Course Syllabus 2007-2008: English 12Ap

Course Syllabus 2007-2008: English 12Ap



ENGLISH 12AP is organized according to the requirements and guidelines of the current AP English Course Description; therefore, students are expected to read critically, to think analytically, and to communicate effectively in both written and oral discourse. As a college preparatory course, ENGLISH 12 AP enables students to become skilled writerswho compose for a variety of audiences and purposes, using a variety of rhetorical styles—skills which they will then be able to adapt to oral discourse as well. Students will also become skilled readers of texts written in a variety of periods, disciplines, and rhetorical contexts. In addition, students will polish and perfect their own rhetorical speaking skills,

With those ends in mind—and with the additional aim of preparing them to pass the English AP Examination(s)—students will study a broad range of complementary fields: composition theory; exposition and argumentation; rhetoric; inductive/deductive reasoning; logic & fallacies in logic; literary theory; psychology, social science, & cultural criticism; and grammar, punctuation, mechanics.

In addition to the more traditional components of rhetoric, students will also study a variety of historical and contemporary visual and auditory media as well: photography, films, advertisements, commercials, comic strips, cartoons, video clips, and music videos. And in accordance with the College Board’s AP English Course Description, students will also learn “to read primary and secondary sources carefully, to synthesize material from these texts in their own compositions, and to cite sources using conventions recommended by professional organizations such as the Modern Language Association (MLA).”


  • To write with purpose and conviction, in a variety of rhetorical situations and for a variety of specific audiences
  • To understand how different rhetorical purposes and audiences influence the choices writers make about content, means of development, organizational patterns, diction, and style
  • To develop strategies for drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading essays
  • To use reading, writing, and speaking for inquiry, thinking, and learning
  • To find, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize appropriate primary and secondary sources
  • To master the MLA format for documenting primary and secondary sources
  • To learn to acknowledge and—whenever possible—dispose of the opposition by recognizing, analyzing, and addressing opposing views
  • To learn effective organizational strategies that complement the purpose, audience, and subject matter of the essay
  • To explore the relationships between thinking, speaking, and writing as well as between language, knowledge, and wisdom
  • To learn to analyze graphic and visual images as secondary source material and to be able to relate those graphic and visual images effectively and meaningfully to the written texts
  • To demonstrate knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and mechanics
  • To demonstrate knowledge of Semantics, Morphology, and the elements of Style
  • To prepare for—and successfully pass—the AP English Language and Composition Examination in May


To achieve these course goals, students will be writing a variety of essays in a variety of formats and rhetorical styles during the year. The first semester will emphasize the structure of arguments as well as the varying styles of argumentative essays. Students will complete four major arguments during this period, each one consisting of 750 to 1000 words. These essays will proceed from the proposal stage, through initial rough drafts, to first completed draft submitted for Peer Evaluation, to revised draft submitted for the teacher’s evaluation (which will include copious notations, corrections, suggestions, and feedback from the teacher—but no letter grade at this stage), to the final polished graded draft.

In addition, every student must write a “Critical Reflection” on the process and stages of writing each major essay. This reflection must include any problems the student encountered during any stage of the writing process, the strengths that were developed, the improvement or growth the student perceived, the risks the student took—and what their outcomes were—and what the student learned and will bring to the next writing assignment as a result of this latest exercise in essay writing. Moreover, all students will receive an ENGLISH RUBRICS GUIDE (evaluation sheet or scoring guideline) to aid them with their writing, and each rubrics guidewill contain an additional self-assessment component to help students with their “Critical Reflections” and to teach them how to be better—and more critical and realistic—assessors of their own writing progress and development.



The entire class will read William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, analyzing its substance, context, and style. Then keeping in mind Faulkner’s closing statement concerning “the writer’s duty,” students will select two passages—one from Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood and one from Jill Ker Conway’s The Road from Coorain—that will allow them to discuss the purpose of each book in light of their understanding of Faulkner’s concluding definition. After following the established procedures of drafting , revising, and receiving Peer and Teacher Evaluations, students will submit the final polished version of their essay, in which they discuss and analyze their selected passages, illustrating how each writer fulfills—or fails to fulfill—Faulkner’s concept of the “writer’s duty.” Students will also be encouraged to consider similar issues raised in other works by these same two authors—namely, Dillard’s “To Fashion a Text” and Conway’s Points of Departure,” both of which will be made available to them. (Both essays are included in Inventing the Truth.)


Students will analyze the audience, context, and content of two essay/photo combinations: “And My Hats Were Prettier,” an essay/photo composition by Nancy Carpenter from Picturing Texts, and Donald Murray’s The Stranger in the Photo Is Me,” taken from the August 27, 1991, Boston Globe. They will pay particular attention to the latter, using it as a rhetorical model for their next writing assignment.

After reading and then annotating Murray’s “The Stranger in the Photo Is Me,” students select their own personal photograph (or series of photographs) as a starting point for fashioning a purposeful memoir of their own—one that integrates appropriate images, meaningful words, and insightful reflections. Accordingly, each student will be required to use significant personal details, memories, perceptions, and ideas that can be purposely arranged and discussed.

In addition to consulting Murray’s The Craft of Revision as a resource during the planning, drafting, editing, and revising stages,each student must prepare for two Student/Teacher Writing Conferences—the first at the initial or planning stage of essay writing and the second as part of the revision process. Typically, students use these sessions to clarify their ideas, to refine their examples, and to confirm that their essays do, indeed, fulfill all the requirements of the assignment. And typically, the teacher will use these sessions to check to see that students are employing the principles of good writing established in class instruction, reiterated on the ENGLISH RUBRICS GUIDE, and required on every essay:

  • A wide-ranging vocabulary used appropriately and effectively
  • A variety of sentence constructions, including the appropriate use of coordination and subordination
  • Standard English grammar, punctuation, & mechanics
  • Logical organization, complemented by such specific techniques to improve coherence as good transitions, repetition, and emphasis
  • Fully developed paragraphs—which comprise fully developed ideas and arguments—that balance the general with the specific, the abstract with the concrete, with all generalizations supported and illustrated with specific details and evidence

When the final drafts of these essays are completed, I also require that students account for their own rhetorical choices and strategies in a brief “Reflection Paper” (which must accompany the final versions of most major papers and which supplements the earlier reflection process students undergo during their Student/Teacher Conferences).



Students will compose a full-scale critical analysis of the following two works, using a comparison / contrast strategy: “By critically analyzing the rhetorical purpose of each essay, explore the ways in which the central arguments of Nancy Mairs’s ‘Disability’ and Matthew Soyster’s ‘Living Under Circe’s Spell’ converge with and diverge from each other. In your analysis, consider how each writer uses the resources of language—specifically rhetoric—to achieve his or her aims.”While in the process of planning and composing their initial drafts, students will share their ideas and outlines first with one another in small peer groups and subsequently in their one-on-one conferences with the teacher, thereby receiving useful feedback on which areas may need revision, additional critical analysis, or more in-depth discussion.


Drawing on their knowledge of rhetoric, appeals, and argument, students will read Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Working in small groups, each student will strive to become an expert on one of several key scenes. They will then write an essay in which they analyze the rhetoric of both Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s arguments in Act 1, Scene 7, and subsequently account for why his wife is able to persuade Macbeth to murder King Duncan. In their essays, students must consider such elements as the use of appeals, choice of details, and knowledge of one’s audience; in addition, they must demonstrate their appreciation of the language of the play and their understanding of the power of rhetoric in argumentation. Once their essays have been completed, students will view Roman Polanski’s film version of Macbeth and explore how its visual elements correspond with—or depart from—the language and rhetoric of Shakespeare’s play.



The second semester will begin with the students familiarizing themselves with several prominent photographic images associated with the involvement of the United States in Vietnam. In particular, they will view a selection of photographs from Nick Ut’s “South Vietnamese Children Burned by Napalm” and Eddie Adams’s “Execution of a Viet Cong Suspect,” as well as a series of photographs taken by North Vietnamese war photographers (in Monk’s Photographs That Changed the World and also in Stewart O’Nan’s The Vietnam Reader). In addition, they will read segmentsof Michael Herr’s Dispatches(excerpted in The Vietnam Reader) along with selected letters from Vietnam veterans published in Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. And finally, they will watch portions of the Errol Morris documentary The Fog of War, featuring Robert S. McNamara’s 2003 reflections on the effects of the Vietnam War. They will then contrast McNamara’s morerecent public reflections with public remarks he made during the war as Secretary of Defense.

In light of this inquiry, students must then consider a passage from Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others in which Sontag asserts that the authenticity of war photographs remains removed from war’s grim reality. Her assertion provides students with a point of departure for an essay of their own in which they must draw on the texts they just read to form a response to the following passage from Sontag:

We—this “we” is everyone who has never experienced anything like what [these war dead] went through—don’t understand. We don’t get it. We truly can’t imagine what it was like We can’t imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can’t understand, can’t imagine. That’s what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right. (26)

This writing task requires students to apply their knowledge of the rhetoricnot only to Sontag’s observations but to prominent images and narratives associated with particular wartime contexts. Accordingly, student should be able to expand their own research to conflicts other than the Vietnam War. In this way, they will expand upon as well as synthesize their own readings, bringing new knowledge into play as they formulate purposeful essays of their own.

Moreover, this assignment calls upon students to reinforce the research and documentation skills they have developed in conjunction with other research-based persuasive essays they have written previously. Once again, they must make frequent use of their composition handbooks as they refresh their knowledge or proper research routines, including the use of the Modern Language Association (MLA) documentation style.



The class will read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, a lengthy and rhetorically purposeful work of non-fiction written in the style of a novel. Students will then carefully analyze selected passages that suggest Capote’s particular rhetorical purposes. Their study of what Capote has called a “nonfiction novel” will culminate in a major paper in which they will closely read, annotate, and eventually compare two consecutive passages from the “Persons Unknown” section of the book. In this section, Capote presents consecutive representations of the same segment of time. Students must then focus on particular quotations and representations that, presented in different contexts and from the different points of view of the two killers, suggest distinct purposes behind each rendition of the same period of time.



The class will read the following documents and speeches:

  • Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention”
  • Thomas Paine’s “The Crisis, Number 1”
  • Thomas Jefferson’s The Declaration of Independence
  • Abraham Lincoln’s The Gettysburg Address
  • Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream

In addition, the class will view the following visual selections:

  • John Trumbull’s The Declaration of Independence (Mural in the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
  • Patrick Henry Arguing “The Parson’s Cause” (c. 1830, oil painting thought to be the work of George Cooke; the Virginia Historic Society, Richmond, Virginia
  • The Horse American Throwing His Master (1779; political cartoon of King George; Library of Congress)
  • Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream (Video clip; American
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939; video clip “Mr. Jefferson Smith takes the constitutions oath of office”; American
  • Theme-related photographs, video clips, and cartoons from current periodicals (With the teacher’s approval, students may contribute their own selections for viewing)

Students will compose a Comparison / Contrast essay analyzing the rhetorical purposes and strategies of one of the following pairs of documents, speeches, or images:

  • Compare and contrast Thomas Paine’s essay with Patrick Henry’s speech as persuasive works. In your essay, be sure to consider claim, occasions, audience, evidence, assumptions, and conclusions.
  • Compare and contrast I Have a Dream to The Gettysburg Address and The Declaration of Independencein terms of rhetorical purposes and techniques
  • Consider carefully the individual’s duty to the government and the government’s duty to the individual. In a well developed essay that synthesizes for support at least four of the readings from this unit, discuss the obligations of individuals and governments within a society. Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations. Refer to the sources by the authors’ names or by the titles.



The class will read the following cluster of essays and texts—all concerned with the concept of “What is beauty?”:

  • Diane Ackerman’s “The Face of Beauty” (in Subjects/Strategies)
  • Gretel Ehrlich’s “About Men” (in On Hundred Great Essays)
  • Angela Carter’s “The Wound in the Face” (in On Hundred Great Essays)
  • Susan Sontag’s “A Woman’s Beauty: Put-Down or Power Source” (in On Hundred Great Essays)
  • Stephen S. Hall’s “The Troubled Life of Boys” (From The New York Times Magazine)
  • Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll” (1969 poem)

Students may also consider numerous image-based texts drawn from broadcast television (The Swan), selected Web sites, and periodical such as Vogue, Men’s Health, and Vanity Fair that influence a culture’s perceptions of what it means to be beautiful. Pop culture icons such as Barbie, Ken, and G.I. Joe dolls provide additional examples—as well as essays by Alistair Highet, M.G. Lord, Anna Quindlen, Christine Rosen, and Jane Smiley.

This culminating assignment requires students to move beyond thetexts and sources supplied to them by the teacher and to rely on their own researched materials and sources to support their arguments instead. Students must be prepared to undertake purposeful research on their own as they articulate, develop, and support their own position in response to a passage of their own choosing(taken from one of these selections) that offers an arguable and debatable definition of beauty.And in the course of researching their own ideas andarguments, students will be able to share any problems, concerns, or frustrations they may have in classroom-based study groups. Then prior to writing a first draft, they will outline any concerns they still may have about their sources in a one-on-one student-teacher conference. They will then continue to receive support and collect feedback during the entire writing process from not onlytheir peers but from their teacher as well. In the final polished draft of their essays, students must demonstrate their mastery of the essential research and rhetorical skills necessary to illuminate their own ideas clearly and to provide the persuasive arguments and discussion necessary to convince an audience. In addition, they must also consistently demonstrate their ability to evaluate, employ, and cite appropriate primary and secondary sources, using the proper MLA format for documentation.