After a long and sometimes frustrating week, the students are finally ready to start writing! I was so impressed with their persistence and curiosity last week as they refined their research questions, dug for better research, and read some incredibly complex texts. At times I could see they were getting frustrated (“Just tell me what to write, Mrs. Maguire!!” “We have to actually read the whole articles??””), but on Friday, it all seemed to click into place. Students started sketching out their ideas and organizing them and then spent the rest of the class period talking through their organizational plans with their peers. It was exciting to see how much ownership they’ve all taken of their topics. Please ask them to tell you about them! I’m sure they would all benefit from some more talking.
This week will be devoted to writing workshop. I’ll do brief mini lessons at the beginning of each class--organization, intros/conclusions, attributing sources--and then we’ll spend the rest of class working and conferencing about their writing. Essays will be due on Monday, Oct. 3. Please remind your students to spread their work over the whole week. At most, they should be doing final draft edits on Sunday of next weekend. No one should be staying up all night staring at a computer screen.
If you’ve been looking in MiStar at all, you’ll notice that everything in there is currently marked as “not graded.” Please do not be concerned about the lack of grades. Students are getting lots of feedback about their progress, and I will continue to put scores in, but I’m going to keep marking them as “not graded” for awhile longer so that they have a chance to build their skills before letter grades start popping up.
Enjoy the rest of this beautiful weekend!
This week we will continue digging into critical reading and rhetorical analysis. Of all the skills in AP Language, this is usually the most challenging for the students. I would argue, however, that even though it’s hard, it’s the most valuable. As I reminded the kids in class on Friday when we looked at recent tweets regarding the police shootings and unrest in Charlotte, NC, words can be used for many purposes: to inspire, to demean, to challenge, to critique, to belittle, to provoke change. Learning how to effectively analyze someone’s rhetoric helps you understand what that person is trying to do with his words. When you know someone’s purpose, it’s much easier to decide how to react.
Over the weekend students read three different texts about protest that represent different perspectives. Students will engage in a discussion about those texts on Monday and then find a text on their own Monday or Tuesday to do their own rhetorical analysis. We will spend the remainder of the week analyzing the texts they’ve chosen, determining the author’s purpose and deciding how the author achieved that purpose.
By the end of the week, my hope is that students will have a clear idea of how to systematically approach a complex text, determine its purpose, and respond in writing. Please ask them about the texts they’re analyzing; they were eager to discuss on Friday, and I think it would be excellent extra practice for them to discuss their texts with you.
If you check MiStar, you’ll notice that a number of graded assignments have begun to fill in. I’m very happy with the students’ progress as of right now. Please help them remember that a B or even a C at this point in the semester is perfectly fine. There are multiple chances to revisit skills and replace assessment scores as skills improve. The one area to be concerned about is Os in non-graded assignments. Some students may have been absent for one or two of those practice assignments, but a consistent pattern of missed practice assignments is something we should be addressing now!!
Enjoy the rest of this beautiful weekend!
Tomorrow (Monday) marks an important first in AP Language--students will be submitting their first formal writing assignment! I have enjoyed watching these pieces develop over the last two weeks and was able to get a glimpse of them in their final stages this weekend as students shared them with me via Google Docs. As long as they submitted their drafts to me by Friday night, they received some final hints/feedback this weekend as they work on final drafts. Those drafts will be assessed and students will receive feedback in the next two weeks. Hopefully they will share their final drafts with you; I’ve really enjoyed reading them so far.
This week we will begin zeroing in on analytical reading in preparation for our first analytical writing assignment. Students will continue working with the acronym CMPAST : Context, Message, Purpose, Audience, Speaker, and Tone. We will consider all of these elements as we examine a text and try to figure out what an author is trying to accomplish with the text. By the end of the week you will start to see analytical reading scores pop into MiStar. Please remember that students will work on this analytical reading skill all semester; if scores are a little low now, that just means the student needs to continue to practice!
Please encourage your students to read their independent novels in the evenings this week for at least a little time each night. It will be tempting for them to take a week "off" since they just submitted an essay and there aren't any major writing pieces on the horizon; however, this is a smart time to get a jump on those independent novels.
Have a great week!
This week in AP Seminar it’s time to really get down to business. Students have considered multiple perspectives, practiced identifying lines of reasoning and begun to develop their own focus areas for research. This week, I’m setting them loose on their own research to flesh out their answers to this question:
What does it mean to be wealthy?
On Friday, students started brainstorming their answers to that question, and we quickly discovered that there were a million different directions to go with the answer. Some want to talk about wealth in America vs. other countries. Others want to talk about the different definitions of wealth (monetary vs emotional). Others are interested in the psychology of satisfaction: what do our brains need to feel “wealthy”? Hopefully, they’ve been sharing these questions and ideas with you over the weekend.
On Monday and Tuesday this week, we will start exploring the two main databases we will use for our research this year and next year. Learning to use databases effectively is an essential skill for Capstone students and one they will find very useful when they hit college. Novi subscribes to several excellent databases, but we will do the bulk of our research in JStor, a database that they will likely continue to use at the college level. The other database we will use is Ebsco. This database is available to our students through the AP Capstone program and will be another resource they will likely encounter in their college studies.
After we dive into our research the first half of the week, we will spend the remainder of the week sifting through what we’ve found and starting to draft our written responses. By the end of the week, students will have a good start on their first writing assignment. This week you will also start to see grades popping up in MiStar. Please remember that these are simply a measure of where students are right now. All of the skills we are working on this semester will be repeated and revisited multiple times. If students are not mastering a particular skill right now, they’ll have lots of chances to improve.
Have a great week!
This week has been largely dedicated to writing workshop and studying mentor texts for our narrative pieces due next Monday. On Monday we discussed a narrative essay by Firoozeh Dumas from her book Funny in Farsi. We noted traditional grammar rules that Dumas “breaks” and discussed the intentional choices writers make to break rules and give their writing an authentic voice. Students experimented with this as homework on Monday, and we began writing conferences to discuss those choices on Tuesday. We will continue that work on Wednesday and Thursday and add another essay by Annie Lamont from her book Bird by Bird to continue to give students professional examples of authentic voice in narrative writing.
This week also begins our vocabulary study. Students will be collecting new words from our discussions and readings. For example, I’ve already instructed them to add “chide” and “commiserate” to their lists as those two words came up in class during discussion and few knew them! We will gather our vocabulary that way all year as research shows students retain vocabulary best when they discover it naturally. I also hope this method helps them develop a curiosity about words as they meet them “in the wild”! Every week we will gather at least ten words and students will be assessed on their ability to use those words the following week.
What should you be seeing at home? Hopefully students have been embracing my mantra of 30 min a night! Please help them pace their work in this class. They should be planning out their week so that they aren’t swamped with work. Narratives will be due on Monday, but this weekend should really only be final edits. I will encourage them to let you read their narratives. They’re doing a great job, and I think you’ll enjoy them!
Enjoy the rest of the week. I hope to meet you at Curriculum Night tonight.
This week we are building on the work we did with perspectives and starting to examine how perspectives influence arguments. Monday and Tuesday we worked with an op-ed in the New York Times by Sam Polk called “For the Love of Money.” Students considered his perspective and how that might influence his argument. Next they examined how he built his argument, and finally assessed the validity of his evidence. We had some great discussions, and I think all the students are doing a nice job of challenging their own and each other's’ assumptions.
On Wednesday we are adding another, slightly more challenging text to the mix-- “The Gospel of Wealth” by Andrew Carnegie. I was excited to hear the students immediately commenting about their opinions about Carnegie as I passed out the text yesterday! They’ve been paying attention in their history classes, and that will benefit them immensely this year! For those unfamiliar with Carnegie, I encouraged them to do a little googling before reading. The more they can develop a natural curiosity about the readings we’re doing, the better off they’ll be.
Thursday and Friday we will continue our work with identifying writers’ arguments. We will shift our focus to reading and studying research and consider how arguments in academic writing are different than the genres we’ve already studied (op-ed, argumentative essay, visual texts).
All of this work with arguments is leading to students writing their own! Next week we will begin the students’ first writing piece. They will develop their own question related to the theme of money and wealth. You may want to ask them which questions they are starting to consider. The best questions develop after lots of conversation.
Enjoy the rest of your week and I hope to see you at Curriculum Night tonight!
This week we will jump right into the AP Seminar QUEST framework: Question, Understand, Explore, Synthesize, and Transform. Over the summer, students began considering the theme of money. How does money impact our choices? What defines wealth in our society? Other societies? The questions are just beginning and students did a great job of analyzing the texts I provided them and adding their own texts to our conversation. We will continue working with this theme for the next four weeks.
We will start this week talking about perspectives and the danger of considering only one perspective when thinking like a researcher. We will use a very famous TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to begin this discussion and then gradually add all of the texts from our summer work to the table as the week progresses. By the end of the week, I hope students can see the importance of looking at a text through multiple lenses. How might the same text be read differently by different people? This first week will focus on how to read a text. Next week we will move from reading the texts and considering perspectives to analyzing the arguments made in the texts and critiquing their validity. Finally, in the third and fourth weeks of school, students will begin forming and researching their own arguments related to this theme.
I encourage you to engage your students in discussions about what we’re studying in class. This semester we will be grappling with some very sophisticated arguments; the more chances they have to discuss them with adults and think about those arguments in different ways, the better!
Please let me know if you have any questions about the course!
This week we will begin our unit of study on Identity. Students will consider what they value individually as readers and writers. This is an important first step in our study this year because we will be laying the groundwork for how we approach texts critically. We will begin the week writing six word memoirs. Six word memoirs are a fun way to experiment with language precision because sharing a valuable insight about yourself in just six words is no easy task!! Perhaps the most famous six word memoir of all time is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway (though it’s not certain that he actually wrote it):
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
We had a great discussion about this memoir in class today--along with several others--and I am excited to see what the students will come up with for their own!
In addition to six word memoirs, students will also submit their summer work--two annotated op-eds of their choosing-- and complete a graded discussion about their summer reading book. We will return to these books throughout the year as each one connects thematically to our units of study this fall.
Finally, at the end of the week, students will begin writing a narrative that expands on the concept of the six word memoir. This will be a bit longer (300-500 words) but the emphasis will still be on precise and concise diction. Though narrative is not one of the writing genres we will prepare for the AP test in May, it is a vital skill for developing an authentic writing voice. Students will need this authentic voice for their argumentative essays and writing pieces like college application essays. Students will begin drafting their narratives on Thursday and Friday; next week we will focus on revision as they will be due Sept. 16.
Hopefully your students shared the course procedures with you on Tuesday evening. You may also wish to view the screencast I created for them going over the key areas of the course procedures. This is a technique I will use throughout the year with the students. When we have material that needs to be covered quickly or lecture-style lessons, I may videotape the lessons and post them on our Google Classroom for students to view as homework. I’d rather they watch a 10-15 minute video as homework and preserve our in class time for individual help, discussions, and practice of skills!
Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to working with all of you this year as we support these students on this journey through AP Language.
Mrs. Hattie Maguire