Writing a timed essay for an AP exam is stressful for even the most confident of students. The job of an AP teacher (or any writing teacher honestly) is to provide as many tools as possible for the student to have in their writing toolbox. Having different methods of organization is fundamental because it provides the outline and structure for the analysis and ideas of the essay. Organizing can be challenging because there is no one “right” way to do this. Below are the three most common ways to organize a timed writing response with examples of sample essays from AP central. … KEEP READING
Multiple choice practice is a staple of any AP class but can quickly become routine and dull and thus less effective for students. As teachers strive to provide opportunities for low-pressure practice, we should also dedicate ourselves to being creative in our approach in an effort to keep students engaged in learning and building skill. The result – students who are confident and prepared for the exam but more importantly mature readers and thinkers. Below are seven ideas to shake up multiple choice practice: … KEEP READING
One of my first lessons in AP or any senior level literature class revolves around the question of what exactly constitutes literature. Because I wanted to change things up this year, I have not done this lesson and am glad because now I am going to teach Bob Dylan.
Question 3 calls for students to answer a prompt using a novel or play that is a work of “literary merit.” Each year students ask if they can write on Harry Potter, The Fault in Our Stars, or The Cat in the Hat for the exam; (surprisingly none of my students have written on the latter to date). While I could direct students to a list of what I believe to be appropriate criteria for literary merit, I prefer to let students wrestle with the difficulty of literary merit before I offer my thoughts. … KEEP READING
One of my favorite aspects of teaching AP Literature is helping students become independent learners and learn how to make adjustments in studying based on personal progress. Since AP Literature has so many moving parts, the nature of the class calls for individualized reflection and goal setting. One student may naturally be gifted in writing analysis essays while another is a cautious close reader. Some students find their sweet spot to be modern poetry while others are more comfortable in Romantic prose. Helping students note areas of strengths and weaknesses enables them to identify patterns and make adjustments but also teaches them valuable study skills for college. … KEEP READING
Students are not the only ones who get nervous when their AP scores are published in July. Teachers also feel the same nerves when they login into their College Board accounts to review their students’ scores. Theses scores represent the hard work of both students and teachers during the school year.
I am no different. I still feel the butterflies dancing around in my stomach as I scroll through the scores my students earned on the AP Literature exam. For the most part, students earn about what I thought they would earn. Sure, there are surprises on the upside and a few on the downside, but most scores are what I anticipated they would be based on their work throughout the year. … KEEP READING
Writing a timed essay for the AP exam on “Juggler” by Richard Wilbur was much like juggling; students had to manage a prompt asking them to analyze the juggler and the speaker’s attitude toward the juggler while considering poetic devices Wilbur detail the juggler and the speaker. Trevor Packer from College Board posted on Twitter last week that students “continue to find analyzing poetry more difficult than prose” in regard to this year’s AP Lit exam; writing about poetry may be the biggest challenge for students in AP Lit. After reading approximately 1,200 students essays, here are my observations and takeaways from this year’s reading.
What Students Did Well:
- Taking advantage of multiple entry points in the poem
- Addressing both literal and figurative meanings
- Identifying poetic devices
Even though I definitely scored more lower level essays than higher level, I was surprised at what students were able to accomplish in approximately 40 minutes. Essays scoring a 4 often offered good thoughts about the poem but failed to go deep or back up ideas with textual support. I came away encouraged that AP teachers are teaching students to find the point of the poem they connect to or identify with and enter the poem there. … KEEP READING
The College Board dotingly refers to their first-time readers as acorns and even distinguishes us with an acorn on our name badge. “The Reading,” as it is so fondly referred to, is a surprisingly pleasant professional development opportunity that involves reading 1.2 million essays in a collaborative effort with colleagues from all over the country and even the world.
When the Chief Reader report comes out it will be a valuable resource for all teachers. According to College Board, sadly only 11% of teachers who access the exam questions take advantage of the material provided by the question leaders. This will use much more sophisticated vocabulary likely including words such as penultimate and ubiquitous. In the meantime, here are my observations as a first-time reader on Question 2 that are designed to be helpful for implementation into the AP Literature classroom. … KEEP READING
Many of the lessons I learned from reading Question 3 essay after essay were ones I’d learned before, but the prevalence of some the problems that cropped up reinforced in my mind the points I am going to emphasize with my students next year. Here are some of the crucial ideas I’ll be bringing to my classroom this fall:
Introductions: GET to the point and HAVE a point
AP readers who are looking at many, many essays for many, many hours do not enjoy reading lengthy introductions. Students have a very limited time to write their essays and readers will understand (and appreciate) not having to hunt for a thesis amidst historical accounts of the author’s time period and your thoughts on which politicians tend to lie the most. Do not bother to restate the prompt, as I can assure you, many, many students have already done and do not give a laundry list of the three literary techniques you will be discussing in your essay. Instead, formulate an idea that answers the prompt using the novel you have chosen and hopefully incorporating the meaning of the novel as a whole and get on with your essay. … KEEP READING
Another year is in the bag. My students have negotiated the AP Literature exam and senior year with grace and dignity (for the most part). It is always a melancholy day when I say goodbye to these kids I’ve come to know so well. But, I know they are prepared for college and the world that awaits them in the fall. Now it is my turn to reflect on the journey we took together and begin my plans for the new crop of students heading my way in the fall.
Like most teachers, my reflections fall first on what I will do differently next year. I carefully consider what worked well and want failed to live up to expectations, but I also consider what was missing. First, what went well?
Students read deeply and widely. As a class we read and analyzed the following works: Madame Bovary, The Importance of Being Earnest, Hamlet, Frankenstein, and Song of Solomon. Students also read four self-selected novels or plays. Their readings included: The Road, Sula, Beloved, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mudbound, and many others. There was a sense of literary excellence and challenge in the class, and I am proud of this classroom culture.
Students learned to read specific passages and poems closely and analytically. They learned to make arguments. I worked to focus students on the craft of writing and the skillful arrangement of language authors use to create meaning. We looked at specific sentences through warm-ups I call “Spotlight Reading.” I saw growth in insight and analytical writing.
What failed to live up to expectations?
I try to do too much. I want kids to read everything. What happens? I rush through works that deserve a slower, more methodical pace. Quality literature requires attention. I need to curb my inclination to do too much. In the end, the kids are short-changed, and I feel frustrated.
My opinions on standardized testing are no secret as I have spoken out against it adamantly and frequently, so it’s no surprise that I’m often asked about why I teach AP Lit, a course driven by and ending with a high-stakes exam. Here are some ways the AP exam differs from standardized testing and why I have no problem teaching a class with an AP exam: … KEEP READING