Ideas to Push Learning Forward When Motivation is Lacking

Breaking through theMid-year Slump

The mid-year slump. That summarizes how teachers of year-long classes feel in the late January to early February time period. We’re settled back into a routine from our holiday break (even though my fellow southerners had a few extra snow days last week), the weather is bleak, and energy is lacking. The year is no longer new yet we’re not close enough to feel the excitement of graduation. We are in the mid-life crisis of AP Lit (there is no personal parallel here). Here are a few ideas to bring some energy to your classes until spring kicks in and the adrenaline for the finishing kick to the exam takes over. … KEEP READING

Scaffolding Literary Analysis Skills

Quote of the Week

Over the 19 years I’ve been teaching English, it was only in the past 6 years teaching AP Literature and Composition that I began to realize just how challenging it is to understand the complex endeavor of literary analysis.

Every year, I’d be disappointed with the vast majority of theme statements in students’ essays. If you teach English, you know the kind I mean: “Of Mice and Men is a book about the importance of friendship” or “The Great Gatsby shows the American Dream.” The students often just repeated ideas they’d heard in class without exploring their own ideas about the complexity of the text, and I finally figured out why. I was asking them to bite off way more than they could chew and needed to figure out a way to scaffold practice of the many skills necessary for independently analyzing a text. … KEEP READING

Teaching the Fine Art of BS

Literary Analysisor BS_

“Wait a minute, Mrs. Krulder,” one of my AP Literature and Composition students objected about a month into the fall semester. “So you’re saying we just MAKE UP the meaning of the poem?”

“Yes.” I explained, “You use ideas and patterns you notice in the text to formulate what you think the poem means.”

“But that’s just . . . just . . . b.s.!”

“O.K. . . . yes.” I agreed, “Literary analysis is b.s. that you can credibly and convincingly back up with evidence from the text.” … KEEP READING

Literary Analysis via Student Blogs

Literary Analysis viaStudent Blogs

My classes have started blogging this year, and we are loving it. We participate in a blog exchange of AP Lit classes nationwide and read other student blogs monthly and comment on them. This has been such a great experience for us because my students’ writing is being read by someone other than me, they are considering thoughts of other students who live in different parts of the nation and have different perspectives, and students are learning how to navigate the blogosphere. … KEEP READING

Question Like a Four-Year-Old

A few years ago, I was trying to figure out how to get my AP Literature students to go beyond the surface in their analysis. Their essays mostly stayed in “safe” territory, rarely venturing beyond paraphrase and, when they dealt with theme at all, tentative stabs at topic: “Frankenstein’s monster shows the effect of society on personality.” or “Kafka’s Metamorphosis is about the meaninglessness of life.” The ideas in their essays weren’t necessarily wrong, but because they were so surface level, they never really dug into deeper, more focused meanings in the texts and led to similarly unfocused essays, not really sure what they were trying to say.KEEP READING

Writing about Complexity

Unpacking Meaning by Layers


[adjective, verb kuh m-pleks, kom-pleks]

1. composed of many interconnected parts; compound; composite: a complex highway system.

2. characterized by a very complicated or involved arrangement of parts, units, etc.: complex machinery.

3. so complicated or intricate as to be hard to understand or deal with: a complex problem.


Reading and Exploring Outside the Classroom

Texas teensmeetShelley's -Skylark-

Winters in Texas often resemble spring in other parts of the country. These beautiful winter days offer great opportunities to take learning outside. Every year I wait for the temperature to reach a comfortable range and out we go to experience the natural world the Romantic poets extol in their poetry.  The following lesson is easily replicated with a different poem, but I turn to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To a Skylark.” … KEEP READING

Literary Terms meets Periodic Table

A Periodic TableforLiterary Terms-

When it comes to literary terms and how to teach them in the AP classroom, I am often stumped. Typically my approach is to teach them in context, and students seem to have a grasp on those terms. I don’t quiz students on terms and definitions. Early in my teaching of AP, I did this and found students simply memorized the terms and definitions without much skill in applying them to the text they were working with. This is what I wanted to avoid. I want my students to be prepared for the exam and to be able to apply terminology to the texts they read.KEEP READING

In Praise of the Pregnant Pause

PAUSE Not signed in

I sat before my AP Literature class and asked a question about the poem we had just read. It wasn’t a tough question: “What is the first thing you notice?”  I want students to react to a poem as an opening move. I don’t want to get weighed down in devices or the “deeper meaning” before we simply discuss what we notice first. I want them to consider their initial reactions before we dig deeper.

“What is the first thing you notice?” I asked, again.

My thirty students responded with collective silence. Some kids looked at me, some looked at their shoes, and some pretended to search for meaning on the ceiling.  


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