Learning Activities
As students read over the summer they keep a quotation response journal, in which they record passages on the left side of a page and on the right side explore how the passage contributes to the argument the book makes.

Students also attend four summer sessions during which they are introduced to rhetorical techniques and strategies. Students also explore the readings through small group and large group class discussions.

During the first week of the regular school year, the students’ summertime introduction to rhetorical techniques and strategies is deepened with further exploration of Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle in relation to audience, context, and purpose. Exploration of organization, syntax, diction, figurative language, and imagery begins to flesh out the students’ understanding of rhetorical strategies and techniques, particularly in relation to the summer reading.

Analytical comparison essay. Students write a “shuttle” comparison essay analyzing the relationship between purpose and technique in two passages. (In a “shuttle” comparison essay the writer goes back and forth between the texts—or other content—being considered in order to support and develop a central assertion about the texts.)

Students select two passages, one from Omnivore’s and the other from Century of the Wind. Students select the passages using two criteria: each passage must contribute to the central argument of the work from which it is taken, and each passage must offer possibilities for meaningful comparison with the other.

Students then write an essay in which they compare and contrast how the passages help develop each writer’s view of human cruelty, injustice, folly, and frailty.

During the process of writing this essay students produce drafts, reflect on the drafts, and receive peer and teacher feedback. They also examine essays written in response to question three from the 2003 AP English Language and Composition exam which asked students to compare and contrast passages written by John James Audubon and Annie Dillard. In the end students turn in a final draft, earlier drafts with feedback, and a final reflection on the process.

Students create a rhetorical analysis web.
Choose one of the three summer reading books to write about.

The Web, part one: the center
Make a web. At the center of the web write a robust paragraph (100 words to 300 words or so), explaining in your own words, your understanding of the rhetorical purpose of the book summer reading book you've chosen and how the choices the writer has made (the language, the selection of detail, the structure) contribute to the purpose. (Some teachers of rhetoric break purpose down into three parts: to persuade, to inform, to entertain. And the last two --information and entertainment--are often used to support the first--persuasion.)

This "introductory" paragraph will explain your "big idea," your "bold, insightful assertion" about the writer's purpose and how his choices contribute to that purpose. Spend some time developing this. The GHS schoolwide rubric says that in order for introductory paragraphs to be considered proficient they must present ideas that are clear, supportable, debatable, and insightful; the advanced introductions will also be sophisticated and/or original. (Warning: Do not turn to the internet looking for an answer. Rely on your own interpretive skills, your own heart and mind.)

The Web, part two: the threads
Then you will connect the central paragraph to interpretations of how at least four passages in the book support your "big idea," your "bold assertion," your "central insight". The passages you choose must adequately represent the whole of the book's rhetoric purpose (its argument) and several of the writer's rhetorical choices. (Let me make it clear that four is a minimum and to create a thoroughly convincing web you might need to refer to more passages.)

These "interpretations" need to show three things: an understanding of the passage's meaning, an understanding of how the writer makes particular choices meant to achieve a purpose, and an understanding of how the passage contributes to the book's overall rhetorical purpose. How you show your understanding of the passage, its rhetorical features, and your understanding of its connection with the overall purpose of the book is up to you.

To show your understanding of a passage what will you do? Will you write a paragraph (in the manner of a standard essay) explaining how the passage supports the central paragraph? Will you quote the passage in one font and offer an explication (an unfolding of meaning) in relation to your big idea by using another font? Will you create a picture that shows an understanding of the passage (and its relationship with the central paragraph)? Will this picture show symbolic understanding as well as literal understanding of the passage?

To show the connections what will you do? Will you draw lines? Will each connecting line include a sentence linking the passage with the big idea? Will you use a "footnote" or "endnote" system in which you put numbers in your central paragraph that will lead to numbers which offer explanations of how passages support the central paragraph? Will you create Powerpoint slides to show connections?

And, finally, will you go beyond? Will you show not only how the big idea is connected with passages but also how the passages are connected with each other? What else might you do to show the relationship between the parts of the book and your understanding of the whole?

The Web, part three: teaching your peersYou will be creating a physical object -- a web -- and you will be called upon to explain the web at some point during the first several days of the school year.

Advanced webs will offer an insightful, sophisticated, perhaps original understanding of the author's overall purpose and the book's central argument. This understanding will be supported by persuasive, nuanced development of how at least four passages drawn from key moments throughout the book contribute to the author's purpose. Advanced webs may go "beyond" the parameters of the assignment in some significant, meaningful ways.
Proficient webs will offer a clear, thoughtful, plausible, understanding of the author's overall purpose and the book's central argument. This understanding will be linked to an adequate understanding and interpretation of how at least four passages from the beginning, middle, and end of the book contribute to the whole. The webs are generally considered to have succeeded in fulfilling the assignment but not to have exceeded expectations for a student entering an introductory college-level course at a competitive college or university.

Webs that need improvement may not offer a clear or plausible understanding of the author's overall purpose. (Often the paragraph at the center of webs that receive this score demonstrate significantly partial understanding of purpose.)  These webs refer to at least four passages but may not adequately show an understanding of the passage or of how the passage contributes to the work as a whole. The passages may not be drawn from the beginning, middle, and end of the book. In general these webs do not meet the expectations for a student entering an introductory college-level course at a competitive college or university.

Webs that receive warning status may include the weaknesses cited above but also fail to adhere to the basic parameters of the assignment. They may show little to no understanding of the book or of the passages.

Any web that includes language or material taken directly from another source will receive a zero.

Students write a rhetorical analysis essay, applying rhetorical analysis approaches and vocabulary to a previously unexamined piece of rhetoric.

Unit 2: Memoir & personal essay as argument
Applying rhetorical analysis to memoir and personal essay
                                                                        three weeks
Essential Question
How do writers use personal stories to make an argument?

Key Texts
All Souls, Michael Patrick MacDonald (a memoir)
Fun Home: Old Father, Old Artificer, Alison Bechdel (a graphic
The Art of the Personal Essay, Philip Lopate, editor (an expository
Selections from Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction
including “Somebody Else’s Genocide” by Sherman Alexie, “The Potato Harvest” by April Monroe, and “Vitamin M” by Jehanne Dubrow (personal essays)
“Stories from My Mother” by Amy Carpenter (a student’s personal
essay in response to “The Potato Harvest”)
“On Seeing England for the First Time” by Jamaica Kincaid (personal

For a deepening engagement with rhetorical strategies students analyze how authors present memories of personal experiences and personal observations in ways that make an implicit or explicit argument. In this unit students ask questions like “What purpose does a story about a personal memory serve? How is the memory presented in a way that serves that purpose?” To this end students examine diction, syntax, tone, pacing, figurative language, imagery, characterization, sequencing of stories, etc. Students show their understanding in analyses and personal narrative essays of their own.

Learning Activities
As students read the memoir they keep a quotation response journal in which they record and analyze passages that show the author’s rhetorical strategies.

Before writing personal essays of their own students annotate and analyze a variety of personal essays, applying Philip Lopate’s observations about the genre of personal essays and an understanding of a range of rhetorical strategies.

Before writing an analysis essay students work alone, in small groups, and as a class to evaluate analysis prompts, scoring guidelines, and sample essays from previous AP English Language exams. Teacher feedback guides the process.
Personal essay. Students work with their teacher to create a prompt in response to one of the personal essays studied in this unit. (“Stories from My Mother” serves as a model essay in this regard.) Students then write a personal essay of no more than 750 words in response to the prompt. Students include the prompt and explain how the prompt was derived in an informal reflection that will accompany the essay. Use “Old Father, Old Artificer” as a model for a personal essay. Write about a significant relationship using memories to illustrate that relationship. Narrate the memories and reflect upon them. Weave the narration and reflection together. Consider narrative tone and style, consider imagery (both metaphorical and literal), consider sequence and pacing. Use these elements to achieve a desired effect and to serve a desired purpose. In this reflection each student also metacognitavely discusses the rhetorical techniques she employed in her essay. These essays undergo drafts and receive self-assessment, peer-assessment, and teacher-assessment along the way.

Analysis essay. Students read and annotate “On Seeing England for the First Time” before writing their first in-class timed analysis essay in response to question 2 from the 1999 AP English Language and Composition exam.

Unit 3: Shakespeare’s drama and Montaigne’s essays as argument
Applying rhetorical analysis to personal essay and drama, particularly soliloquies
three weeks for Hamlet and Montaigne
                                                            one week for the argument essay
Essential Questions
What does Hamlet suggest about (in)justice, (un)certainty, and (in)action? How?
How do Montaigne’s essays make an argument? How do they relate to Hamlet and Hamlet?

Key Texts
Hamlet, William Shakespeare (play)
Hamlet, 1948, directed by Laurence Olivier (film)
Hamlet, 1990, directed by Franco Zeffirelli (film)
Hamlet, 1996, directed by Kenneth Branagh (film)
Hamlet, 2000, directed by Michael Almereyda (film)
Selections from essays including “That to Learn to Study Philosophy is
to Learn to Die” and “Of Husbanding the Will”, Michel de Montaigne
Excerpt from A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, James

In this unit students engage one of the pivotal texts of English language literature using an approach that augments traditional literary analysis with rhetorical analysis. Students walk the landscape of the Elizabethan text, considering the relationship between the features of the text, its purpose, its audience, and its context. Furthermore, students consider the purpose, audience, and context of the speeches made within the text. (Question two from the 2002 AP English Language and Composition exam (Form B) takes the same approach.) Reading Shakespeare’s play, especially its soliloquies, next to Montaigne’s essays will help students see how soliloquies in Hamlet and the personal essays studied in the previous unit function similarly. As James Shapiro writes in A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, 1599, Hamlet shows Shakespeare “exploring how essays – with their assertions, contradictions, reversals, and abrupt shifts in subject matter and even confidence – captured a mind at work (‘It is myself, I portray,’ Montaigne had famously declared).” This unit extends the previous unit’s exploration of the personal essay and introduces aspects of argument.  

Learning Activities
In this unit students annotate and analyze two essays by Montaigne, Hamlet’s soliloquies, as well as several other passages of rhetorical interest in Hamlet: his speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (2.2), the “Mouse Trap” dialogue (3.2), his explanation of why he doesn’t kill Claudius (3.3), his attempt to convince his mother not to sleep with Claudius (3.4), his mocking of Claudius (4.3), his apology to Laertes (5.2).

Students watch and take double-entry active viewer notes on several versions of two key scenes in Hamlet. Students then write (and receive teacher feedback on) one-page analyses of how choices made by different actors and directors in two key scenes in the play serve different purposes.

After each act students engage in student-led and teacher led-discussions and they write comments on the class blog concerning the central question: What does Hamlet suggest about the fundamental relationship between (in)justice, (un)certainty, and (in)action?

Students are introduced to Toulmin Argument – claim, grounds, warrants, backing, rebuttals, qualifiers – and read Renee Shea’s article at AP Central entitled “Shaping Argument Lessons from 2003 Exam Samples”. Students then apply ideas about argument to an excerpt from Hamlet, an essay by Montaigne, sample student essays, and an essay about Hamlet. Finally, students try their own hand at argument in a timed essay that is assessed by the teacher and then revised.

Argument essay.
Timed Essay (40 minutes)
“A man who waits to believe in action before acting is anything you like, but he is not a man of action. It is as if a tennis player before returning the ball stopped to think about his views of the physical and mental advantages of tennis. You must act as you breathe.”
Georges Clemenceau

Write a thoughtful, carefully constructed essay in which you use specific evidence from Hamlet to defend, refute, or qualify Clemenceau’s position. (Consider the relevant approaches suggested by Shea: “Yes/No + examples,” “Redefinition [challenging some aspect of the prompt],” “Yes…But…,” “narration”.)

Note: A version of this prompt is a common assessment for juniors at Gloucester High School. The prompt has been adapted from a prompt created by Helen Mathur.

Unit 4: Philosophical novel as argument
Applying rhetorical analysis to a philosophical novel and crafting one’s own argument using rhetorical strategies
                                                                        three weeks for Grendel
                                                                        one week for synthesis essay
Essential Questions
Does existence have inherent meaning or not? Can meaning be constructed in good faith or is all constructed meaning false? Are some ways of asserting the meaning of existence better than others?
What strategies and techniques might an author use to make a philosophical argument? What strategies and techniques might the characters within a philosophical novel use to construct arguments with each other?

Key Texts
Grendel, John Gardner
“A Letter: ‘Dear Susie West and Students’” by John Gardner
Excerpts of nonfiction writing, Cornell West, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus,
Frederick Nietzsche, and Alfred North Whitehead to
contextualize the novel’s argument
“Day job officially becomes job,” Onion 18Feb04 (satire)
“Mainstream Commercial Nihilism” Calvin and Hobbes by Bill
Watterson (comic)

The philosophical novel Grendel is a book-length argument against existential nihilism. Students analyze the features of Gardner’s argument with special attention given to the difference between arguments made in novels and in other forms of rhetoric. Students also evaluate the effectiveness of the novel’s argument. At the end of the unit students are introduced to the process of synthesizing an understanding of several texts into an argument of their own.

Learning Activities
Students take active reader notes, annotate passages and complete “says/does” analyses to show an understanding of the arguments made by characters within the novel; how those arguments are constructed; and how the author undermines certain philosophical positions, makes other positions more attractive, and ultimately suggests his own position. (A “says/does” analysis asks students to explain what a text “says” and what a text “does.” What is its paraphrasable content? How does it deliver that content with literary and rhetorical strategies?)

Students use Toulmin Argument to analyze the dragon’s speech to Grendel in chapter five.

Students write responses comparing and contrasting how the supplemental readings – essays, satire, comic – present arguments on meaning-making and nihilism.

Synthesis essay. Students use at least three of the texts studied in the unit to respond to a question John Gardner poses in a 1976 letter to an AP Literature class in Vermont, “if there isn't a reachable god, and if life has no inherent meaning how should one live?” (Gardner restates the question a bit differently later in the letter, “if the world really is meaningless (as it now stands) how should I live?”) This will be a processed paper, which means it will undergo drafts and be the subject of self-assessment, peer-assessment, and teacher-assessment before a final revision. Much of Gardner’s letter itself will serve as a model for integrating sources into an argument. Students will be expected to use MLA format to site the texts used in the essay.

Unit 5: Advertising (and advertising parodies) as argument
                                                                        three  weeks
Essential Questions
How do advertisements (and, more broadly, marketing campaigns) employ rhetorical strategies? How do advertisements link products with identities and lifestyles? Do you identify with certain products and brands? Is consumption a social good (promoting economic growth) or a social vice (promoting environmental harm and economic disparity)? What is cool? How do advertisers use it?

Key Texts
The Ad and the Ego (documentary film)
Readings on psychographic marketing strategies including “There are
Seven Types of People in the World,” Young & Rubicam and “The VALS Types,” Strategic Business Insights
“I shop therefore I am,” Barbara Kruger (visual art)
“The Coolhunt,” Malcolm Gladwell” (feature)
“The Conquest of Cool,” Thomas Frank (essay)
“How to Create Your Own Print Ad” and “Think Globally before You
Decide It’s So Cool,” AdBusters (parody advertisement)

In term two students respond to texts that address a common topic but have different aims and use a variety of strategies. In this integrated unit students will explore texts whose common subject-matter is the relationship between commercial products and personal identities.

Learning Activities
Students respond to The Ad and the Ego by taking double entry notes. On the left hand they write down observations about the film. What points does it make? How does it make those points? On the right they respond by supporting, refuting, or qualifying statements in the documentary and by analyzing the documentary’s rhetorical strategies.

Students read and annotate guides produced by marketing companies. They then apply their understanding of advertising strategies to an analysis of a particular advertising campaign. Students also analyze the rhetorical strategies of advertising parodies and create parodies themselves.

Finally, students analyze the arguments made by Gladwell and Frank about the use of “cool” in marketing and advertising.

Analysis essay. Satirical advertisement. Argument essay.
Students write an analysis and evaluation of an advertising campaign (with pre-writing, drafts, teacher feedback, and rewriting), create a satirical advertisement, and write a timed in-class argument essay on the relationship between “cool” and consumerism.

Unit 6: Midyear Exam Preparation
                                                                        two weeks
The midyear exam preparation and the exam itself will provide students with an opportunity to assess their progress in relation to the AP English Language and Composition Exam.

Learning Activities
Students practice rhetorical analysis on released AP English Language and Composition multiple choice questions. Students explain correct answers to each other. Students examine essay questions, sample responses, rubrics, and the commentaries of evaluators with teacher guidance.

Students take a 90-minute exam which includes passage analysis questions and an AP free-response question requiring students to construct an argument.

Semester 2
Putting it all together: analysis, argument, and synthesis; Intensification of AP exam preparation; Gloucester arts and culture project

Unit 7: Dystopian novel, essay writing, letter writing, comic as argument
                                                                        four weeks

Essential Questions
How do dystopian novels use rhetorical strategies to make arguments about the present and future of societies? Based on the present and the past what is your vision of the prospect for individuality, freedom, the pursuit of truth, and the realization of human potential in the future?

Key Texts
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (dystopian novel)
1984 by George Orwell (dystopian novel)
Aldous Huxley’s letter to George Orwell, October 21, 1949
Excerpts from Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
“Amusing ourselves to death” by Stuart McMillen (graphic essay)
“Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell (essay)

Students continue respond to texts that address a common topic but have different aims and use a variety of strategies. Students continue to practice rhetorical analysis, analytical essay writing, and the construction of arguments of their own.

Learning Activities
Students use passage analysis strategies, including say/do and annotation activities, to identify the relationship between the techniques used in passages and each novel’s central argument.

Students use information about each novel’s historical context and about contemporary American culture to explore the relevance of each novel’s argument to the twentieth century, the twenty-first century and beyond. This exploration takes the form of student-led, teacher-guided discussions and responses in comment boxes on the teacher-moderated class blog.

Students analyze the arguments made by Orwell’s essay, Huxley’s letter, and McMillen’s images and text.

Analysis essay. In a well-developed timed, in-class essay students will analyze how Aldous Huxley uses a variety of rhetorical techniques to critique the World State’s form of utilitarianism.

Argument letter. In a well-developed essay addressed to Aldous Huxley students will support, refute, or qualify the claims about the future made in Huxley’s letter to Orwell. Students use experiences, observations, and reading to defend their positions. This is an extended essay, which undergoes revision based on self-assessment, peer-assessment, and teacher feedback. Students also reflect on their use of supporting details and the effectiveness of their arguments.

Unit 8: Integrated Unit: Arguments about beauty and the body
                                                                        two weeks
Essential Questions
What is beauty? How do images and texts convey ideals of physical beauty and appearance of the body? How is gender significant in arguments about beauty and the body? How do rhetors use strategies to make arguments about beauty and the human body?

Key Texts
Analysis, Argument, and Synthesis and Writing the Synthesis Essay, John Brassil,
Sandra Coker, and Carl Glover (including the written texts “What is Beauty and How Do We Know It?” by Nancy Etcoff, “What is Beautiful?” by Alex Kuczynski, “The Democratization of Beauty” by Christine Rosen, and “The Truth About Beauty” by Virginia Postrel and the visual texts “Marily Monroe, New York, 1954” by Matthew Zimmerman, “Swahili Woman” by C.E. Gomes, and “We’re luck, aren’t we, Isabella?” by Buddy Hickerson)
“Selling Out: Consumer Culture and Commodification of the Male
Body,” Eric Tyrone (essay)
“Beauty,” Susan Sontag (essay)
Dove ads, Ogilvy & Mather (video commercials)

In this unit students apply and deepen their facility with and understanding of strategies introduced in previous units. To practice analysis, argument, and synthesis, students work with a range of texts on a given theme. Students apply some of the understandings gained in unit five (advertising) to their study of beauty and the body.

Learning Activities
Through annotation, guiding questions, and says/does analysis, students develop an understanding of the arguments and techniques used in several texts, including essays, articles, and photographs, in preparation for the synthesis essay.

Synthesis fiction. Applying techniques studied while reading Grendel, each student writes a scene involving three of the rhetors in the unit. The scene should demonstrate the student’s understanding of the voices and arguments of the chosen texts, as well as your own voice and argument. This last element may be accomplished overtly – the explicit inclusion of the student’s own views – or, better yet, indirectly through tone, subtle characterization, and selection of detail. (The assignment is adapted from Analysis, Argument, and Synthesis.)

Unit 9: Integrated Unit: Arguments about war
                                                                        three weeks
Essential Questions
Can war lead to peace? What (if anything) defines a just war, a moral war, a civilized war? What are the moral implications of watching war from a distance, of reporting on a war, of participating in a war? What techniques and strategies do rhetors use to construct arguments about war?

Key Texts
Writing the Synthesis Essay, John Brassil, Sandra Coker, and Carl
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (novel)
“On War” by James Boswell (essay)
“The War Prayer,” Mark Twain (satire)
“When I Was Invited to Speak at West Point,” Marjane Satrapi
(graphic narrative)
 “Watching Suffering from a Distance,” Susan Sontag (persuasive
“My Lai villagers before and after being shot,” Ronald L. Haeberle
“My Lai, March 16-18, 1968,” Thomas R. Partsch (journal)
“My Lai Court-Martial Transcript, 1970,” William L. Calley (transcript)

In this unit students apply and deepen their facility with and understanding of strategies introduced in previous units. To practice analysis, argument, and synthesis, students work with a range of texts on a given theme. In this unit the theme is war.

Learning Activities
Students complete a quotation response journal and participate in a graded discussion in response to The Things They Carried.

Students record double-entry notes while visiting Gloucester’s memorials for those who fought in the Spanish-American War, Vietnam War, World War I, World War II. Students then write a one-night personal essay using their observations of the memorials.

Students complete rhetorical analyses of Boswell’s essay “On War,” Twain’s satire “The War Prayer” and Satrapi’s graphic narrative “When I Was Invited to Speak at West Point”.

To prepare for the unit’s assessments students annotate the My Lai readings and examine the synthesis essay on previous AP exams, including the prompt, the clustered texts, the rubric, student essays, and the grading commentaries on those essays.

After receiving teacher-feedback on the formative assessments and engaging in teacher-guided reflection and discussion of the work students will be prepared to write a synthesis essay.

Synthesis essay. In a well-developed timed, in-class essay incorporating at least three of the five sources provided students respond to a prompt from Writing the Synthesis Essay: “is war part of an effort toward its eventual eradication or is it an inevitable element of human existence?” (Because of the need for reading and writing time, this assessment must take place during a “long block”.)

Synthesis essay. Working in small groups students create a synthesis essay prompt using five My Lai texts, including at least one found on their own. The creation of this prompt and the composition of the subsequent essay entail significant process work, formative assessment, and metacognitive reflection. Students use MLA format in the essay.

Unit 10: Integrated Unit: Arguments about work
                                                                        two weeks
Essential Questions
How do a variety of texts present arguments on the relationship between work and identity, work and family, work and society, work and justice?

Key Texts
Excerpts from Working and The Great Divide, Studs Terkel (oral
Excerpts from Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (researched
Excerpts from When Gloucester Was Gloucester, Peter Parsons and
Peter Anastas (oral histories)
Earth Angels, Nancy Buirski (photographs)
Modern Times, directed by Charlie Chaplin (film)
“My Daily Dives in the Dumpster,” Lars Eighner
“The Right Stuff,” Tom Wolfe

Students continue to deepen their rhetorical skills and understanding through an investigation of labor. To practice analysis, argument, and synthesis, students work with a range of texts, including a film and oral histories.

Learning Activities
Students complete rhetorical analyses of a film, photographs, oral histories, essays, and narratives. To prepare for the unit’s assessments students examine the argument essay and synthesis essay on previous AP exams, including the prompt, the clustered texts, the rubric, student essays, and the grading commentaries on those essays.

Argument essay. In a well-developed timed, in-class essay students respond to a quotation by Victorian English writer Reverend Charles Kingsley, “Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.” Students support, refute, or qualify Kingsley’s position with examples from their reading, observations, or reading.

Synthesis essay. Students create and respond to a synthesis essay prompt using the texts provided and ones they discover on their own. The creation of this prompt and the composition of the subsequent essay are the subjects of significant process work, formative assessment, and metacognitive reflection. MLA format is used in the researched argument.

Unit 11: Final Preparations for the AP Exam
                                                                        two weeks
Essential Questions
How do a variety of texts use rhetorical strategies effectively? How can I use rhetorical strategies to compose a persuasive argument? How can I synthesize a variety of sources into a coherent, sophisticated, convincing composition? How can I apply my understanding of rhetoric and the features of a variety of texts to effectively answer questions about a particular text?

Key Texts
Material from released AP English Language and Composition exams

A few weeks into term four students take the AP English Language and Composition exam. In this unit students apply their growing rhetorical awareness and abilities to the particular tasks of the exam.

Learning Activities
Students work alone and in groups on released AP English Language and Composition exam questions. Students explain correct answers to each other. Students examine essay questions, sample responses, rubrics, and the commentaries of evaluators.

AP English Language and Composition exam

Unit 12: Integrated Unit: Arguments about Gloucester
                                                                        five weeks
Essential Questions
How do a variety of texts present arguments about Gloucester’s identity? How do texts use depictions of Gloucester to advance other arguments?

Key Texts
A choice of Gloucester narratives, including Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling,
The Lone Voyager: the Extraordinary Adventures of Howard Blackburn, Hero Fishermen of Gloucester by Joseph Garland, The Finest Kind: the Fishermen of Gloucester by Kim Bartlett, The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town by Elyssa East, The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America’s Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town by Mark Kurlansky
“Growing Up Gloucester” by Rachel Baker (feature) (photographs by
Erica McDonald)
“The Fort and our ‘sense of place’,” a letter to the editor of the Gloucester Daily Times
by Ernest Morin and other articles and letters from the Gloucester Daily Times
Excerpt from “Trade in Goods Produced by Slaves” in Historical
Research Report: Predecessor Institutions Research Regarding Slavery and the Slave Trade, Citizens Financial Group, Inc. and the Royal Bank of Scotland
Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place directed by
Henry Ferrini (documentary film)
Selections from The Maximus Poems by Charles Olson, including
“Letter 3” and “Letter 6” (poems)

After taking the AP Language and Composition exam students conclude the course with an in-depth investigation of depictions of Gloucester, Massachusetts, the city in which the high school is located. This unit gives students an opportunity to analyze how others have characterized the city, to respond to those characterizations, and to investigate aspects of the city’s culture.   

Learning Activities
Students begin the unit by completing a quotation response journal while reading a Gloucester narrative. Then students investigate the arguments and rhetorical strategies used by various writers attempting to characterize the city and its citizens. Before students embark on their own research into some aspect of Gloucester culture they investigate arguments around the fate of the city’s Fort area.  In these lessons they examine the relationship between arguments about an aspect of the city and rival depictions of the city as a whole. Finally students embark on finding, analyzing, and making an argument using a cluster of texts about some aspect of Gloucester culture that they choose to focus on.

Newspaper column. Students write a My View column to submit (after self, peer, and teacher assessment) to the Gloucester Daily Times in response to depictions of Gloucester in various media, or in response to proposed changes to the Fort neighborhood, or in response to another issue of their choice.

Researched argument with an annotated bibliography. Using MLA format, students complete an annotated bibliography and write a researched argument on an aspect of Gloucester culture. (Student receive extensive guidance from their teacher and the school’s librarian on using print, electronic, and archival sources; evaluating the quality and relevance of sources; taking double-entry notes on the sources; citing the sources; and synthesizing the sources.)

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