AP Language and Composition


Course Overview

Students in the AP course read and analyze a broad range of fiction and nonfiction prose selections. They focus on how language works within the piece. Students discuss the use of language and its effect.  Through close reading and discussion, students analyze the literature’s literary as well as its rhetorical devices. They also apply the literature to themselves as well as the world around them. Course readings feature expository, analytical, personal, and argumentative texts through a variety of writers. Students examine and work with essays, letters, speeches, images, and imaginative literature Through frequent writing, students develop their own writing while gaining a better sense of strategy and purpose of professional writers.  Students conference with the instructor on their writing as well as participate in peer editing sessions. Students prepare for the AP Language and Composition Exam with the expectation that they will take the exam in May.

Resources and Materials

  • McWhorter, Kathleen. Successful College Writing.   3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/ St.
  •      Martin’s, 2006.
  •  Kennedy, Kennedy, and Jane Aaron. The Bedford Reader.  7th ed. Boston:  Bedford/ St.
  •      Martin’s, 2000.
  • Moeller, Dave. Pro Prose I: Using Sentence Formulas to Build Cumulative Sentences.
  • Moeller, Dave. Pro Prose II: Coordinating and Subordinating.
  • Vogel, Richard and Charles Winans. Multiple & Free-Response Questions In Preparation
  •      For The AP English Language and Composition Examination. 5th ed. Brooklyn, New
  •      York:  D&S Marketing Systems, Inc., 2001.
  • Other Novels, Poems, Plays and Essays:
  •             The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, The Awakening, Spoon River Anthology,
  •             The House on Mango Street, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Native Son
  •              A Raisin in the Sun, Death of a Salesman, The Catcher in the Rye, Ethan Frome,

The course is constructed in accordance with the guidelines described in the AP English Course Description.

Course Planner


 Vocabulary words are taken from Virtual Salt entitled “A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices.” Students are assigned a specified number of vocabulary words.  They are to look them up and provide the class with a definition and an example. Students are also given a list of tone words. They are assigned a specific number of words to memorize. They must know the definition as well as give a sentence that employs that particular type of tone. Students spend the first nine weeks of class memorizing the vocabulary words.

  Preparation for the objective section of the AP Exam

Using the Multiple & Free-Response Questions In Preparation For The AP English Language and Composition Examination,  students spend ten to twenty minutes each week answering questions over one to two sections of a multiple choice exam. Students are also given past exams to use as practice. In answering questions from these exam samples, students rely on their vocabulary study from the Virtual Salt words as well as practice close reading.


• Students read Ch. 8 in Successful College Writing– Narration: Recounting Events

• Using the picture of the homeless family, a class discussion of what details in the photo   would impact someone to help this family takes place.

• From the chapter reading, students relate what elements are necessary for a narrative essay.

• Students read George Orwell’s “On Shooting an Elephant.”  Looking at style of writing, students discuss what makes the essay effective. Students determine the elements of narrative found in the essay.

• Students read Maya Angelou’s “Champion of the World.”

• Students journal over the essay: What elements of the two narratives are the same and different? In your opinion, which writer is more effective?

• Students read “The Boy and the Bank Officer” by Philip Ross. Students focus on selection of detail used in the narrative, determining why Ross includes these details to relate to his audience.

• Students write their own narrative essay. Students are required to preconference with me before completing their rough draft. After rough draft, students peer edit. If a student receives lower than a 5 (based on the AP scoring) on their final draft, they may rewrite their essay for a higher grade. All essays must be revised to be put into the student writing folder.

• Students complete the 1996 AP timed essay From a Summer Life by Gary Soto. Students read sample timed writings looking at the style of the timed writing as well as what was effective and ineffective in each essay.

• Students work with a partner on their own timed writings and then take them home to revise. After I evaluate them, I conference with them on the strengths of their essay while picking out two things to work on.

• Students begin reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. The primary focus is on close reading, looking specifically at the patterns of the author’s writing. They discuss those patterns determining why the author makes such choices. Other literary elements are discussed as well.


Students read Chapter 9 in Successful College Writing– Description: Portraying People, Places, and Things.

• Using the photograph of the dog at the beginning of the chapter, students write a newspaper ad, convincing readers to adopt him.

• Students read the essay “Eating Chili Peppers” by Jeremy MacClancy. They determine the dominant impression, organizational technique, and vantage point. They are asked to pay particular attention to the use of active verbs in the piece.

• To focus on using stronger descriptive words, students are given three bland sentences and asked to employ as much description as possible to make the sentences come alive. Students read their answers aloud.

• I read aloud “Assembly Line.” The students are asked to focus on the following questions: What is the dominant impression? What details are used to support the dominant impression? What vantage point did the author use? Why do you think that vantage point was chosen? In a journal assignment, they answer those questions.

• Students are assigned “Bob the Dog” by Merrill Markoe. Using the personality traits of the author’s dog, they are assigned to go back to their newspaper ad and revise it. Since the dog in the essay is a troublemaker, it is their job to turn his faults into his attributes.

• Students are assigned to write a descriptive essay. The topic is their choice. They are to include specific descriptive details, an appropriate vantage point, appropriate organization, and a dominant impression. Their first assignment is to write up the details and have in mind the vantage point, organization, and dominant impression. They meet with me first to discuss their essay. The next step is the write a rough draft. They then peer edit with three different people. They revise and turn in a final draft for initial grading. Students receiving a score of 4 or below are to conference with me, revise, and turn in another draft. Students with a 5 or above, are to revise as directed by my notes on their papers and file their essay into their writing folder.

• Students are given the test writing prompt “My Wood” by EM Forster. They complete the 40 minute timed writing and turn in. I score them using the AP test rubric for this particular prompt. After my initial score and comments, students revise this prompt submit again for a new score.

• Students finish The Scarlet Letter and read The Crucible aloud. The primary focus on The Crucible is the author’s purpose in writing this work. Students are asked to investigate the atrocities of American history. They then take those acts—the Salem Witch Trials, the Red scare, the Patriot Act, etc.—and look for commonalities. They then apply these commonalities to the text.


• Students are asked to bring in two photos of themselves: one from a childhood event such as a birthday party  and one from a recent event such as homecoming. Working with a partner, they are to evaluate themselves in the two pictures. They should take into consideration the differences in their appearance. They are asked to remember what was important in the time periods from the two photos. They are asked to relate how they are different and how they are still the same.

• Students are assigned to read “Comparison and Contrast: Showing Similarities and Differences” in their Successful College Writing text.

• Students read “Neat People versus Sloppy People” by Suzanne Britt in The Bedford Reader. In a discussion format students determine the author’s main purpose and tone. To prove tone, they are required to select words and phrases. With a partner they outline Britt’s essay and present the outline and how the essay fits into the category of comparison.

• Students listen to the essay “Coming Home” by Marjorie Waters (handout).  This essay is a comparison using analysis. Students discuss her points of analysis and how she arranged her essay. Did she use point by point or block organization? How are the two topics grieving and airing out a vacation house similar?

• Students read “Conversational Ballgames” by Nancy Masterson Sakamoto. With a partner, they determine her style by referencing to several examples from the text. As a group, we discuss why the author uses various games – tennis, volleyball, bowling—to help explain the differences between American and Japanese conversational styles.

• With a partner, students are given the timed comparison writing of the Galapagos Islands. Together they are to outline their answer to the prompt. As a class, we discuss possible answers to the prompt. Students must justify their rhetorical choices. Students are then assigned to spend 30 minutes on their own writing the essay. After completing the essay, they pair up with another student and critique each other’s essay.

• In a 40 minute timed writing, students write two rhetorical analyses using AP test prompts : the description of the two funerals and the 1986 question of two Native American writers. Essays are graded on the 9 point scale using the rubric from the AP test.

• Students are assigned to write a comparison essay using an analogy format. Before bringing the essay to class, they first have their parents read the essay to determine if their analogy is understandable. Their peers critique their essays in a second round of editing. They then submit a final essay for a grade to me. They are graded on a 9 point scale. Students receiving a 4 or below must conference with me and submit a revised essay for a new grade. All students must revise their essays based off of instructor feedback and file their essays in their writing folders.

• Students finish the unit by completing a timed essay on the AP exam question using the comparison of two marriage proposals. Students are given only the 40 minutes. Essays are graded using the 9 point AP rubric.

• During this unit, students read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Using the two marriage proposal passages, students discuss what they see as the perfect marriage proposal and  what they see as the perfect marriage. Students complete a journal assignment describing their future marriages.

Cause and Effect

 • Students read the chapter “Cause and Effect: Using Reasons and Results to Explain” in the Successful College Writing text. Students come to class prepared to explain the elements of a cause and effect essay.

• From the chapter, students read “Bad Conduct, by the Numbers” by Jennifer Jacobson and “Too Immature for the Death Penalty” by Paul Raeburn. They are to explain to a partner how these two essays fulfill the criteria for this particular style of essay. They are also to focus on selection of detail for the essays, explaining to their partner how the details support the purpose of the essay.

• To prepare the students for their own cause and effect essays, I take them through the writing process for my own essay. I start with the impetus for my topic, I bring them through my organizational technique, and I finally read them my final essay entitled “My World.”

• Students write a cause and effect essay on a topic of their choice. They begin the assignment by completing an organizer: outline, web, or another of their choice. After their organizer has been approved by me, they then write their rough draft. They bring a completed draft to class for peer critique. They revise their essay and bring another copy for peer critique. They then turn in a final copy to be evaluated by me. I grade on the 9 point scale. Students with a 4 or below conference with me and rewrite their essays for a higher grade. All students revise their essays and put them into their writing folder.

• During this unit students complete several timed essays that involve rhetorical elements. These tasks require students to read closely and account for how language and rhetoric are purposefully employed. Each essay is graded using the College Board’s rubric. After writing each essay, the class as a whole determines appropriate answers. One of the essays will be taken home after the class discussion to be rewritten and turned in for a final grade.

• Students read The Awakening by Kate Chopin. They start the unit by reading an article “The Good Wife’s Guide,” a 1955 article from Housekeeping Monthly.  The students, in a class discussion, compare the 1955 expectation of women to their own mothers. In reading this novel, the students are directed to focus on the alliteration used by the author and determine how it supports the Biblical allusion.

 Term I Exam

 At the end of the nine-week term, students take a 90 minute exam. Students are asked questions over rhetorical vocabulary, sentence structure from their Pro Prose  work, and components of each of the essays covered in the first term. They are also given a timed essay.


• Students read the chapter “Definition: Explaining What You Mean” in the Successful College Writing textbook.

• Within the chapter, students read the essays “Cracking Cascarones” by Yleana Martinez and “Spanglish” by Janice Castro, Dan Cook, and Christina Garcia. Students are asked to determine what the writers of the two essays used to interest readers.

• Students write their own extended definition essays. They start by drawing their topics. They are then assigned to talk to four people of varying ages and genders to about the word they have drawn as a topic. They then set up a conference with me to brainstorm the point of their essay. They complete a rough draft for peer edit. They go through the peer editing process two times. They are also required to conference with me. They hand in a final draft for evaluation. The scoring and editing procedure for this essay is the same as the other essays.

• During this unit, students continue to work on analyzing rhetorical devices used in AP test questions. The prompts are selected from questions using letters and speeches. They write four timed essays:

 Classification and Division

 • Students read “Classification And Division: Explaining Categories And Parts” in the Successful College Writing text.

• At the beginning of the chapter, there is a cartoon of four people spread out but hooked together entitled “Swiss Army Personality.”  The students look at the picture and first analyze the intended joke. We discuss what prior knowledge is needed in order to understand the cartoon. This then leads to a discussion of political cartoons. I ask the students to bring in a political cartoon within the next two weeks. They are to be able to explain it to the class.

• Students read the essay “A Brush with Reality: Surprises in the Tube” by David Bodanis from their text. With a partner, students determine the essay’s major divisions as well as the author’s purpose.

• I read the essay “Which Stooge Are You?” by Ron Geraci aloud. While they listen, they are to take notes: they are to determine the classifications of men and the details given by the author to create the categories. I  also read aloud Dave Berry’s “Guys vs. Men.”

• Students choose their own topic for a classification or division essay. They brainstorm with a partner, complete the rough draft, peer critique, and submit a final draft for formal evaluation. The evaluation process is the same as the other essays.


Reading Arguments

 • I start the unit by having the students read a recent editorial from The Des Moines Register.  The students are asked to identify the writer’s claim as well as identify the writer’s evidence. As a part of a class discussion, we name all of the places in which they see forms of argument: newspaper editorials, on television shows such as Meet the Press and HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, campaign ads, product advertisement,  political debates. We talk about the importance of being able to understand argument as well as to be able to argue.

• Students look at the ad  for the Jeep Liberty Renegade at the beginning of their argument chapter. With a partner, they determine the appeal the advertisement makes and to whom the appeal is directed.

• Students read the chapter “Reading Argument” in their writing text.

• Students read the argument essay “When Volunteerism Isn’t Noble” by Lynn Steirer. They determine the issue, claim, and support. This essay leads to a class discussion. The topic, whether their own school should require volunteerism as a part of graduation requirements, becomes a debate issue. Students go to one side of the classroom or the other and come up with support for their side.

• Students read the argument “Economic Affirmative-Action” by Ted Koreth. They are asked to identify the following: the type of claim, the support, and the refutation. Looking at the graphic organizer in their chapter, they apply the organization to the essay.

• We review faulty reasoning. The students are asked to apply faulty reasoning to different statements, some of which are pulled off the news or are common arguments made by the public.

• Students read the following essays and apply faulty reasoning as well as the techniques for reading argument from their chapter:

“Death Penalty Deters Violence” by Senator Strom Thurmond

“”Equal Treatment is Real Issue—Not Same Sex Marriage” article in USA Today

“Ebonics Be A Complex Issue” by Bill Cosby

A political ad for John Saad who is running for Senate District 34

“Ban Boxing’ by Robert McAfee

“We Don’t Need Immigrants” by Dan Stein

“America Needs a Flag Protection Amendment” by Bob Dole

“Left Handers (Those Sickos) Got No Reason to Live!” by Roger L. Guffey

Writing Arguments

 • Student read chapter 17 “Writing Arguments” in their writing book.

• Students read chapter 20 “Writing a Paper Using Sources” in their writing book.

• The school’s media specialist gives a lesson on Boolean searches and goes through internet searching with the students.

• Each student meets with me to discuss their topic idea. Students  then choose an argument topic and research the topic with the aid of the media specialist.

• Students write their research argument in stages. They turn in 10 note cards with 5 to 7 source cards, which are written according to MLA guidelines. They then compose a rough draft. They go through their first editing stage with two of their peers. They are then to have their parents edit their essay. Their final step is to meet with me to go through their draft.

• The essay is graded according to the AP rubric. Students receiving a 4 or under revise their essays for a higher score. All students revise their essay for their writing folders.

• During this unit students work on argument timed essays.

Student Evaluation

Students are evaluated on the basis of major papers from the ten units, AP style timed writings, literature tests, and homework. On all writing, students earn numbered scores based on the AP scoring as well as percentage scores.

Scoring Conversion

9-8 distinguished work

7-6 above proficient

5 proficient

4 below proficient

3-1 unacceptable work