Syllabus: AP English

Advanced Placement English: Literature and Composition

Black River High School, 2017

Mr. Colin McKaig

Course Outline and Expectations

This course is designed for seniors who have compiled an exemplary record in the study of English. Most of you have completed honors work as juniors.

The focus of the course is on close reading of a wide variety of literary works and the writing of analytical themes. The course will prepare you to take the required Advanced Placement examination. We have 7650 minutes of class time together before the semester ends. Let’s use them well.

Success on the AP Exam, however, is only one objective. In addition, this class will prepare you to handle the academic demands placed on you in your post-secondary work. My goal is that you exit high school with superior thinking and writing skills that enable you to thrive in your college courses.

You are requested to maintain a 3-ring binder, divided into sections according to texts/authors. Please don’t hand in work on paper from which the holes have been torn. You will be asked to rewrite it.

This course is conceived of and taught as a college course; as such it often deals with difficult texts and mature and/or controversial themes.

Required Texts

Roberts, Edgar and Henry Jacobs: Literature, An Intro to Reading and Writing. 5th ed.

Strunk & White: The Elements of Style 4th ed.

Selected literature, listed below

On Writing:

Almost all of your writings for this course will take one of two forms: formal and informal. Further, these essays will have varying rhetorical purposes. The informal writing will take place regularly in class and is likely to be about one page, seeking to write for understanding and analysis. Because of their informal nature, and the time frame in which they are written, evaluation will focus primarily (but not exclusively) on the content of your interpretations and the support you offer for them. Alternatively, formal writings will have greater emphasis on how you write, your structure, style and elements of grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling.

We will use the Smartboard frequently. Saving your formal essay drafts to the server and viewing them as a class will allow us to witness your strategies for composition and offer peer and teacher responses that will prompt vigilant revisions.

Course Objectives as connected to CCSS’s Enduring Standards, as defined by TRSU. You will demonstrate proficiency when you can:



Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.


Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.


Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.


Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.


Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.


Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.



Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.


Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.


Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Speaking and Listening


Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.


Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.



Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.


Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


Your attendance in this class is particularly important. Central to the course is Socratic Discussion. This class is a seminar and the discussions we have will assist us in understanding the texts and preparing writings. Make every effort to be present, be on time, and be prepared. Your success in this class will depend on it. Please also do your best to notify me in advance of days you will be out.


This is going to be tricky this year, working as we are at moving into a Proficiency Based system of grading and graduation requirements. As you know, we’ll be working with two major categories: formative and summative assessments. Think of the first as practice or scrimmage, and think of the second as the game or performance. Lots more to be said about this as we move into the school year.

If you anticipate a problem getting your work in, see me in advance. You will be graded primarily on the two fundamental elements of the course: writing and speaking. You are expected to put significant effort into each.

Evaluating writing can be difficult, for both students and teachers. We will work hard to quantify and qualify what successful writing is, and how to achieve it. This will include a close examination of prior writings, working with our texts, and using peer and teacher response to produce writings that score high on our rubrics.

I will also evaluate your oral contributions, having five or six speaking grades each quarter. I know some people are more verbal than others. It is not my intention to penalize those who are not comfortable speaking. Having said that, you must also realize that you have agreed to take a class whose primary teaching method is discussion. As such, it is important to validate and measure how well (and how frequently) you contribute to the success of our dialogue. Finally, cell phones…. More on this interesting subject later.


Week 1: And We’re Off

Discussion on “good writing” with quick student presentations using writing examples from past years; Discuss/Create rubrics and scoring guides for analytical writing; Review grammar, usage, mechanics using Warriner’s Grammar; Review organization, detail, voice and tone using Elements of Style; Discuss Socratic Discussion; Discuss Bloom’s Taxonomy.


    • Strunk and White: The Elements of Style
    • Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, selections as needed
    • Chapters 1 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Writing Essays on Literary Topics” (p14), “Developing and Strengthening Your Essay: Revision” (p26), and “Using Exact, Comprehensive, and Forceful Language” (p32)

Week 2: Short Fiction and Close Reading

Three informal essays on theme, character, and style. These will be shared with peers. Two will be revised and resubmitted. Attention to thesis, organization, and specific supporting details.


    • Hemingway’s short stories: Up in Michigan, Indian Camp, Soldier’s Home, Big Two Hearted River 1&2, Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
    • de Maupassant, Guy: The Necklace, (p74 in Literature Text)
    • Tim O’Brien: The Things they Carried, (p3 in Literature Text)
    • Chapter 2 & 3 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Elements of Fiction I-III: Verisimilitude, Character, Plot, Structure, and Theme” (pp52-56)

Weeks 3 & 4: The Novel: Hemingway, McCarthy & Marquez

Informal essays on style, theme, character, setting, & tone. Translate Spanish language passages in McCarthy novel. Formal analytical essay due at end of unit. Attention here is to revision. We will examine several drafts using the Smartboard, with continued guidance and group discussion/practice on thesis, organization, sentence structure, and using specific supporting details.


    • Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
    • Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude (review from summer reading)
    • McCarthy: All the Pretty Horses
    • Chapter 4 in Literature Text

Week 5: Novel: The African in America

Informal essays on point of view: writing to understand. Formal analytical essay on historical context, language/dialect, and theme. This essay requires a small amount of research, gathering information about these authors, texts and the ways in which these books, historically, have been received.


    • Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God
    • Twain: The Adventures of Huck Finn (review from summer reading)
    • Chapters 5 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Conditions that Affect Point of View” (p213), “Kinds of Point of View” (p213)

Weeks 5 & 6: The Penal System

Formal interpretive essay for this unit. Students conduct reserarch on historical context for these works of fiction. Consideration given to the ways in which context and era influence these novels’ values, structures and themes.


    • Solzchenitsyn: A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
    • Hawthorne: Scarlet Letter
    • Chapters 6, 7 & 8 in Literature Text. These chapters address Setting, Style, and Tone, respectively.

Week 8: Novel: The Individual in Society (choice of novel)

Two informal written responses for understanding and interpretation of setting, style, tone and theme. One of these will be revised after individual student writing conferences, where we will discuss this specific writing assignment and your writing progress overall.

Readings, Choose One:

    • Achebe: Things Fall Apart
    • Bronte: Wuthering Heights
    • Conrad: Heart of Darkness
    • Gardner: Grendel
    • Hesse: Demien
    • Joyce: Portrait of an Artist
    • Kafka: Metamorphosis
    • Kesey: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    • Orwell: 1984
    • Shelley: Frankenstein
    • Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five
    • Everyone: Chapter 10 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Ideas and Assertions, Ideas and Values, The Place of Ideas in Literature, and How to Find Ideas” (pp404-7)

Week 9: Poetry: Whitman and Dickinson

Formal essay for this unit, comparing and contrasting these lives and their work. Each was a major contributor to modern American Poetry, but in vastly different ways


    • Selected poems by each author
    • Chapter 13 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Writing a Paraphrase of a Poem, and Writing an Explication of a Poem” (pp616-18)

Week 10: Poetry: Book-length poems; The Transition from Narrative

We will spend time reading from these texts aloud, writing about ways in which narrative is woven with poetry. Three informal essays, writing to explain and interpret, will form the basis of our discussions. In both texts, the narrative line is quite different, primarily as a result of diction, syntax and historical context.


    • Berryman, John: Homage to Mistress Bradstreet;
    • Masters, Edgar Lee: Spoon River Anthology
    • Chapter 14 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Characters in Poetry” (p623), and “Writing about Character and Setting in Poetry” (p648)

Weeks 11, 12 & 13: Poetry

At the end of this unit, we will have student presentations. These will include short biographies, including explanation of historical context and literary styles and influences, one poem explicated, discussion questions that range from simple to complex, and the ability to lead a 20 minute discussion about this author and one poem. In preparation we will have several short timed interpretive essays with a focus on HOW a poem means. Particular discussion on imagery, rhetorical figures, tone, prosody, form, symbolism, allusion, and theme. Our guiding principle is always to ask how best to “unpack” this poem, making meaning using reader-response approach.


    • Chapters 15-23 in Literature Text.
    • Poems selected from the following authors:

Sylvia Plath Gary Snyder Adrienne Rich

Anne Sexton James Wright Robert Lowell

Frank O'Hara Richard Wilbur John Berryman

Theodore Roethke Elizabeth Bishop E.E. Cummings

Hart Crane William Carlos Williams T.S. Eliot

Percy Shelley William Blake William Wordsworth

Seamus Heaney John Keats Thomas Hardy

Gerard Manley Hopkins Ted Hughes Samuel Taylor Coleridge

W. B. Yeats W.H. Auden Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Weeks 14 & 15: Drama: Shakespeare. Literature for the ear and eye.

Several timed analytical essays, focusing on language, character, theme, tone. Much of this play will be reread, primarily aloud in class, with attention to language, syntax and tone. Close reading on soliloquy of student’s choice, with oral interpretations offered to class. Formal essay on topic of student’s choice. Summer journal and informal essays serve as prompts to explore analytical ideas in greater detail.


    • Shakespeare: Hamlet (from Summer Reading)
    • Chapter 26 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Drama as Literature and Drama as Performance” (p1124), and “Writing about the Elements of Drama” (p1172), and “Referring to Plays and Parts of Plays” (p1174)

Week 16: Greek Drama

Formal essay, writing on tragedy, “Affirmation through Loss.” Study of elements of classical tragedy its relevance in today’s world, a world where violence is commonplace.


    • Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, Antigone (review from sophomore year)
    • Read Chapter 27 in Literature Text. Emphasis on “Aristotle and the Nature of Tragedy” (p1185), and “Writing about Tragedy” (p1417), and “Special Writing Topics for Considering Tragedy” (p1427)

Week 17: Drama: Modern.

For this unit we’ll break into small groups, no larger than four students per group, with each group reading one of the selected plays below.

Collaborative writings on language, character, theme, and tone. Groups will produce three informal writings about analysis and interpretation. One of these will be chosen to be revised and extended.

Readings: (choose one)

    • Beckett: Waiting for Godot
    • Miller: Death of A Salesman
    • Osbourne: Look Back in Anger
    • Pinter: The Birthday Party
    • Williams: Glass Menagerie, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Streetcar Named Desire
    • Wilson, August: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Week 18: Knotting it Together, Tying the Bow

This week will see students putting together their final portfolios. This substantive assignment will gather a representative sample of their writings in all genres, along with new pieces, primarily meant to provoke and reflect. Additionally, students will be asked to submit two revisions of former essays, with an emphasis on voice, tone, sentence variety, organization and supporting detail. Students will write about their progress as readers, writers and thinkers.