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
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 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.
Question 3 on the AP Literature exam is often thought of as the easy question. Students (and maybe some teachers) think this because of the fact that there is no text to read. Read the prompt; write the essay. That’s it, right? Not necessarily.
What all AP students need to realize is that the AP Lit test is a test about sophistication. Success on the AP exam relies on being able to demonstrate a level of sophistication in reading, thinking, and writing. And, this is all true for Q3.
Sophistication in Reading
Just because no text is given to the student on Q3, does not mean that the text they choose is just an afterthought–a secondary priority to the prompt. The text a student chooses to use for Q3 requires just as deep a level of analysis as any other text on the test. This means that a student needs to prepare for Q3 is a special way. They need to go into the test already knowing what book they will be using on the exam. … KEEP READING