Course overview and rationale

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Ms. Conni Hilston Room 213

Aurora High School


AP Language and Composition is a full-year, one credit hour course that is available to juniors who are interested advanced studies in English and the art of writing. It is aligned with the recommended course description published by the College Board, and as the College Board states, will “emphasize expository, analytical and argumentative writing that forms the basis of academic and professional communication, as well as personal and reflective writing that fosters the development of writing within any context.” It is the third course available to students in the honors/accelerated English track and as the College Board directs, it will “foster the idea that expository, analytical, and argumentative writing on the college level is based in reading as well as in personal experience. The end goal is to enable students to read complex texts with understanding and to write prose of sufficient richness and complexity in order to communicate effectively with mature readers. Students are encouraged to place their emphasis on content, purpose, and audience. Students will be assisted and encouraged to use mechanics, grammar, and vocabulary in a sophisticated manner, thus reflecting the link between the use of these conventions and their own writing style. Through this they will become aware of how stylistic effects are achieved by a writer’s linguistic choices.”

The course will focus on a mixture of both American and European authors (both nonfiction and fiction) and it will help students to develop an understanding of the human experience, in both a historical and contemporary sense, and how that experience shapes various cultural voices.
At the end of the course, the student will possess a thorough understanding of the aforementioned skills and will be illustrating those skills by taking the AP test in English Language and Composition.


By the end of this course students will be able to:

 Apply close reading strategies to critically read works from various genres

 Develop an awareness of how an author uses language to help make meaning within a text by defining, identifying, applying, and ultimately synthesizing tone, voice, diction, sentence structures/patterns, rhetorical devices/tropes, points of view

 successfully analyze the construction of an argument using classic models (e.g., Toulmin)

 Construct written pieces of various lengths that work to develop their voice. This will be done by synthesizing tone, diction, sentence structures/patterns, rhetorical devices/tropes, points of view, and vocabulary through single and multi-draft works.

 Successfully engage in group projects that culminate in auditory and visual presentations

 Illustrate a variety of rhetorical modes in a public speech

 Research criticism from various experts within the field of literature in order to help them construct a fully-fleshed argument about a piece of literature by distinguishing through primary and secondary sources

 Utilize conventions of the Modern Language Association (MLA)


Your grade in this course will be weighted using the following categories: Formative and Summative. 

Formative (Academic Practice) = 20%

Academic Practice may include homework checks, some in-class assignments, some quizzes, some writing assignments, participation, and class discussions.

A.P. (Practice) =20%

A.P. Practice may include direct practice activities in preparation for the A.P. exam. For example, sample multiple choice, in-class writing prompts, etc…

Summative (Academic Achievement) = 60% of your grade

Academic Achievement includes any test, quiz, writing assignment, activity, or project that assesses how well you mastered the material we are studying.

Grades will be updated regularly on the P.I.V.; parents and students will be given login information. Please see me if you have questions or concerns. Do not wait until the end of the grading period to bring up your grade!


  • The Language of Composition, Renee H. Shea, Lawrence Scanlon, Robin Dissin Aufses (PROVIDED)

  • Cliffs AP English Language and Composition (RECOMMENDED BUT NOT REQUIRED)

  • Sentence Composing for HIGH School, Don Killgallon(Required; purchased in bookstore)

  • Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel

  • Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger(summer reading)

  • The Stranger, by Albert Camus (purchased in bookstore)

  • 1984, by George Orwell (purchased in bookstore)

  • Macbeth and Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

  • From Sleep Unbound,by Andree Chedid (text supplied by teacher)

  • Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw (text supplied by teacher)

All books from the required reading list can be found in the library or purchased in the student bookstore



  • 2-3 inch binder with dividers

  • Writing Implements (pens, pencils, colored pens/pencils for marking)

  • Loose leaf paper (ready at all times!)

  • Folder for Writers Log

  • Note cards for quarterly vocabulary dissection

  • Spiral bound notebook for each quarter (used for AP practice and reflection)


The test is scored on a scale of 1-5. All students enrolled in the course must take the test.

AP Score Qualification

5 Extremely well qualified

4 Well qualified

3 Qualified

2 Possibly qualified

1 No recommendation

The test is comprised of two main sections: multiple choice and free response. The multiple choice section has 55 questions over 4-5 reading selections and must be completed in one hour; it is worth 45% of the AP score. The free response section asks students to illustrate three types of writing: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis, and an argument. Each essay has equal weight, and all three must be completed in two hours and fifteen minutes for a total of 55% of the score.
CLASS OUTLINE: The following five units comprise the majority of the class; however, there may be a few additional units covered.
Unit 1: The Voice of a Leader

Students will be introduced to the key elements of rhetoric and will become familiar with the concept of the rhetorical triangle and rhetorical appeals (e.g., ethos, logos, pathos). Then students will be introduced to close reading strategies such as annotation, the dialectical journal, and a graphic organizer. In addition, students will also begin to look at how to synthesize a variety of visual and written sources within an essay to compare and contrast the messages of several writers.


Major Works

  • Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel

  • Chapters 1-3, Language of Composition

Minor Works

  • “The Qualities of the Prince”, Niccolo Machiavelli

  • “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. ( LC )

  • “Inaugural Address”, John F. Kennedy (LC)

  • “Not by Math Alone”, Sandra Day O’ Connor (LC)

  • Excerpt from “A Long Way to Go”, Rosa Parks

  • “Learning to Read”, Malcolm X

  • “A President Like My Father”, Caroline Kennedy

  • William Wilberforce abolition speech to the British House of Commons 1789

  • Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address 1801

B. WRITING: In-class writing prompts; Voice of a Leader synthesis essay

C. VOCABULARY: Weekly vocabulary practice and quizzes

D. GRAMMAR: Sentence Composing for High School Skills 1 through 3 quizzes/summative

E. ACT/SAT : ACT Topic Inventory and reflection

Unit 2: The Voice of a Writer

Skills Focus: Students will observe how language is used to reveal a writer’s voice and thus analyze the link between language, culture, and power. They will study the use of dialect and its effect on message and audience. In addition, students will examine topics like how language is used to reflect personal identity, the relationship between the title of a text and the tone that is created, and the relationship between the historical context of a piece and the meaning of the piece. After studying the above topics, students will apply these analytical skills to their own writing. They will focus on the use of concise diction (with attention to nominalization, “showy” vocabulary, and the application of the belief that less is more.)

  1. Reading

Major Works

  • Macbeth and Hamlet, William Shakespeare

  • 1984, by George Orwell

  • Chapter 9, Language of Composition

Minor Works

  • “Aria:Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood”, Richard Rodriguez (LC)

  • “Politics and the English Language”, George Orwell (LC)

  • “Mother Tongue”, Amy Tan (L )

  • Excerpt from “Decolonising the Mind”, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (L )

  • Excerpt “The Tragedy of Othello”, Isaac Asimov

  • “Always Living in Spanish”, Marjorie Agosin (LC)

  • “Studying Islam, Strengthening the Nation”, Peter Berkowitz and Michael McFaul (LC)

  • “Bilingualism in America: English Should be the Official Language”, SI Hayakawa (LC)

  • “In Which the Ancient History I Learn Is Not My Own”, Eavan Boland (LC)

  • “Ghosts and Voices: Writing from Obsession”, Sandra Cisneros

  • “Learning to Read and Write”, Frederick Douglass

  • “Discovering Books”, Richard Wright

  • from Hidden Name and Complex Fate, Ralph Ellison

  • “If English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?”, James Baldwin

  • “Nobody Mean More to Me Than You and the Future Life of Willie Jordan”, June Jordan

  • “Silence”, Maxine Hong Kingston

B. WRITING: In-class writing prompts; Synthesis essay of authors’ voice.

C. VOCABULARY: Weekly vocabulary practice and quizzes

D. GRAMMAR: Sentence Composing for High School Skills 4 through 6 quizzes/summative

E. ACT/SAT : ACT Practice English test and reflection

Unit 3: The Voice of a Community: reflections on gender, ethnicity, and social class

Skills Focus:

  • Students will observe and analyze how social agendas influence a writer’s ability to discuss contemporary issues. They will examine the difference between sex and gender, “socially constructed” gender roles, stereotypes and biases, the temporal and ethnic nature of gender, the effects of setting and context, and economic and medical consequences of “scientific evidence” and gender beliefs (LC).

  • Students will investigate major issues involving the role of education in the community.

  1. Reading

Major Works

  • From Sleep Unbound, by Andree Chedid

  • Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

Minor Works

  • “We Can Afford to Give Parents a Break”, Jody Heyman (LC)

  • excerpt from Education, Ralph Waldo Emerson (LC)

  • “Best in Class”, Margaret Talbot (LC)

  • “School”, Kyoko Mori (LC)

  • “The History Teacher”, Billy Collins (LC)

  • “A Model for High Schools”, David Broder (LC)

  • excerpt from Nickel and Dimed, “Serving in Florida”, Barbara Ehrenreich (LC)

  • “The Atlanta Exposition Address”, Booker T. Washington (LC)

  • excerpt from Labour, Thomas Carlyle (LC)

  • “More Working Parents Play ‘Beat the Clock’”, Marilyn Gardner (LC)

  • “Why Women Have to Work”, Ameila Warren Tyagi (LC)

  • “The Case for Staying at Home”, Claudia Wallis (LC)

  • “Sick Parents Go to Work, Stay Home When Kids Are Ill”, Christopher Mele (LC)

  • “My Mother, Myself, Her Career, My Questions”, Kimberly Palmer (LC)

  • “Don’t Call Me Mr. Mom”, Buzz McClain (LC)

  • “Women’s Brains”, Stephen Jay Gould (LC)

  • “Professions for Women”, Virginia Woolf (LC)

  • “About Men”, Gretel Ehrlich (LC)

  • “Being a Man”, Paul Theroux (LC)

  • “AIDS Has a Woman’s Face”, Stephen Lewis (LC)

  • “There is no Unmarked Woman”, Deborah Tannen (LC)

  • “Barbie Doll”, Marge Piercy (LC)

  • “Why Johnny Won’t Read”, Mark Bauerlein and Sandra Stotsky, (LC)

  • “On Being Crazy”, W. E. B. DuBois

  • from A long Way to Go, Rosa Parks

  • “I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent?”, Shelby Steele

  • “Just Walk on By”, Brent Staples

  • “White Stereotype Threat” Shelby Steele

  • “White Privilege: Unpacking the Knapsack”, Peggy McIntosh

  • “Racism: Can we talk?”, Beverly Daniels Tatum

  • “Campus Racism”, Nikki Giovanni

B. WRITING: In-class writing prompts; Synthesis essay gender/social class.

C. VOCABULARY: Weekly vocabulary practice and quizzes

D. GRAMMAR: Sentence Composing for High School Skills 7 through 9 quizzes/summative

E. ACT/SAT : ACT Critical Reading Inventory and practice

Unit 4: The Voice of a Reader

Skills Focus: Students will observe and analyze how the perspective of the reader is integral in understanding and making sense of a given text. They will identify the relationship between reader and writer and discuss how tightly audience and purpose are intertwined through a review of pop culture.

  1. Reading

Major Works

  • Chapter 11, Language of Composition

  • The Stranger, by Albert Camus

Minor Works

  • “The Real New York Giants”, Rick Reilly (LC)

  • “High-School Confidential: Notes on Teen Movies” ,David Denby (LC )

  • “Corn-Pone Opinion”, Mark Twain (LC 717-720)

  • “Godzilla vs. the Giant Scissors: Cutting the Antiwar Heart out of a Classic”, Brent Staples (LC )

  • “From We Talk, You Listen”, Vine Deloria Jr. (LC)

  • “Dreaming America”, Danyel Smith (LC)

  • From Show and Tell (graphic essay) , Scott McCloud (LC)

  • “Popular Culture in the Aftermath of Sept 11 Is Chorus without a Hook, a Movie without an Ending”, Teresa Wiltz (LC)

  • “Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley”, Hans Ostrom (LC)

  • “Sanctuary: For Harry Potter the Movie”, Nikki Giovanni (LC)

  • “Humour”, Joseph Addision and Richard Steele

  • “On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth”, William Hazlitt

  • “Courtship Through the Ages”, James Thurber

  • “The Peter Principle”, Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull

B. WRITING: In-class writing prompts; Synthesis essay effects of television

C. VOCABULARY: Weekly vocabulary practice and quizzes

D. ACT/SAT : ACT and SAT critical reading

Unit 5: The Voice of a Critic

Skills Focus: Students will observe and analyze how one author works to develop his/her voice by studying two different main texts by the same author. This project will culminate in a research paper that focuses on the author and his/her pieces.

  1. Reading

Major Works

  • Choices from independent reading list and AP list (approved by teacher)

Minor Works

  • “Tragedy and the Common Man”, Arthur Miller

  • “I know why the Caged Bird Cannot Read”, Francine Prose (LC )

  • “Drugs, Sports, Body Image and GI Joe, Natalie Angier (LC)

  • excerpt from Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (LC)

  • excerpt from Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson (LC)

  • “A Modest Proposal”, Jonathan Swift (LC)

  • “The Destruction of Culture”, Chris Hedges (LC)

  • “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, Henry David Thoreau (LC)

Good communication is a two-way street! Therefore, I strongly value your willingness to communicate not only during class time, but also when you are absent, confused, or just want individual clarification.
I will use the following to communicate outside of our regular class time:
SCHOOL POINT: major assignment due dates, handouts, and links

TWITTER: important reminders, snow days, occasional quick-reminders. I use twitter for one-way communication only

NOTE: please do not direct message me; talk to me directly or through email to discuss assignments, etc…

You may follow my school account @ConniHilston
If you prefer to receive my tweets quickly, send atext message to 40404 and put “Follow @ConniHilston in the subject line. You will receive confirmation that you are following @ConniHilston. You will now receive any and all of my posts via text message.
EMAIL: individual questions, one-to-one correspondence regarding grades, missing assignments, etc…

TURNITIN.COM: We will use for every major writing assignment. Each writing assignment should be uploaded to ON or BEFORE the hard-copy due date. However, if circumstances do not allow this, you are allowed ONE-WEEK to upload the assignment to Let me be clear here, you still must hand the actual paper IN ON TIME, but you are permitted one week to upload it to turnitin.

Class IDs and password can be found on School Point.
NOODLEBIB: We will use noodlebib to draft, revise, and edit all major writing assignments. You will be given login information to set up an individual account. This account can be accessed all year from home or school.
INFOhio: This is a wonderful researching database which can be accessed from school or home. The username and password for the 2012-2013 school year is:

Username: infohio

Password: power

Basically late work will receive a zero. If you have an A in the course, I will allow one grace pass per nine weeks which entitles you to hand in an assignment up to one week late. This assignment is for major projects only and must be approved in advance!

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