AP English Language and Composition

  • Barbara Kurita Ditz, English  Dept                                                                              

    Tamalpais High School,  Wood Hall 151 

    (415) 388-3292 ex: 5318                 



    AP Language and Composition


    “AP Comp” is a rigorous college-level course designed to help you build the skills necessary to be ready to face college level academic challenges.  Of course, it also prepares you for doing well in the AP Language and Composition examination given by The College Board in the spring.  The AP Exam consists of a one hour multiple choice test analyzing the argument and writing style of brief passages, and 3 essay exams (a “synthesis” of evidence essay, a rhetorical analysis, and an argument essay) completed in 2 1/4 hours.  The course is as demanding as the test is grueling.

                We will focus on the development of 1.your knowledge of the terminology, methods and techniques of “rhetoric” (the art of persuasion) 2.your ability to analyze, understand, and write about how good writers/authors construct arguments 3.your ability to apply what you learn about good persuasive writing to your own development of arguments.  We will work in units centered around key “essential questions”, delving into controversial topics and issues, seeing what authors, intellectuals, journalists and others have to say about the matter, and develop opinions of your own.  We will read mostly non-fiction texts (essays and articles), a few novels, excerpts from non-fiction books, and augment our reading with film.


    Units: (Texts may change or be done in “literature Circle” format with alternate titles)

     Fall Semester (Intro to Rhetorical Analysis--the making of good arguments)

    Unit 1: Intro to Rhetorical Analysis: Don’t Lose your Cookies in AP!

    Unit 2= Politics: Anger of the Oppressed

    Unit 3= The Personal is Political:  Family, Culture and Identity

    Book Groups: Memoir

    Final Debate Project:  (An application of what we have learned about rhetoric) Group research on a socio-political issue of choice w formal opening and closing statements and debate presentations.

     Spring Semester (Argument and Synthesis Essay Prep)

    Unit 1= Art as Argument: “con-text” and “sub-text” (advertising, diagrams, cartoons/memes, visual art, poetry/song, drama; w/ a formal research paper) 

    Unit 2= Science and Technology vs Nature

    Art as Argument research paper: controversial issues persuasive argument (read one book and do research) w/ art critique

    IRB/Book Groups: Non-fiction, may be related to projects

    Unit 3: Exam Review/Prep—test taking tips, short answer analysis practice, timed essay practice.

     After the AP ExamPR (Personal Reflection/Public Relations: college app prep)

    IRB:  individual book choice, fiction or non-fiction

     AP Assignments:

    Language Work:  First semester we will work on developing our academic vocabulary--basic rhetorical terms recognition and terms application that are common to the activities tested in the AP Exam. (The Language of Composition). This will help us gain a shared vocabulary with which to come to a better understanding of the writing style of the author’s we read.  We will discuss and write about our texts using this sometimes new and awkwardly-scholarly vocabulary until it begins to become your own and helps us to better analyze and understand the texts we read. You will then apply your understanding of these rhetorical devices to develop your own persuasive skills and refine your expository and persuasive writing.  Second semester we will delve more into doing practice AP multiple choice type exams and using the terminology in practice AP essay-exam responses.

     Literature:  We will read a variety of essays, articles, and excerpts from longer non-fiction texts to both develop our own perspective on key socio-political and controversial issues, and to examine the structures and devices of good writing to come to a better understanding of how it is crafted (some from textbooks, some from contemporary periodicals. How do authors organize their writing and formulate their arguments to fulfill the key purposed of the texts?  We will examine a broad range audiences.

     This year, first semester we will be reading memoirs with a specialized focus on observing the authors’ writing style, especially the ways the authors use “literary devices” of narrative writing together with rhetorical methods of persuasive “argument” in their fiction to go beyond “entertainment” to levy social critique and influence the opinions of their audience. These books are often the basis for lively “circle discussions”!  You will develop the depth of your rhetorical analysis using formal essay structure and the C-ee-CQC body paragraph format. Second semester we will have book groups and choice non-fiction IRB.

     Argument Essays: As an extension, at the end of units you will apply your understanding of the longer texts you have read together with that of the thematic essays and articles as evidence to support your own opinions on key issues in "argument" type, timed, persuasive essays. 

     Major Argument Projects:  You will be writing multiple timed essay exams (similar to the AP Exam forms), and developing process pieces (rhetorical analysis, literary analytic-interpretation, and persuasive argument essays). Related to preparing for the AP “synthesis”-essay, you will also be writing two research papers and preparing a formal oral presentation or debate on a contemporary controversial issue. (Semester 1=Socio-political issue group debate project; semester 2=Controversial issues project with Art as argument Analysis)

     Ongoing Homework:  You will have numerous variety of assignments associated with the text books, and with reading and analyzing essays articles and other texts.  You will be doing a lot of writing, both brief responses, and process writing.  For the kind of argumentative writing being asked of you on the AP exam it is important that you become familiar with and engage in the critical dialogue that is prevalent in contemporary society—what are the concerns and issues being discussed by the international media, intellectuals, scientists and scholars of our time? On a regular basis you will have to read and respond to a (relatively) contemporary news-media articles and other texts (I will provided some as class activities to begin, but for homework mostly you will be exploring and selecting topics and articles that appeal to you.)  You will have structured assignments that follow a detailed format (“Readers Responses” and “Common Place Tests”) The purpose of these assignments is to move beyond merely understanding subject matter of the texts to be able to 1.analyze and assess the argument structure and rhetorical methods utilized in the text to persuade the audience and 2. To be able to formulate and argue your own educated opinion on the controversial issues.

     Main Texts:  

    AP Language is a college level course, so having your own book allows you to mark it up, highlight and annotate as you would in a college textbook.  Though Tam has copies of the main fiction texts as well as copies of the textbook essay collections, you will find having your own copy might be helpful. You can make your “annotations” on post-it notes or on binder paper depending on the assignment.  You can also photocopy specific essays to make annotate easier.  There will be some contemporary articles and essay I may have you download and print from your computers for class use. L of C is large, so I’ll tell you when you need them—but please bring the books when requested!!!

     Main Textbook: The Language of Composition (alias “L of C”) edited by Shea, Scanlon and Aufses (will be assigned a book)

    In-class textbooks: The Writer’s Presence, edited by McQuade and Atwan (5th or 6th editions)

    The Structure of Argument, edited by Rottenberg and Winchell; Elements of Style.

    Fall Memoir (Whole class):  Black Boy

     Possible Memoir Selections (Book Groups and IRB): The Narrative Life of Fredrick Douglas, Farewell to Manzanar /Night, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Kaffir Boy, A Long Way Gone, The Color of Water; Dreams from my Father, My life on the Road, Woman Warrior, I am Malala, Look me in the Eye: My life with Asperger’s, Do you Dream in Color, Between the world and Me, Orange is the New Black, Tweak, Kasher in the Rye, Second Son, Why be happy When you Could be Normal? Opposite of Fate/Where My Past Begins etc. (some excerpts, book groups, or individually)

     Non Fiction Selections: Independently chosen related to projects  (book groups or individually)

    Final After the Exam, IRB Selections:  Independent reading books, non-fiction or fiction (book groups or individually)


    Suggested Supplies: 

    • Binder or section of large binder
      • dividers (1. Business, 2. Assignments, 3. Notes, 4. Essays, 5. Language, Reference and Exams)
      • lined paper as needed for notes section


    • Utility case or backpack with:
      • one pack of highlighters (5)
      • personal stapler, personal sharpener
      • colored post-it notes (large and small types)
      • black and blue pens, pencils
      • colored pens & pencils