AP Syllabus

Course Title:

AP English Language and Composition

Contact Information

Office Hours: Mornings - Mon/Wed/Fri - 8:15 - 8:45a; Afternoons - Mon - Fri
Room: 2009
School Phone: 972-502-4400
School Fax: 972-502-4401

Course Philosophy:

AP Language and Composition is a college-level course focusing on critical reading, interpretation, and writing. Throughout the year, students read a variety of mature works of fiction and non-fiction and develop writing skills through a series of assignments in and out of class. This course aims to prepare students for life (and college) by exposing them to great writing and inspiring them to move beyond rudimentary assumptions and expression into higher-level insight and writing. The non-fiction passages we read are challenging. The writing is frequent and requires a student to respond to readings that we worked with in class as well as works that have not been analyzed or discussed in the classroom. Research, synthesis, rhetorical analysis, critical thinking, critical reading, and critical writing make up the foundation of this course. In keeping with the College Board’s course description, this course is both demanding and rewarding.

Attendance, Late Work, Grading:

You are expected to be present in class each day. A major difference in AP courses and non-AP courses is the pacing; this class moves rapidly through material. If you must miss class, you are expected to communicate with me or another student so you will be prepared for the day following your absence. Daily assignments will be averaged together for one major grade per six weeks. I reserve the right to include a grade that reflects attendance, punctual arrival, and participation. The bulk of your six weeks’ grade will be tests, response journaling, essays, timed writings, weekly current event evaluations, and major projects. You will maintain a portfolio and complete a researched argument paper. Expect four or more hours of homework per week.

Students are expected to complete all assignments in a timely manner.  Unless there are documented, extenuating circumstances, late work will not be accepted and the student will not receive credit for the work.

Research and Citation:

The aim of this course is to provide an introduction to the structure of argument and varying styles of argumentative essays. In each six-week grading period, you will be required to write essays that proceed through multiple stages or drafts; student revisions will be assisted by me—the teacher—and your peers. In the final drafts of all papers, you are directed to carefully evaluate, employ, and properly cite primary and secondary sources using the MLA documentation skills you picked up in previous years. If you have “forgotten” these skills through neglect or misuse, fear not as we will revisit them regularly throughout the course of the year. Remember: when in doubt, cite a source.

Papers and Revisions:

A further aim of this course is to provide an opportunity to work on and experiment with personal writing style. In addition to lecture and in-class exercise using Kilgallon’s Sentence Composing for College, you will receive individual instruction and feedback on your writing assignments designed to help you develop:
  • The effective and appropriate use of a wide-ranging vocabulary
  • A variety of sentence structures, including appropriate use of subordination and coordination
  • Logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques to increase coherence, such as repetition, transitions, and emphasis
  • A balance of generalization and specific, illustrative detail
  • An effective use of rhetoric, including controlling tone, establishing and maintaining voice, and achieving appropriate emphasis through diction and sentence structure
This individualized instruction and feedback will take place in-class on designated workshop days as well as during tutoring hours.


I will be available Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays after school for tutoring. One of the best ways for you to improve your writing is by coming to tutoring for help and counsel. Since writing is a process, the act of revision is CRUCIAL to learning the craft. You are required to revise most of your in-class essays for a separate grade. Therefore, availing yourself of tutoring helps you as a writer and helps you increase your chances of successful revision. In addition to working on your writing skills, we will cover a variety of topics designed to help you improve your test-taking skills and your analytical skills.

Vocabulary Building

In a perfect world, all readers would scamper to the dictionary as unknown words come to their attention in their reading. In our postlapsarian state, however, we need a little forced acquisition of words. Using the Smith and Dewar materials created for the school district, you will begin a systematic building of word power through the study of the “Shakespeare list” of the most commonly occurring words on the SAT. You will see these words in context and have the opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of the words by using them effectively in your own writing.


The Riverside Reader. Joseph Trimmer and Heather Milliet, eds. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2009.

The Bedford Reader: Seventh Edition. X. J. Kennedy, et. al., eds. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Killgallon, Don. Sentence Composing for College. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1998.

50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. Samuel Cohen, ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2004.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1990.

Semester One 

First Six Weeks

Focus: This six weeks refreshes your understanding of rhetoric by looking at various essays and speeches as a way to assess and review what you learned in 9th and 10th grade and as a way to further your own powers in identifying rhetorical devices and analyzing author’s purpose. We will look at various examples ranging from autobiography to speeches to poetry to newspaper articles and editorials in examining the author’s powers of persuasion and description.

            Through a series of diagnostics, we will also assess your strengths and make a plan to improve your weaknesses both in terms of test-taking skills, critical reading and writing.

Selected Readings:   
  • “The Apology” –Plato, trans. by Benjamin Jowett
  • “The Declaration of Independence” –Thomas Jefferson
  • “The Crisis: Number 1” – Thomas Paine
  • “Ain’t/Aren’t I a Woman?” – Sojourner Truth
  • “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” –Frederick Douglass

  • Lists 11.1.1 – 11.1.5
  • Rhetorical Terms
  • Tone Words

Grammar Focus: Appositives (Killgallon)

College Board Materials:
Timed Writings: 
  • “Fault Lines” (1997)
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Passage (1997)
  • Describe a specific place
Multiple Choice Practice:
  • “Women”
  • “My Divinity”

Writing Process Paper: Narrative/Description

  • Summer Reading Test
  • Vocabulary Lists Tests
  • Rhetorical Term Test #1  “Narrative Devices/Techniques”
  • Tone Test #1
  • Six Weeks Test
Second Six Weeks

Focus: This second six weeks continues our study of rhetoric through an examination of formal and informal letters. Perhaps the most famous letter in American history is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail.” Replete with rhetorical strategies designed to illuminate the evils of racism and force change, this letter is a primer fro any serious student of rhetoric. We will also examine letters from the Civil War, the Vietnam War, and other letters that reveal various levels of the human heart and mind. Through a look at different accounts—from newspaper coverage, to first-hand account to poems and MLK’s “Eulogy for the Martyred Children”—of the Birmingham bombings of 1964, we will also examine the ways in which different modes of writing affect narrative and impact on the reader.

Reading Focus:
  • Lincoln’s “Letter to Horace Greeley”
  • “The Gettysburg Address”
  • Lincoln’s “Letter to Mrs. Bixby”
  • Lincoln’s “Second Inaugural Address”
  • “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
    • Video: Peter Jennings Report on the Anniversary of the March on Washington
  • “People Get Ready” – recorded by the Impressions, words by Curtis Mayfield, 1964
  • Lists 11.2.1-11.2.5
  • Rhetorical Terms
  • Tone Words
Grammar Focus:  Participial Phrases (Killgallon)

College Board Materials:
Timed Writings: 
  • Letters from and to Coca-Cola (1998)
  • Gary Soto’s “Guilty Self” (1990)
  • Frederick Douglass—“The wretchedness of slavery…”
Multiple Choice Practice:
  • Various released materials
Writing Process Paper: Write a letter using rhetorical strategies and forms based on the letters we have read.

  • Vocabulary Lists Tests
  • Rhetorical Term Test #2 (“Figurative Language—Rhetorical”)
  • Tone Test #2

Third Six Weeks

We return to a study of speeches this six weeks and place additional emphasis on the ways in which rhetoric lives in literature as well as non-fiction. We also focus on the rhetorical triangle and the crafting of effective appeals. This six weeks we also begin our researched argument paper on democracy. You will find at least 5 different sources ranging from graphic representations to written pieces in various modes and from 6 of those construct a synthesis question and then answer the question. You MUST include appropriate MLA documentation for each source .You will share your work with your peers and each of you will answer a second synthesis question designed by a classmate.
Reading Focus:
  • “The Ballad of Birmingham” – Dudley Randall
  • “Eulogy for the Martyred Children” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Robert F. Kennedy’s speech on the death of MLK
  • “The Audacity of Hope” – Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic Nat’l Convention
  • Zell Miller’s speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention
  • Lists 11.3.1-11.3.5
  • Rhetorical Terms
  • Tone Words
Grammar Focus: Absolute Phrases (Killgallon)

College Board Materials:
Timed Writings:
  • Queen Elizabeth’s Speech at Tilbury (1992)
  • “Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address” (2002)
  • Sample Released Synthesis Question: Television
  • James Baldwin Passage on language (1995)
Multiple Choice Practice: 
·         RFK’s Speech
Writing Process Paper: Research/Synthesis Paper
Students will design a synthesis prompt using the examples on College Board’s website. Students will receive one contemporary source (to be determined) and must research and submit the other five. Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies a claim.

  • Vocabulary Lists Tests
  • Rhetorical Term Test #3 (“Figurative Language—Tropes” & “Language”)
  • Semester Exam

Semester Two 

Fourth Six Weeks

This six weeks examines seeks to create links among works that deal with the themes of social protest and civil disobedience. We will also look at logical constructs and fallacies.

Reading Focus: 
·         Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
o   Selected scenes from “Apocalypse Now”
·         “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” – Chinua Achebe
·         “Marlow’s Descent into Hell” – Lillian Feder
·         Selected passages from King Leopold’s Ghost – Adam Hochschild
·         “Self-Reliance” – Emerson
·         Released Synthesis Questions

  • Lists 11.4.1-ll.4.5
  • Rhetorical Terms
  • Tone Words

Grammar Focus: Prepositional Phrases (Killgallon)

College Board Materials:
Timed Writings:
  • Alfred M. Green’s Speech in Philadelphia (2003)
  • “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927” (2005/B)
  • Choosing Imperfection Rather Than Sainthood (2000)
Multiple Choice Practice:
  • “My Simple Story” and “Packet Arrived”
  • Multiple Choice Practice on Heart of Darkness passages
Writing Process Paper: Research Paper: Student’s Choice of Issue Stemming from Effects of Colonization/Imperialism in Africa

  • Mock Exam
  • Vocabulary Lists Tests
  • Rhetorical Term Test #4  (“Syntax”  & “Language”)
  • Tone Test #3
Fifth Six Weeks

For a little levity, we turn our attention to satire these six weeks. Satire is a wonderful mode of social commentary that seeks to critique social ills through humorous rhetoric. We will then change gears and examine the rhetoric of war by identifying appeals to people’s sense of patriotism, spirituality and sacrifice. Because propaganda seeks to appeal to a variety of emotions and senses, we will be analyzing the visual rhetoric of wartime cartoons, comic books, advertisements, and recruiting posters.

Reading Focus: 
  • “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift
  • “Cannibalism in the Cars” - Twain
  • “Passing the SAT,” Dave Barry
  • Film – Bob Roberts - 1992
  • “Advice to Youth,” Mark Twain
  • Film excerpt and transcript – Patton – 1970
  • Woodrow Wilson vs. Sen. G. W. Norris, excerpts from opposing views on entering WWI – April, 1917
  • FDR’s Pearl Harbor Speech – December 8, 1941
  • “Presidential Address to the Nation: October 7, 2001–George W. Bush
  • Text of Osama bin Laden video – October 8, 2001–Wall Street Journal

  • Lists ll.5.1-11.5.5
  • Rhetorical Terms
  • Tone Words

Grammar Focus:  Adjective Clauses (Killgallon)

College Board Materials:
            Timed Writings: 
·         Choose a controversial issue (2004)
·         “Magna Soles” from The Onion 2005
·         “Pink Flamingoes” 2006
·         Alfred M. Green’s Speech in Philadelphia (2003)
            Multiple Choice Practice:
·         Various College Board released materials

Writing Process Paper: Rhetorical Analysis of Wartime Cartoons

·         Vocabulary List Tests
·         Rhetorical Term Test #5: Structure, Types of Composition, and Rhetoric
·         Tone Test #4

Sixth Six Weeks

We continue our researched argument and look at persuasive essays that are paired to reveal opposing views. By reading these essays carefully and examining the rhetorical strategies the authors use, your own writing will improve.

Reading Focus:
  • “The Penalty of Death,” H.L. Mencken
  • “The Unquiet Death of Robert Harris,” Michael Kroll
  • “Why Don’t We Complain?” William Buckley
  • “Welcome to Cyberia,” M. Kadi
  • “Cyberspace for All,” Esther Dyson
  • “Live Free and Starve” Chitra Divakaruni
  • “Streets of Gold,” Curtis Chang
  • “No Name Woman,” Maxine Hong Kingston
  • “Cheating,” Leonard Pitts
  • Lists 11.6.1-11.6.5
  • Rhetorical Terms
  • Tone Words
Grammar Focus: Adverb Clauses (Killgallon)

College Board Materials:
Timed Writings from College Board:
  • Wooden-headedness (1994)
  • Los Angeles Notebook (1994)
  • “The Company Man”  (1995)
  • Christine Pelton Editorial (2003)
Multiple Choice Practice:
·         Various College Board Released Materials

Writing Process Paper: Argument/Persuasion

·         Vocabulary Lists Tests
·         Rhetorical Term Test #6 (Entire packet)
·         AP Language Exam

“Approved” Book List

There is no recommended or required reading list for the AP English Language and Composition course. The College Board does provide a list of sample texts in order to suggest an appropriate range and level of quality. Teachers may choose any text of comparable quality and complexity to these or any other college textbook. AP courses, by design, should provide students with a learning experience equivalent to that of a college class. Whenever applicable, college-level texts must be used to engage students in the curriculum.

The AP English Language and Composition course requires nonfiction readings. This includes but is not limited to:
  • essays
  • journal articles
  • political writings
  • scientific writings
  • environmental writings
  • autobiographies/biographies
  • diaries
  • histories
  • criticisms
 Texts should be selected to give students opportunities to identify and explain an author's use of rhetorical strategies and techniques. College Board does not include individual works of literature or literature anthologies in their list of pre-approved titles. When fiction and poetry are assigned in this course, their main purpose will be to help students understand how linguistic and rhetorical choices create various effects on the reader/audience.


Each student should have:
·         A large (1 ½ or 2 inch) 3-ring binder for class notes, handouts, etc.
·         Tab separators for sections in the binder
·         3x5 inch note cards (400 will carry you to the end of the year)
·         A box or other containment system for the note cards
·         Three highlighters of different colors
·         Pens (black or blue ink only), pencils, and plenty of loose leaf notebook paper for notes and writing assignments
The following items are optional, but it would be a good idea to have:
·         A good college dictionary
·         A style manual that contains the guidelines for MLA and APA (for example, A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker contains formatting and grammar guides for writing academic papers)
·         A pocket calendar or appointment planner

Classroom Behavior
Students are expected to behave in a manner that promotes learning, scholarship, and honor. Any breeches of school rules or acceptable behavior will be dealt with first with the student and then with the parent. Administrators will be informed as situations demand. Students are expected to be prepared and on-time to class each day.

Academic Honesty
Students will receive a copy of the Woodrow Wilson High School Academic Honesty Policy.  All students and faculty will follow the policy.

Students must attend class ninety percent (90%) of class time. This applies to excused and unexcused absences—the law makes no distinction. If a student fails to attend the required number of classes, credit cannot be given without making up time missed and approval from the Attendance Committee.

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