They must be able to consider a wide variety of rhetorical strategies and choose those most effective for conveying their ideas. Lastly, they must be able to analyze their own writing, their own thinking, and their own choices of those devices used to convey theses ideas. The final examination is an opportunity for students to show these abilities. Students will choose an original idea, and enter into a "conversation" by developing this unique perspective in a ten to twelve page paper. They must choose from all of the rhetorical strategies taught during the course those which will best help them to convey their idea. Then, they will present this paper to the class during a ten to twelve minute speech during which they will provide excerpts of their paper, an explanation of their whole writing process, and an analysis of those devices used and why they chose those techniques. The last part of this will be a so called "defense of thesis" where the presenter must field questions from the teacher and students about their paper's content, style, and the choices they have made during and regarding this whole process.
In order to accomplish this goal, students go through a lengthy process. First, students select and read (prior to the course) five novels from a list of books representing the American, British, and non-Western canons. This is to augment the mainly non-fiction basis of reading for the course during the year. In addition, during the year, students select four more titles from that list and complete various assignments in conjunction with their reading. Students will complete journal style reflections including some analysis of the text and their interactions with it; students will complete a close reading guide for which they select passages and analyze stylistic elements such as diction, voice, tone, schemes, tropes, sentence types and the effect these have on the reader; students complete a vocabulary analysis of ten words from their novel which they choose. For this, the students analyze the word's origins including affix, root meaning, derivatives, etc; students also, for some readings, will create sample AP multiple choice questions, mimicking those found on the AP test. The goal of all of this reading, is to increase the students breadth or reading experience, and to look a these texts too in light of the writers' use of style.
Additional reading for this course includes a weekly analysis of a large and diverse list of essayists across various centuries. Students analyze the historical, biographical context of the writer, his or her main ideas developed in the essay, and the stylistic elements utilized to more effectively convey the ideas. Once per semester, the students will present their analysis to the class, and field questions similar to those required during the final examination. The weekly readings from the textbook provide the same kind of experience, although the students read these primarily for their content and as examples of essays written in the various patterns in which students will write.
Students go through a rigorous, methodical, writing process every week that also promotes a high level of student freedom and creativity. Students begin by seeing examples of different kinds of essays that demonstrate a particular pattern such as narrative or definition or causal analysis. Then, the students are given two opportunities to free-write during which they search for their own topic. Next, the students participate in a discussion of the various topics so that they might hear others' ideas and allow that to contribute to their own creative process. These free-writes then morph into a three to five page rough draft (which is revised among peers and occasionally the teacher). The focus for this revision is on students' content and ideas. For the next class, students bring a second, revised rough copy: this is then edited for grammar, clarity, syntax, and diction. (Each week, students are exposed to various sentence patterns commonly used by professional authors. Students analyze and emulate these in a brief practice exercise, and are then expected to include at least one of these patterns in their weekly essays.) A final product is then produced, and all of this is submitted, accompanied by a short peer-edit reflection. This includes the students' reflection on their whole process, from the idea's genesis, its reshaping, and finally its completion in the final product stage. This process is completed weekly, leading up to the final examination, the culmination of all of these skills.
Additionally, the course teaches research skills including the ability to evaluate, cite, and use primary sources. Along with teacher handouts for guidelines in evaluation and MLA citation style of source, students will reference the Purdue University Owl Web site
Students are graded according to three areas: Process, product, and assessments. Process points (10 percent of students' grades) are earned by completing assignments such as the close reading guides and the essay analysis. Product points (50 percent of students' grades) are earned based on students' final edited compositions submitted weekly. Assessment points (40 percent of students' grades) are earned based on tests given to students such as the weekly reading tests. The students' final exams count for twenty percent of their final average grades.
Of course, all of this prepares the students also for the AP Language and Composition examination. Each week students complete a section of a practice test, and samples of AP essay are often distributed, analyzed, and discussed.
- McCuen, Jo Ray, and Anthony Winkler, Readings for Writers. 9th ed. Fort Worth:
Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998.