Welcome to second semester AP Lang! For new parents and students, I hope you find this weekly (sometimes biweekly when I get really busy!) blog a useful resource for keeping tabs on what we are up to in class.
As I told the students today, I really hate that we had to start the semester on a somewhat negative note with the midterm retake today. However, I’m happy to report that, as suspected, students did the same or better on today’s test. We worked really hard this weekend to find passages and construct questions that would be fair and provide accurate results; I think we were successful!
Last semester was organized around teaching new writing skills and critical reading work. This semester we will not learn any more skills; rather we will focus on practicing the skills they have and working on efficiency and style. To that end, our work every week will be in a reader/writer workshop format. On Mondays, students will receive four texts for the week:
Students will be encouraged to plan out their in class work on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to get the maximum amount of work done in class; they will all be scheduled for a weekly, graded conference with me as well.
There are several goals for organizing class this way. First, we want to give students consistent practice opportunities to help them hone the skills necessary for the test in May. This format also allows for weekly, one-on-one feedback about their writing from their teacher. Finally, and perhaps most important, this format puts much of the ownership and responsibility for practice in the hands of the student. As this is supposed to mimic a college course, we are hoping to give students more freedom in how they attack their work, ask for feedback, and develop their skills. If they are practicing during class, while I'm there to help them and provide feedback, they will make much more progress. If you can help out at home by encouraging them to share what they’re working on with you, that would be wonderful!
I look forward to working with your students this semester as we prepare for the AP Test in May! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Hello! This will be my last entry of semester one. I will be seeing lots of you in semester two, but I know some students are moving to other AP Lang teachers (hopefully due to scheduling and not me chasing them away!!). I know everyone is caught up in end-of-semester studying, but I highly recommend taking some time this weekend to engage in some reflection about why we have Monday off! I am always reminding students that they need to take opportunities to “deepen their contextual pools” --learn more about the world around them--and this is one of those opportunities! Novi High School hosts a wonderful event called “Unity in the Community” at 7pm on Monday evening in the Auditorium featuring speakers and artistic responses to MLK day. There are many other wonderful service learning and memorial events in the area as well.
Since it’s the end of the semester, I know everyone is fixated on two things: grades and midterms. I’ll try to answer all those questions in this post.
Student grades are currently up to date except for the reading multiple choice quiz we did on Friday. I forgot them at school (grrr!!) but I will enter those scores on Tuesday morning. Currently, both Multiple Choice Reading assessments are marked as “not graded”. After I enter this third Multiple Choice Reading assessment, I will mark the highest scoring one as “graded” and it will count toward the student’s score.
Synthesis essays have been graded and entered into MiStar. I was so happy with the progress these essays show! Research writing is difficult, and the students rose to the challenge! Please ask your student to share his or her essay with you; they are well constructed, interesting arguments. I usually avoid giving scores before students can see comments on their papers because I think it’s incredibly frustrating for students to see a number without any feedback. However, there are some students who did not achieve proficiency (80%) with the essay and I would like to give those students an opportunity to revise. Students who scored lower than an 80% will be allowed to submit a revised essay by Friday, January 20. If they’d like to get started on those revisions today or tomorrow, they are welcome to email me their essay with specific questions about what they may need to revise.
The only remaining grade for the midterm is one additional reading score. We are doing the writing portion of the midterm early this week and then we will take three days “off” before the multiple choice portion of the midterm. On the “off” days, students will be watching and reading the transcripts of several inaugural addresses--President Lincoln's second inaugural, JFK's, and finally President-elect Trump’s Inaugural speech. All three speeches were given to an incredibly divided electorate; I had planned to do something else, but I think it would be foolish in a rhetoric and argumentation class to skip this opportunity to examine such important speeches! Students will read the speeches for message, purpose and tone and discuss their effectiveness in small groups. I am hoping that they will see the real-world, practical application of the skills we’ve been practicing all semester. This is a great chance for students to dig into the words of our elected leaders and decide how they feel about them.
Tuesday: In class rhetorical analysis essay
Wednesday: In class argument essay
Thursday, Friday, Monday: Reading/viewing activity with speeches
Tuesday: Multiple choice review
Wednesday/Thursday/Friday (depending on the hour): Multiple choice exam
The two essays and multiple choice will be combined for the midterm score which is worth 20% of the student's grade. The midterm will be curved, but I have found that most students typically do very well on this midterm--they're ready!! For the next two weeks I will be posting practice materials on Google Classroom for the students to use. There are a number of them posted already. Students who feel like they need extra work brushing up on the skills we’ve been working with all semester should use those practice materials.
It has been a great semester, and your students have worked hard and grown a lot. I’m looking forward to continuing our work in second semester.
Enjoy the long weekend!
Welcome back! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays as much as I did. It was wonderful to have so much time home with my kids.
Tomorrow the synthesis essays are due (both hard copies and turnitin.com copies). I am hopeful that students took my advice and finished those up early in the break, but I just checked turnitin.com and saw there are only 6 (of 62!!) submitted! Please, encourage your students to get those done right away.
We will begin reviewing for the midterm exam this week. Monday and Friday will be dedicated to multiple choice reading analysis practice, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be dedicated to reviewing the rhetorical analysis and argument essay forms. We’ll practice some timed planning, look at sample essays, and discuss general review strategies for the midterm exam.
We will begin the midterm exam next week. I know that sounds early, but in order to have time to grade all the essays (students will write a full argument essay and a full rhetorical analysis essay), we need to spread things out!! Students should plan to work hard on their review this week in order to be prepared for next week. On the actual exam day (in three weeks) they will take a 60 question multiple choice reading exam.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the next few weeks! I’m looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow!!
Happy Snow Day! I’m writing a two week post today since I have a feeling I’m just going to get busier and busier as we get closer to break.
Students will get their argumentative essays back tomorrow. I’m really excited about the progress I’m seeing in their writing. Scores were up from the first essay which is exactly what we want to see!! I haven’t scored the rewrites of the rhetorical analysis essays yet (and I’m kicking myself for leaving them at school this weekend!!), but those will be done by the end of the week. If students choose to rewrite their argumentative essays, those rewrites will be due on December 23rd. Students are strongly encouraged to conference with me about essays prior to revising so that I may guide them to an improved score.
For the next two weeks in class we will be dedicating our time to drafting, conferencing, and revising students’ third formal essay. This essay is a synthesis essay and asks students to use research to make an argument responding to one of eight provided prompts. Students have already started researching and are working on a shared annotated bibliography with small teams in class. Those bibliographies will be due tomorrow.
Please encourage your students to take full advantage of our writing time in the next two weeks. My goal is to make it possible for all students to turn in their synthesis essays prior to break. Students who stay on top of their drafts and take opportunities to conference with me in class will be ready to do that. The essays aren’t officially due until Jan. 9, though, so I think some students may be tempted leave the work for break. Please help encourage them to use their time wisely and plan well!!
Enjoy the rest of your day!
This is an important week in AP Language as we are finishing up our third major writing piece: argumentative essays. Students have been drafting and revising over the past two weeks and should be spending this week putting final touches on those essays. Today (Monday), Tuesday and Thursday, we will dedicate the whole class period to writing conferences, revision and final drafts. Students should come to class prepared with specific questions about their drafts.
Students wanting even more feedback should plan to attend Academic Advisory on Wednesday when I will have 10-15 former students available to help with revision. I will also be available at school Tuesday evening from 6pm-8pm in my classroom. The high school will be having its open house for prospective students; my room will be open for new parents to stop by and see a writer’s workshop in action. I’d love to have some students come get some help during that time tomorrow night.
In addition to argumentative essays, this week is also the last opportunity for students to turn in revised drafts of their rhetorical analysis essays. For students who tackled the revision opportunity early in the month, this deadline is not a challenge; for others, unfortunately, they waited until this week to take advantage of the revision opportunity and are now trying to juggle two essays at once. As much as I hate to see them under pressure, I’m hoping you can (gently!) help me remind them that they’ve done this to themselves!! Good writing takes time and planning; both of these essays have been in their hands since the beginning of the month. If they planned poorly this time, I hope they learn better time management for the next essay.
Wednesday and Friday this week we will turn our attention to multiple choice practice. Students are struggling with the sophisticated nature of the AP Language multiple choice questions. They are complicated, layered questions about challenging texts. We will dissect some of the questions on Wednesday and work on reading strategies to help them tackle those questions more successfully. Friday they will take a second MC assessment with the hopes of replacing their current MC score in MiStar.
I hope you have a great week!! Please let me know if you have any questions.
First, an apology for no update last week! I’m sure you were all waiting breathlessly for my email :)
AP Lang has been incredibly busy; here is a quick overview of some important things.
Many students are feeling some stress right now over their “low” grades. I put “low” in quotation marks because it’s hard to really classify a B (or even a C!) as low at this point in the year. I love that they set such high standards for themselves, but I also want them to try to focus on improving their skills and raising their scores rather than simply fixating on a letter grade. Students with Bs and Cs have plenty of time to raise their scores to As before the end of the semester.
How can they raise their scores?
Step One: Revision!
Students have a full month to revise and resubmit their formal essays for a higher score. My goal with this practice is to help students learn to respond to feedback, experiment with new writing strategies, and embrace the role of revision in the writing process. Students who were unhappy with the scores on their first essays should read my comments, try to make some changes based on that feedback, and then come in to talk to me about the changes they’ve made. I am available before school Tuesday-Friday and we have writing workshop in class when they can conference with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Additionally, I’ve invited my former AP Lang students (current seniors) to come to AA next week to provide extra feedback and help with revision.
Step Two: Practice!
All of our work in class is geared toward circling back and revisiting skills after they’ve been introduced to help students practice. For example, as we began our argument essays this week, students were asked to also read critically and evaluate the rhetoric used in those arguments. On Monday, we’ll discuss the rhetoric they examined. This discussion is excellent practice for future rhetorical analysis and for reading assessments. Students need to engage fully in all this practice--even when it doesn’t “count” for their grade--in order to improve.
Big assignments coming up:
Have a great weekend!
This week begins Unit 3 in AP Language. We will begin our study of Work and our thematic question is “How does work shape and influence our lives?” This is one of my favorite questions to explore with the students because it encourages them to think beyond “What do you want to ‘be’ when you grow up” and they start to consider “What do I want my life to be like?” If you can, try to get your students talking about those things at home. Many of them are starting to feel the pressure of college choices and re-framing the discussion to consider how they want to live as adults can be very helpful for some.
Our writing focus for this unit is Argument. Now that we’ve analyzed and critiqued the arguments of others, we’ll be applying those strategies to our own writing. Students will dive back into They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing which they read over the summer. We’ll begin to explore how to best make effective arguments.
One of the biggest challenges for this unit is students’ contextual pools of knowledge. In order to make sound arguments, students simply need to know a lot about the world around them. For some students--especially those who enjoy history and current events--this is not that challenging. They understand how to connect things in history to modern day problems. They have a good grasp of current events and can suggest solutions based on that knowledge. For many, though, they are quick to realize that their “contextual pools” aren’t very deep!! Anything you can do to help your students deepen those pools would be appreciated. Talk about current events, watch the news with them, flip on NPR when you’re driving in the car, talk with them about what they’re studying in World History, etc. All of these things will help the students begin to make stronger connections in their arguments.
By the end of the week, students should have their first essays back and we will begin working on our next essay (argumentative essays). As always, encourage your students to ask for clarification if they do not understand how to improve!
Have a great weekend!
This week wraps up our Education Unit so there are two major assessments happening.
First, students will turn in their rhetorical analysis essays on Monday. We’ve been working on these in class for the past two weeks, so hopefully this weekend is not too stressful as they put the finishing touches on their essays. If you have a chance, check in with your student about how he or she tackled this task!! Some did a great job of spreading their work out over the two weeks and ended up having lots of time to ask for specific questions and receive feedback from me and from their peers. Other students struggled more with managing the writing process, missed a few check in points and seemed a little more stressed yesterday when they realized they hadn’t received as much feedback as their peers. I think this is a really great moment of learning for the students. Hopefully those that struggled will be able to tackle the next assignment more efficiently!
The second assessment this week is our third try at the critical reading test. Students have done two so far, we have practiced the skills extensively, and many are showing nice improvement! We will take another try at it this Friday. I haven’t talked to the students about it yet, but I suspect there won’t be as much improvement in scores with this version as the text they’ll be studying is significantly more challenging. We’ve been working with analyzing older texts this unit and this test will assess their abilities with that skill. They will still have at least one more chance to try for a higher score (maybe two more!) before the end of the semester.
Please make sure you check the high school website for information about signing up for conferences this year. I’m excited about the new process for parents pre-scheduling conferences and hope it will help alleviate lines. I’d advise trying to schedule your conferences alphabetically by teachers’ last names as that’s how we’re seated in the different areas of the building. That will hopefully keep you from trying to race around the building in circles!
Have a great weekend!
We are two weeks into our education unit and students are hard at work on our four different skill areas: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and Language. I thought this week, since I missed sending an update last week (sorry!), I would send an update on what we are doing arranged by skill area. These are the skills areas that comprise students’ grades as well.
Reading: Last week we focused on a piece by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I was elated by how well the students did with it. Typically, it is one of the most challenging for the students because it is dense and old. The students dug into it, though, and we had some wonderful discussions about the text throughout the week. Many of them used the guided reading videos I posted on Google Classroom to help them work through the text. I will continue to do that throughout the year as we tackle challenging texts. I record a Youtube video of myself reading and annotating. Sounds boring, I know, but I think hearing the text out loud and seeing my annotations really helps some students. Please encourage your students to take advantage of those videos when they are posted.
For this upcoming week, we’ll shift to a modern text. Students are reading an essay by Native American writer Sherman Alexie called “Superman and Me”-- a short piece about his experiences learning how to read. If you have time, take a look at it and discuss it with your student!
Writing: Students are hard at work on their first big AP-style essay: Rhetorical Analysis. In this essay, they are analyzing a text and trying to explain how an author conveys his or her message/ how an author achieves his or her purpose with the text. Students chose current op-eds from national newspapers, and we have been working with those for about a week now. They have all received comments from me online on their outlines and a score of 4/3/2/1/0 to reflect how they are doing right now. That score is in MiStar but does not count toward their grade. It was intended to give them feedback about how much additional help they should seek before continuing to write. About half of the students also met with me in person during Writer’s Workshop last week; everyone will have additional opportunities to meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week during class.
Speaking and Listening: Students participated in their second graded discussion last week using the Emerson piece. Many struggled with using textual references to support their claims during the discussion. They also all really struggled with listening!! Many had lots to say, but had trouble listening to what their peers were saying and using that to build a genuine, authentic discussion. I gave students some specific suggestions for how to prepare for the next discussion which will be Monday about “Superman and Me.” I will replace the Emerson score in MiStar with the new score if students show improvement.
Language: Finally, students are working each week on finding new and unfamiliar words in their texts and learning them. We are choosing ten words from our readings each week for the class quizzes. Students are doing well on the quizzes, but I am concerned that many have still not embraced the learning of new vocab. Many of them are waiting until the night before the quiz to memorize/cram the definitions of the words. Instead, I’d like them to look the words up when they encounter them in the text and use the whole week to slowly become familiar with these new words. Approaching vocabulary in that way will be much more beneficial to them in the long run. Please encourage them to tell you which words they are studying this week!
Sorry that was so long!! I guess that’s what I get for taking a week off. Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any questions.
This week begins our Education Unit, and students will spend the next few weeks considering the following question: What is the purpose of a true education? Today we read a short story called “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros and student considered the emotional stories that impact a student’s ability to learn.Tonight, for homework, they’re tackling a pretty challenging essay called “I Know Why the Caged Bird Can’t Read” by Francine Prose. Both texts are in the class textbook, and I encourage you to take a look at them. We will continue our practice with critical reading and discussing using those texts throughout the week. Tonight students should be taking notes as they read both on the author’s CMPAST (Context, Message, Purpose, Audience, Speaker, Tone) and also unfamiliar vocabulary. By the end of the week, we will start practicing multiple choice strategies using these texts.
This unit’s writing focus will be on the rhetorical analysis essay. The precis students wrote last week will serve as a “feeder” assignment for the essay as it helped students begin to pull apart an opinion piece. For their rhetorical analysis essays they will return to those pieces and analyze the specific strategies employed by the writers to achieve their purpose. We will begin working on those essays Tuesday in class.
Finally, students received their narrative writing scores today. Instead of giving the students hard copies of their scores, I added written, summative feedback to their turnitin.com documents. The feedback is in paragraph form and gives students specific areas on which to focus to improve their writing if they choose. For each major writing piece this fall, students will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit. To that end, I want them to have feedback that focuses on what they should do to improve the piece. I was very careful not to make “editing” type corrections because I do not want students to merely change a period here or a comma there. As they move forward toward college level writing, those are the types of changes they need to be catching with their own careful editing. We will discuss how to find and edit for those errors at length this year, but when they revise major essays, I want them to also think about making structural and analytical changes. Please encourage your students to read my feedback carefully and ask for clarification if they are not sure about what to do next with their writing! There will be multiple opportunities each week in class for students to ask for help, and I am always available Tuesday-Friday before school.
Have a great week!
Mrs. Hattie Maguire