Thoughts from an AP Lit Reader: Question 2

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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

Thoughts from an AP Lit Reader: Question 3

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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

Summer Writing

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Assigning summer reading for students is commonplace in most schools. All research supports the need for students to remain active in learning over the summer in order to continue to make intellectual gains and move forward in skill building. Students are assigned a book or two to read during summer break providing the opportunity to continue to build critical reading and thinking skills.

But what about writing? Other than a possible essay on the assigned reading during summer break, most students do not have regular writing practice over the summer and miss out on the benefits of continued writing skill building. Fortunately for me, the AP Lit teacher who preceded me recognized this and had students keep a summer journal. I loved this idea and decided to keep it when I began teaching AP Lit and morphed it into my own assignment by asking students to explore the city and experience some different activities. Here is a copy of the assignment my students will receive before the end of the year: KEEP READING

No More Poetry and Prose Prompt Predicaments

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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.                                                       

KEEP READING

Student Feedback : The Writing Conference

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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. 

KEEP READING

Using Children’s Books as Mentor Texts

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One of the best professional decisions I have made was applying to become a fellow with the National Writing Project. Because of my interaction with colleagues across the spectrum from K-12, my teaching has expanded and I see possibility everywhere. One of my favorite techniques for assessing students both for formative and summative purposes that has come out of these connections has been through the use of children’s books. Here are three of my favorites:KEEP READING

Creating a Canon: Project Based Learning for Literature

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In an attempt to introduce project-based learning into our sophomore American literature classrooms, my colleagues and I, created the American Literary Canon project. What began as a way to try and get students engaged in the literature of America, and move beyond reading a bunch of dead white guys (and, in all honesty, a way to make our end of year assessing less strenuous), has now evolved into an assignment that allows students to explore literature that is meaningful to them, as well as, the opportunity for students to create personal artifacts of their learning. KEEP READING

Start the New Year with a Mid-Year Evaluation

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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

Five Observations from an AP Reader

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The following observations are from Matt Brown, a longtime AP Lit reader:

Last year nearly 340,000 students took the AP Literature exam. That meant that the teachers who gathered in Louisville, KY in June had over 1 MILLION essays to score! Read…score…read…score…all day long for seven straight days. What becomes obvious in this process is that most of these essays are painfully average.

When I first started reading for the exam ten years ago, I was horrified to realize that most of my students fell into this zone of averageness. We are programmed to produce excellence in AP. But, teaching excellence in literary analysis is not equal to teaching towards excellence on the test.

If students can embrace that most of them are going to be average (at least statistically) on an AP exam, then they may have a better chance at succeeding. There is a range of passing scores and students need to be OK with where they fall within that range, honing in on what they can already do well.

Here is my top five when it comes to the advice I give students as they head into the exam: … KEEP READING

Tone Hunt

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To switch things up and get kids out of their seats, I like to do a “tone hunt.” Too often I find myself reading their essays and seeing the same generic five words to describe tone and none of them really captures the nuance intended. Though they have lists and I push them to use them in class discussion, their lack of familiarity with the context of the word prevents them from using it in their writing. … KEEP READING

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