Well, they survived the IWA process! They would probably say “barely” but I would say they nailed it. Yesterday, students turned in their final drafts of their Individual Written Arguments, a 2000 word research based argumentative essay. I think they were skeptically proud of themselves. Proud they’d finished the essays, but skeptical about the quality. I tried to help them understand that that’s exactly where they should be right now! This was a first attempt at a pretty challenging type of research and writing. We spent the hour reflecting on what we had learned from the process and these were the tips they came up with for themselves:
We posted these two posters on the back wall and will return to them often next semester when they are working on their performance tasks that “count” for the College Board assessments. Obviously, I haven’t graded them yet, but I know these will be solid pieces of writing because every one of the students was thinking like a writer. Ultimately, that’s my goal in this class. Students need to see themselves as writers who are making purposeful choices about how they’re crafting an argument. What evidence should I include? How should I order my claims to make this argument compelling? How does my word choice impact my audience?
If all the stars align and I can stay on task, those essays will be back in the students’ hands with feedback by early next week (the week of December 10).
In the meantime, we will be working on the second piece of Mock Performance Task #2: The Individual Multimedia Presentation. Students will take their essays and turn them into a 6-8 minute persuasive presentation. We will spend all next week working on those presentations in class. Students with a busy schedule should probably be doing some preliminary work on those presentations this weekend. If they are working hard in class and staying focused, the goal is for them to be ready to start practicing the presentations on Wednesday evening. Please start pestering them to practice for you!! They won’t want to, but they need to. At the very least, make them practice in front of a mirror or for an audience of supportive stuffed animals.
The IMPs will be presented (and videotaped!) in class the week of December 10. At the end of that week, students will do some timed, in class writing. Most of our work in AP Seminar is on process writing, but throughout the fall semester we have been sprinkling in some practice with timed writing to prepare for the End of Course exam. You will see that reflected in MiStar as “EOC A” or “EOC B”. On Thursday and Friday of that week, students will have a chance to try those two tasks again and potentially replace a low score with a higher one.
Finally, the week before break will be spent brainstorming and creating groups for our first--real!--Performance Task. Students practiced this one back in October; now we are doing the real thing. They will work in groups to research a problem area from many different perspectives. Students will write an individual research report (IRR) about those findings. Then, they will pull them all together to make a group argument for how that problem area should be addressed (Team Multimedia Presentation). You can save the date right now for Wednesday, February 6. Students will be performing those team presentations in the evening for--hopefully!--an audience of parents. I have found that parents give excellent feedback and this practice really benefits the students.
Over break, the students will not have any official homework. Some students may choose to get a jump on their IRR research, but others may choose a complete and total break. I’m fine with either choice and we will talk about how to think that choice through in class!
Sorry so long, but I know that the next few weeks will get very busy very quickly so I figured it was easier to just give one longer update when I had the time.
Have a wonderful holiday season!
Wow! This fall is going at warp speed. I blinked and we are days away from Thanksgiving. I will be out Thursday and Friday of this week presenting at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Houston, Texas. I wanted to give you an update before I leave.
Students are now knee deep in a mock Performance Task 2. This is practice for the PT2 we will do in the spring that will count as 35% of the students’ AP scores.
Performance Task 2 has two main components.
1. An Individual Written Argument. This is a 2000 word, research-based argument. Students have developed research questions based on a bunch of different thematically linked texts we have studied in class. We’ve spent a number of days researching and refining those questions to make sure they are leading students to solutions. Their essays ultimately need to argue for a solution to a problem they’ve identified.
All students should be at the writing stage at this point. They have been encouraged to share their writing outlines or plans with me digitally by tomorrow so that I can give feedback. Please encourage your student to take advantage of that opportunity!!
I know that if I required that they turn in plans, the vast majority of them would. HOWEVER, this is a great moment for them to practice the academic maturity we talk about all year. We have talked about spreading out work, using time wisely, etc. Now is the time to show that they can!! Please remind them that this type of practice is important so that they can handle these kinds of big projects on their own in college.
The week before Thanksgiving will be spent in one-on-one conferences about their papers. The more they have written, the better feedback they will receive. Papers will be due November 27. If you'd like to see the rubric for the scoring of the papers, please ask your student to share the document on Google Classroom with you.
2. An Individual Multimedia Presentation. This is a 6-8 minute presentation of the student’s solution. It is very similar to the presentation they did earlier in the year--it’s just solo instead of with a group. Students will work on these presentations when we return from Thanksgiving break. If you can convince your student to practice for you that week, that would be wonderful!
I hope you have a restful Thanksgiving! Please let me know if you have any questions about this large project.
Hello parents! My updates have been too infrequent this year; I’m sorry for that! At conferences last night, three different parents mentioned that this was the only way they know what is going on in class! Since your students aren’t filling you in, it sounds like I need to be more regular.
We just finished our first major assignment: a mock version of Performance Task One.This had two components. Students wrote a 1200 word independent research report and then teamed up with 2-3 peers and pooled their research to create an 8-10 minute presentation. I was very pleased with their final products and hope they share them with you. Grades for those assignments are in MiStar. Based on their performance, I think they are well on their way to being prepared for the official Performance Task that we will begin in late December.
Our next big unit started Monday and we are working toward a mock version of Performance Task Two. For this unit, I am giving students a wide variety of “stimulus materials”--poems, classic and contemporary essays, graphs, news articles, etc. All of the stimulus materials are centered on the overarching theme of Monsters (it’s almost Halloween, after all!!) and how we monster-ize things that we do not understand. We are spending lots of time talking about fears of the unknown and how misunderstandings about different groups or issues can create problems in society.
So far, the students have impressed me with their thoughtful, mature discussions of some very controversial issues (for example: mass incarceration, immigration, transgender rights). Please encourage them to continue this! We talk a lot in this class about respecting opinions, listening with an open mind, and assuming positive intent. Beyond our work in AP Seminar, my hope is that students will leave my class with skills that enable them to participate in productive discussions with people from all walks of life with diverse opinions.
What should you be seeing at home?
Reading! Students are doing a lot of reading of various texts over the next two weeks. All of this reading is intended to get them thinking and activate their curiosity. Ask them to tell you about their reading! Challenge them to share their opinions with you. In about two weeks, they’ll need to choose an independent research question that grows out of all this reading. The more they talk and think over the next two weeks, the easier that will be.
Have a great weekend!
We have been incredibly busy in AP Seminar, and I wanted to catch you up on what we are doing. The more you are “in the loop” the more you can (hopefully) help your students think through these big projects and how they might best manage their time.
This week students have been finishing up their independent research for their first project. I have been blown away with the quality of thinking and research from the students! They are pushing themselves and each other to break down some incredibly complex topics. I encourage you to ask them about their research.
Students met with me one on one for a research conference. They shared their annotated bibliographies with me and talked through their research process. These were graded conferences and you will see those grades reflected in MiStar by Friday afternoon. A score of 100 means the student was prepared with multiple, high quality, academic sources and was able to speak thoughtfully about how those sources addressed their research questions. Students with lower scores should be able to explain to you what they need to do to improve. If they can’t, please encourage them to speak to me.
Next week we will be diving into turning that research into an Individual Research Report (IRR). Students have seen a sample, high scoring essay. I’ve also posted a screencast of me reading and explaining the key points of that sample on Google Classroom. This is a big writing task and I have encouraged students to think about how they might break that task apart into manageable pieces. This is often very difficult for students because their natural inclination is to wait until the night before it is due!! We talked about schedules and commitments and Homecoming and I encouraged the students to think about how they might balance everything and still stay sane!! Please ask them about their plan. I am hopeful that constant reminders will keep them from having long nights of writing at the last minute.
Research essays will be due next week Friday, so you should see consistent writing all week long. If you're lucky, you might get to read a draft.
Have a great weekend!
We are finally ready to dig into our first research project!
This week your students will be forming groups for their first Mock Performance Task. All fall we will practice the skills necessary to complete the College Board Performance Tasks they will do later in the year as their official AP assessment. These "mock" performance tasks are the perfect opportunity to learn, make mistakes, and try again.
For this task, students will work in group of 4-5 students. Each group will have a research f area and each student will focus on a specific element of the area. For this task, we will all work on research areas related to our unit theme of Money. For example, if students wanted to zero in on the impacts of money on the public education system, group members might focus on different elements of the research area:
Students will do individual research and write an individual report of their research findings. Then, they'll reassemble as a group and pull it all together into one cohesive presentation that makes an argument about how we should address a problem they've identified.
It's a big, overwhelming task. Not only do they have to tackle some pretty advanced research, but this is their first chance to start working on group dynamics and holding one another accountable.
The best way for you to help is to ask lots of questions at home! Encourage your students to talk through their confusions about their research. If they're struggling with group members, help them think through how they might approach their peers in mature, direct ways. And always, always, nudge them to ask for support and help when they need it!! I'm here to guide them through this big task, and the more they're willing to ask for help early and often, the easier it will be.
This weekend your students should be blogging about potential topics for their research and reading their small group books. If you're lucky, they might share those blogs with you.
Have a great weekend!
Welcome to AP Seminar!
AP Seminar is the first year in the two year AP Capstone program. This year, students will learn college level research skills and engage in several large research projects. The class is designed to give them opportunities to develop research questions rooted in their own interests.
Their official AP test will be in the form of two videotaped presentations, two uploaded research papers and a 2 hour exam they will sit for in May. Next year, they will engage in a year long independent research project in AP Research that will culminate in a 20 page research essay and a 15 minute videotaped presentation. Completing AP Seminar, AP Research and four additional AP courses will qualify them to receive an AP Capstone diploma.
Our first AP Capstone cohort graduated this past June and the research projects they completed were impressive. This program is an exciting academic challenge for students; I am so glad your son or daughter has taken it on!
We have begun the year in AP Seminar with a thematic study of money and the political, cultural, economic, and social choices we make regarding it. Students are reading everything from older texts (example: Andrew Carnegie's Gospel of Wealth) to contemporary texts (example: Elizabeth Warren's "The Vanishing Middle Class"). They are examining poetry, visual art, and music for messages about money as well. They've also begun blogging about potential research questions within this topic area. I encourage you to ask your students to share their blogs with you!
Starting next week, we will begin our first big research project. I'll include more details about that project in next week's post. Feel free to email or call if you have any questions.
Students are making great progress towards their preparation for the AP test in May. We have done a lot of in class writing, practicing, and revising! There is no specific homework over break for AP Language, but this would be a great time for you to check in with your student about how much he or she is engaging with all of the available practice opportunities for the course. There are many options for students to prepare; they just need to take advantage of them! Some possibilities for over break:
Let me know if you have any questions and have a wonderful break!
I wanted to check in and give you an overview of what you might be seeing your student working on over break. We worked hard to get their final essays done prior to break, but many really wanted the more relaxed pace of a week off to make final editing touches. To that end, I’ve encouraged students to:
When we return from break,we will be diving right into final presentations. These will be delivered and videotaped on April 26. The month of April is unbelievably busy with field trips and competitions and prep for AP/IB tests; I encourage you to sit down with your student and help talk through a plan for getting this work done! Many have expressed a desire to get started on that presentation over break! We will work on it exclusively in class when we return from break.
Hopefully your student will share the work he or she is doing with you. They have worked very hard and have much to be proud of with these essays!
Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll check back in with updates in a few weeks.
I hope you’re enjoying your weekend! AP Seminar students should be hard at work on developing research questions for our second performance task this weekend. By Monday, they need to have finished a blog entry about their question and added their rough draft of their question to a shared class spreadsheet. Please ask them to tell you about their research question. Forming a good question and being able to articulate what it is you are trying to find out is key to a successful project.
From now until Spring Break, we will be working primarily on Performance Task 2 which will make up 35% of the students’ final AP Scores. When this is done, they’ll have 55% of the score complete; the remaining 45% comes from the timed exam they will take on May 8 (more on that another week!).
For performance task 2, students read six texts from The College Board that all loosely connect to a central theme. We’ve discussed each text at length in class. Now, students need to develop a research question based on one of those texts. They will write a 2000 word essay arguing for a solution to the problem they’ve identified. Then, they’ll develop and present a 6-8 minute presentation similar to the group presentations you already saw--just independently this time. Finally, they’ll be scored on their “oral defense” of their project. I’ll ask them two questions that they need to use their research to answer.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s really the only thing we’ll be doing in this class until mid-April.
How can you help?
Thanks for reading and your interest in our work! I’m so excited about the questions that are bubbling up with this topic. I think the students are going to have a good time with it.
I just entered some things in MiStar and realized that the scores might seem low or cause a little panic.
PLEASE do not be alarmed :)
We have made a major shift in our work. Students are starting to tackle the beast of writing on demand under time pressure. Hopefully you’ve seen them practicing this at home. If you haven’t, that’s definitely something to talk with your student about. Students should be doing one timed practice essay (40 minutes) each week at home.
After three weeks of work on argumentative writing, students chose their best essay from all their practices for me to score. Those scores are now in MiStar. I think some students still have room to grow with their argumentative writing; in the two weeks prior to the AP Exam in May, students will have a chance to revise that essay for a higher score. Please encourage your students to continue engaging with the writing practice so that when they have the opportunity to revise, they’ll be confident and ready to do so!
The other slightly concerning score you may see in MiStar is the Multiple Choice Practice. Please note that this score does NOT count towards students’ grades. The AP Language multiple choice is incredibly difficult. A few things to note:
Please encourage your students to take advantage of all the practice we will do in multiple choice. In my experience, students who practice diligently see their scores improve!
For the next few weeks we will be working on synthesis essay writing. This type of writing asks students to make an argument using source material. Students are also working on a choice writing piece. They chose topics in the last few weeks and have been working on drafting those essays. They should have rough drafts of those essays ready for feedback by Monday.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Mrs. Hattie Maguire