AP Lit Multiple Choice Stategies

Avoiding Multiple ChoiceMania

Preparation for the AP Lit multiple-choice portion of the exam requires critical reading skills acquired throughout the year; last-minute cramming is generally not productive for this type of exam. However, being familiar with the structure of the test and thinking through exam day strategy can be beneficial. Here are a few reminders: … KEEP READING

No More Poetry and Prose Prompt Predicaments


No formula exists for writing the perfect AP essay; however, these general guidelines can give students confidence and serve as reminders going into the exam.

Typical poetry prompts include:

  • Analyzing how the structure of the poem affects the overall meaning of the poem
  • Discussing how poetic devices are used to convey meaning
  • Discussing similarities and differences between two poems, considering style and theme 
  • Contrast the speaker’s views toward a subject in two poems, referring to tone, form, and imagery.
  • Analyzing an extended metaphor

Typical prose prompts include:

  • Analyzing characterization through narrative and literary techniques
  • Analyzing the attitude of the author including tone and style
  • Analyzing the relationship between the characters or a character and the setting.                                                       


Ten Commandments for Teaching Poetry

The Ten Commandments of Teaching Poetry (1)
  1. Teach strategies for understanding. The goal is to help students learn to read and enjoy poetry on their own, so allow the poem to be a vehicle for teaching strategies to unlock meaning and understanding. Sadly poems are too often taught as information to be memorized for an assessment. Teach the skill, not the text; allow students to use their skills to make meaning of the poem.
  2. Expose students to a variety of poems. Just as some people prefer jazz over big band or hip hop over country, poetry preferences exist. While I prefer the Romantics, teaching only Wordsworth and Byron is a disservice to my students. They should be reading Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, Langston Hughes, and e.e. cummings. Offering a variety will help students find poems they find comfortable and give them the chance to consider other styles. 
  3. Give students choice. Research proves that choice reading of texts increases student engagement and motivation. Allow students to bring in poems that they like to share with the class. The poems may be silly, sad, or profound. This will not only give students a chance to research and find poems but give teachers insight into their students.
  4. Questions are okay. Students are often afraid of poetry because they don’t understand it. Understanding poems typically requires multiple readings and extended time for reflection. Teachers need to help students be okay with walking away from a poem with questions. I tell my students to lean into what they understanding and dwell on that; further insight will come over time and with subsequent reading.
  5. Shift is everything. Coaching students to identify the shift is the single most important thing that will help with understanding poetry. The meaning of a poem ordinarily follows the shift thus giving students a built-in signal for unlocking the meaning. 
  6. Read for enjoyment. Somewhere along the way in teachers got the idea that everything text presented in class had to be dissected, analyzed, and taught for assessment; this is simply a disservice to our students. When I listen to music, I sing along, dance, and often comment on songs but rarely identify figurative language in the lyrics and how the syncopation adds to the melody; I listen to enjoy. The same is true for poetry: we need offer opportunities for our students to enjoy poetry. Poetry Fridays by Jori Krulder unpacks what reading poetry for enjoyment in the classroom looks like.
  7. Make poetry relevant. Good poetry is timeless but sometimes meanings get lost in generational gaps and archaic language. Modeling text-to-self connections gets students in the habit of thinking how a poem can relate to them. I often pair “The World is too Much with Us” with “Touchscreen” or “The Chambered Nautilus”  with Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite and have students figure out how the modern clips connect to the older poems.
  8. Punctuation matters. When given a poem to read, students will pause at the end of each line and ignore punctuation. Not only does this make for awkward reading especially if a poem doesn’t rhyme, but students have a more difficult understanding a poem read without considering punctuation. When my students are having trouble simply reading a poem, we take it sentence by sentence often reading like prose to build skill and confidence.

  9. Structure, form, and type matter. A basic framework of structure, form, and types of poetry help students understand meaning, and while students may not be able to clearly identify types and forms of poetry, they will be able to tell whether it is formal or informal, structured or unstructured which adds to meaning. Teaching students to use structure, form, and type as clues to unlock meaning moves them from memorizing terms for assessment to understanding poetry.

  10. Have fun! Be creative with teaching and reading poetry. Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 21st or help your students write slam poetry with Ted Ed’s “Become a Slam Poet in Five Steps” lesson. Have your students share poetry via Google Hangout or Skype with another class or devote a day to studying song lyrics as poetry. The options are limitless!


Student Feedback : The Writing Conference


This past week my PLN has been discussing feedback on Voxer forcing me to rethink feedback in general, its effectiveness, and what it looks like in the classroom. My beliefs and practices concerning feedback have drastically changed in the last few years and will most likely continue to change as I grow. While there are multiple avenues for feedback, this post will focus on the writing conference, the tool that has changed my feedback most drastically in the past couple of years. 


The Benefits of Teaching As I Lay Dying


Desiring to change up my reading list this year, I decided to add As I Lay Dying and am so glad I did because it has proven to a great choice. I feel part of my duty as a southern teacher is to offer at least one southern work for my students, and AILD perfectly fits the bill. The story of Addie Bundren’s death and her family’s journey to Jefferson to bury her offers multiple points for teaching and student reflection. I want to give a shout out Matt Brown for sharing his resources and encouragement; most of my lessons were s̶t̶o̶l̶e̶n̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶  inspired by him.KEEP READING

Start the New Year with a Mid-Year Evaluation


Take a deep breath. This may be the last time you have to do this until May because we all know that once school starts back after break, the pace only accelerates until graduation. The new year is the perfect time for personal reflection and goal setting and the new year offers teachers a late Christmas gift – a chance to make mid-year classroom adjustments. This only happens with intentionality and reflection.KEEP READING

On Teaching AP Writing


Maturing as a writer can be a lonely journey. Students must wrestle with themselves to find their own voice, style, and process of writing. The means of organizing thoughts is highly individualized often leaving writing teachers feeling inept to address the needs of each student in a class. While whole class instruction has its place in writing instruction, one-on-one student conferences are an effective yet underused method to offer productive feedback to growing writers. Student conferences offer a chance for the teacher to have insight into a student’s thought process and give individual feedback and instruction. Here’s my process: … KEEP READING

Balance is Key


Classroom instruction, like almost everything in life, is about balance, and while some educators like to argue for one particular theory or method over another, the reality is students need a variety of best practices. Here are some areas where I feel tension and am continually striving to seek balance in AP literature:

Big Picture vs. Small Details

I often compare looking at a passage or text to looking through a telescope. (I suppose a microscope would work also, but staring at the stars seems far more poetic than looking at cells). A telescope offers the ability to view constellations from afar with clarity and zoom in to observe the smallest nuances of a planet or star. The same is true when teaching a text. AP teachers should be providing students with opportunities to think about the text as a whole and in small chunks. For example, my students just finished reading Frankenstein and participated in a gallery walk exploring themes such as monstrosity, the quest for knowledge, and revenge allowing for overall reflection on the novel as a whole. My students would be missing out, however, if I did not also provide opportunities for them to zoom in and focus on smaller portions of the text. Comparing diction and syntax in Walton’s, Frankenstein’s, and the creature’s narration provides this opportunity. Zooming in and zooming out is something teachers and our students should continually be doing. Balance is key.KEEP READING

Free Range Poetry

free range

Rigor. Higher order thinking. Analysis. These are the words that drive us in education and rightly so: teachers should be giving students the skills and opportunities to expand their intellect and push themselves academically. However, our desire to teach students how to decode and decipher poetry often robs them of the original intent of the poem – to be an emotional experience.  I have been guilty of killing a poem for my students and not allowing them to fully savor the beauty of poetry. Poetic devices, scansion, and structural analysis overshadow the magical and mystical elements of poetry leaving students and teachers often frustrated and discouraged. Teachers can alleviate some of the frustration and tension students feel about poetry if we offer them opportunities to experience poetry in a free-range environment.

What does free range poetry look like in the classroom?


The Poisonwood Bible


For the past few years, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver has been my summer reading, and I suspect it will remain that way for a while. This book, along with Frankenstein, are the two books that will probably never move off my reading list. TPB chronicles a story of an evangelical missionary family moving from Bethlehem, GA to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The story of the mother and daughters striving to gain independence and freedom from the tyrannical father parallel the struggle within Africa. Having over 500 pages, I assign this book for summer work along with How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Foster. Here are some of the reasons I love teaching The Poisonwood Bible:


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