AP English Language and Composition
On-Line for the 2020-2021 School Year
Teacher: Rebekah Follmer
Note: As of June 9th, this class is full. However, openings do regularly occur every summer as people reevaluate their plans. So if you'd like to be put on the waiting list, please submit a completed application. Thank you!
Tuition: $725 early bird/$750 after July 1; class size limited to 15 students
Length of Course: Class begins on Friday, August 21st, 2020 and ends on Friday, May 14th, 2021. This will include a Thanksgiving, winter, and spring break.
Course Description: Advanced Placement English Language and Composition challenges students to analyze how authors and speakers use rhetoric to communicate with their audiences, then asks students to make meaningful rhetorical decisions in their own compositions. The concept of rhetoric can confuse students at first but really revolves around a central question: why does this author write/speak about this topic to this group of people in this particular way? I have a strong belief that all communication is argument, and thus this class will teach students how to deconstruct and make arguments for specific audiences through written, spoken, and visual modes.
Course readings will focus on complex and engaging non-fiction texts that provide models for argumentation as well as springboards for important discussion about ideas fundamental to our lives today. We will explore topics such as race and racism in America, plastic surgery, cloning, and the pursuit of perfection, and the reality of the American Dream. We will also be looking closely at a variety of sentence structures, imitating models to write sentences about content from each unit. Ultimately, students will become confident writers, readers, and thinkers and gain skills necessary to pass the AP Language Exam in May. I hope that you will join me this year!
Workload: Weekly coursework will generally include 40-60 pages of required reading with accompanying multiple choice questions or short responses, participation in written discussions, short video lectures, brief skill assignments, and 2-5 pages of writing. Additionally, as successful AP Lang students are people who “know stuff about things,” students will frequently read and respond to National Public Radio, New York Times, or similar media outlet stories on topics that interest them. Finally, throughout the year, students will choose works from a short list of options and participate in small literature circles. The class will not meet at set times, but students should expect daily work, including assignments due by midnight each weekday. I will require all students to participate in live chat debates at least once a unit starting with unit 2, and I will hold optional help sessions as the need arises. A few times over the course of the year, I will assign full-length AP exams; students must take the test in one sitting, but I will grant several days free from other work so that students can choose when to complete the test. While AP Language is a rigorous, college-level class, I am not an ogre, and I do provide flexibility for students who run into conflicts due to illness, special events, and travel. Please do not be afraid to ask for what you need! Every weekend, I send students and parents an assignment planner that details the work for the following two weeks, and students can often work ahead or at least plan their schedule accordingly.
Collaboration: I will frequently require students to work on small tasks and larger projects in smaller groups. Students must be willing to find time in which all group members can contribute to the project, even if that means students are leaving comments on a google doc and “discussing” in non-real time. The most effective collaboration will require some flexibility from all students.
I. Concrete Argumentation: This unit will train students to recognize different types of argument and provide concrete and original support for those arguments. Students will also learn about the rhetorical triangle and how authors use it to make arguments.
II. Identity and the Quest for Perfection: Students examine overarching decisions in rhetoric and style as we consider modern trends in transforming and perfecting ourselves, from designer babies to plastic surgery. Students will compose their first rhetorical analyses, focusing on decisions authors make with regard to logos, ethos, pathos, diction, and organization as they seek to accomplish their purpose. Texts will include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, contemporary essays, and excerpts from works by Aldous Huxley and Ayn Rand. The live debate with focus on The Swan and will take place on an evening in October.
III. Dignity and Oppression: This unit will begin to focus student attention more directly on rhetorical devices—schemes and tropes that form the meat of an author’s argument. Students will read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as well as essays and speeches by Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Benjamin Banneker, Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, and more contemporary writers as we explore instances of oppression and the question of dignity in overcoming oppression. The live debate/discussion will focus on cultural expectations and will take place on an evening sometime in March.
IV: The American Dream and the American Spirit: Students will learn proper synthesis of voices in their arguments. Instruction will focus on framing arguments, conducting research, using MLA style citation, and synthesizing research in writing. Students will also work in groups to make presentations on visual rhetoric. Texts will include, among others, selections from Emerson, Ehrenreich, Quindlen, de Tocqueville, and Thoreau. The live debate will focus on imperialism/globalization and take place on an evening sometime in April.
Technical and textual needs: Students must have full access to the web and Microsoft Word (I will use the comments function in Word to help students through needed revision). Students must also have their own google drive account, as we will use google sheets to do Thesis Quickfire. I will also update periodic grade reports on a google doc that I share with each parent and student. Students must be able to view PDF files and videos and should have a headset or microphone to participate in presentations and discussions. A proposed list of required text is listed below, and I will send out an updated list with the syllabus at the beginning of the year; students will be able to find most texts online, in used bookstores, or at their local libraries.
Who should apply: This course is designed for students who like to think critically and deeply about a variety of topics. Students need not love literature or “Englishy” type things, but they should be interested in how our world works and how people make arguments about our world. I do not recommend this course for students who need remedial instruction in grammar, paragraph formation, reading comprehension, or basic writing skills. Students must be self-motivated, driven, and willing to rework and revise assignments. They should be willing to exercise creativity and should be curious about the nuances of the world.
This course is open to 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. I do occasionally accept exceptional 9th grade students, but I encourage all students to wait until they are fully prepared to thrive in the demands of the class rather than simply survive them.
Instructor Qualifications: This is my tenth year teaching AP Language and Composition and my fifth year teaching for PA Homeschoolers. I graduated summa cum laude from Wheaton College in 2004, majoring in English and dabbling heavily in Philosophy and Ancient Languages. I earned a Masters degree in Teaching from National Louis University in 2009. My fifteen years of teaching include experience in urban schools in Chicago and a private, more rural school in Wisconsin. In addition to my teaching jobs, I have also worked as an editor for students and professors in the process of defending masters and doctoral theses, and I have written curriculum for a national foundation in Washington D.C. I live with my husband Kris, our four-year-old son Berend, our two-year-old daughter Mara, and our six-month-old daughter Solvej near St. Paul, Minnesota. I love being able to indulge my passion for teaching from home!
- Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein They Say, I Say (2ndEdition)
- Don Killgallon Sentence Composing for High School
- Mary Shelley Frankenstein (Signet Classics)
- Martha Beck Expecting Adam (Berkley Books)
- Lit Circle Options (you will choose ONE): Wes Moore The Other Wes Moore, Richard Wright Native Son, Michelle Alexander The New Jim Crow
- Frederick Douglass Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Barnes and Noble Classics)
- Gene Luen Yang American Born Chinese (graphic novel)
- Lit Circle Options (you will choose ONE): Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman, F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby, Jeannette Wills The Glass Castle
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