AP English Language and Composition Syllabus
The Greatest American Speeches: The Stories and Transcripts of the Words that
Changed History, Cambridge Editorial Partnership, ed.
AP English Literature and Composition is designed to fulfill the requirements of a
university-level course. This course will provide students with workload challenges
consistent with an undergraduate English composition course.
We will read works by influential thinkers from the ancients until today closely and
thoughtfully. We will invite those who engage in public discourse into our classroom so
that we may question them, analyze their strategies, and evaluate their methods. We will
study various forms of visual media such as advertisements, comic strips, photographs,
websites, television programs, and films.
We will write frequently—at least weekly—using synthesis, expansion, exposition,
analysis, argumentation, and, often, revision. Writing assignments will include journal
responses to readings and speakers (two per week) and in-class essays (timed essays, free
writing, and reaction papers). We will also compose formal essays involving the
questions we raise in class discussions or through our own contemplation.
Our overarching goals are to use close reading, listening, and viewing to enhance our
understanding of how writers, speakers, and others involved in public discourse convey
ideas and construct arguments and to develop within ourselves the crafts of writing,
speaking, and designing arguments in order to participate effectively in public discourse.
Our goals will require the following commitments from each of us.
To grow as readers, evaluating various kinds of texts, events, arguments and ideas
by reading deeply; to complete reading assignments on time; to read regularly
beyond class assignments and report to the class once a quarter on outside
reading. In order to earn the required 45 reading points for this course, you must
completely read approved versions (no abridged editions). You will be eligible to
earn an award by exceeding your point requirement.
To grow as writers, writing often, analyzing thoroughly, citing accurately,
providing feedback to other writers, revising carefully after feedback from peers
and from me, maintaining a reading response journal, and crafting essays—timed
and formal—that are well organized, well planned expository, persuasive, and
evaluative essays free of grammatical error.
To actively contribute to class discussion and activities.
To develop skills in establishing and maintaining appropriate tone and voice; to
develop skills in using varied sentence structures, finding the most effective use
for general and specific details, and changing degrees of emphasis.
To work to develop critical skills that enhance your ability to evaluate various
forms of media and to discern fallacies of reason.
To complete vocabulary and grammar work as assigned and to convey vocabulary
usage and understanding of grammar into your writing.
To plan and prepare for success on the Advance Placement Language and
Our reading will provide many opportunities for us to apply ourselves to the above
commitments and facilitate our investigation of public discourse. We will read a variety
of reading materials in and out of class including articles and commentary in various
genres and regarding various fields. You will provide local or syndicated columns,
advertisements, photos, or comic strips that you have read and evaluated for class
discussion on a regular basis.
You are responsible to complete all reading as assigned on time and come to class
prepared to discuss what you have read. Most importantly, come to class ready to ask
questions and seek answers.
Plagiarism is attempting to present someone else’s ideas or work as your own. Our
school does not tolerate any form of plagiarism. The consequence for this offense is to
complete the assignment correctly and receive a grade of zero.
Our Integrity Statement
Proverbs 12:22 says that the Lord hates dishonesty, but loves when people are truthful.
Each student is to strive to glorify God through honesty in all academic and personal
pursuits. Each student is to write his or her own papers, formally acknowledge the input
of other people and resources, and represent his or her own abilities and understanding
when taking exams, quizzes, and other assessments. Each student is to take full
responsibility for his or her words, actions, and decisions.
Unit One: Dystopia and Oppression: Going Where No Man Wants to Go
For summer reading, students will read Plato’s “Simile of the Cave” from The Republic,
VII, 7, and either 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The
following excerpt considers the effects of modern media on our society.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What
Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book for there
would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would
deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so
much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared
that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would
be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. (Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to
Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Harrisonburg, VA:
Donnelly, 1985, vii-vii.)
As they read this summer, students should ask themselves the following questions:
Which characters in your book are in the cave (disconnected from truth and
reality) and unable to distinguish between real objects (truth) and shadows (false
Which characters are in the sunshine, blinded by the brightness of the light
(departing from false reality but not quite able to embrace truth yet)?
Is one character a philosopher (one who understands truth) who can help other
characters (cave dwellers who are disconnected from the truth) come out of the
cave and adjust their vision to the bright light (embrace truth)?
Is any character a false philosopher (one who asserts that he has the truth but does
How does the society in your book pervert the family?
How does the society manipulate language in order to maintain power?
Who is God (or a god) in your book’s society?
What strategies do those in charge employ to create unity and passivity in the
population? How do these strategies work, and which goal do they pursue—unity
Who are misfits in the society of the book? Why are they misfits?
What does the society promise the characters? What do the characters receive?
How can we avoid falling into the oppression of either society?
Is man capable of inventing/sustaining a utopia? Why or why not?
Students choosing to read both texts will receive extra credit. If pursuing this option
(Option B), include the following questions in your journal discussion.
How would John fare in Orwell’s society? How would Winston fare in Huxley’s?
In 1984, Big Brother uses war to maintain his power. Why is there no war in
Brave New World?
Huxley and Orwell composed their visions of the future in different decades.
Who is the more accurate prophet?
Students should record answers to these questions and any other observations they make
about the text in a reading journal that will contain their considerations and any they may
have of Postman’s discussion as well. They should write an entry for each day they read
and have at least 10 cogent and legible entries for me to evaluate upon their return to
school (13 for Option B).
Upon returning to school, students are to come to class prepared to discuss their book and
any correlation to the cave dweller/philosopher that it may contain. They can expect to
take a test on their reading (Plato and the assigned book) during the first week of school.
They can also expect to participate in panel discussions of their book. Panels will include
four to six students each. Panel discussions will last about 30 minutes per panel, with
each student discussing one aspect of the book for about seven or eight minutes. Students
will discuss the author’s argument, character development, plot, and the historical context
of the work.
Each student will craft a three to four-page draft that addresses one of the related
questions above. We will submit these drafts for at least two rounds of peer and teacher
review before submitting a final draft in MLA format.
Unit Two: Introduction to Rhetoric—mini-units
I. Fable as a Mode of Persuasion: We will investigate fables as a means of teaching and
create our own fables to convey messages.
II. If It’s on TV, It Must Be So: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon: The
Greatest Government Cover-up of All Time, Bart Winfield Sibrel, writer, director,
producer. We will consider what it takes to convince us of the ‘truth’.
III. Ethos, Logos, and Pathos: How to craft a classical speech and convince people to
fight, believe, and free a slave in three easy lessons: Col. Joshua Chamberlain in
Gettysburg, film. Ted Turner; Paul at Mars Hill (Acts 17: 15-34); Philemon.
IV. Memorize and deliver a brief oration to class. Discuss and explain the type of
oration. (Page 164 in A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms).
V. Fallacies and Effective Speeches Based on One: Marc Antony in Julius Caesar, film.
Marlon Brando—plus the Melina Mercouri speech from The Penguin Book of Twentieth
Century Speeches, Brian MacArthur, ed.
VI. The Greatest American Speeches: The Stories and Transcripts of the Words that
Changed History, Cambridge Editorial Partnership, ed. Analyzing individual speeches
AND the editor’s comments preceding the speeches—rhetorical analysis of speeches—
looking for bias in the introductions.
VII. Finding Philosophy in Films: 2001: A Space Odyssey, film, Stanley Kubrick.
Fountainhead, film. Ayn Rand.
Unit Three: How Did We Get Where We Are?: Primary Sources
This unit will include analysis of visual media such as advertisements, comic strips,
photographs, websites, television programs, and films. We will begin by dividing our
class into discussion groups. At the end of this unit, each group will present a panel
discussion that includes individual student topics and how those topics relate to each
other within each group. Each student will present the author’s arguments, support for or
opposition to the author’s perspective, and discussion of sample media representing
various sides of the arguments. Each group will have one extended class period to
present their panel discussion.
Each student will research one of the works and authors listed below or one of their
choice after consultation with me. Read your assigned work. Determine the foundation
for the author’s arguments. Upon what foundation does the author base his or her
discussion? Determine the basis for opposition to the author’s arguments. Do all work in
MLA format, citing sources.
Two-page summary/analysis of your assigned reading
Two-page discussion of opposition to your author’s arguments
Two-page discussion of the historical context of your author’s discussion
including the status of the discussion today
At least three drafts of three to four-page argument paper in which you discuss
your author’s arguments
Your final draft will capture the reader’s attention (ethos), be well organized,
present the author’s main point clearly, offer credible explanations of at least two
perspectives on the issue (logos), and contain a conclusion that prompts the reader
to agreement with you, the writer (pathos).
You need to submit all work related to this assignment including notes, related
journal entries, drafts with peer and teacher comments.
Charles Darwin/The Origin of Species
Jay Gould/Ontogeny and Phylogeny
Lee Strobel/The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That
Points Toward God
Margaret Sanger/The Pivot of Civilization
Betty Friedan/The Feminine Mystique
Clare Boothe Luce/The Women (a play)
Bernard Nathanson/Aborting America or The Abortion Papers
Francis Schaeffer/A Christian Manifesto
Francis Schaeffer/Escape from Reason: A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern
Jacques Ellul/What I Believe
Michel Foucault/Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
Benjamin Rush/Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical
John Locke/Two Treatises of Government
Samuel Rutherford/Lex Rex: The Law and the Prince, a Dispute for the Just Prerogative
of King and People
Jean-Jacques Rousseau/The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right
Sigmund Freud/Civilization and Its Discontents
B. F. Skinner/About Behaviorism
Erich Fromm/Beyond the Chains of Illusion
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola/Oration on the Dignity of Man
Unit Four: Personal Narrative—where do we go from here? (The location and tone
of this unit is flexible to accommodate students who may need to compose college
application essays early in the year.)
You will have reported to the class on one biography and read others during the year. We
will consider the strategies used by those writing our selected works and other authors
who effectively convey stories. What is your story?
What significant events have helped to shape you into the person you are today?
(I reiterate my “privacy” commitment to you. You are always free to withhold
information you consider too personal to share.)
What are your deepest convictions? Why?
What are your goals? Why?
What are your dreams? Why?
Imagine yourself ten years from now. Where are you? What are you doing?
What are your responsibilities? What are your privileges? Are you happy?
Occasional reading quizzes will require either complete sentences or developed
paragraphs. The following are the criteria for paragraph responses:
Use complete sentence structure (no fragments or run-ons).
Use parallel structure when applicable.
Each paragraph should provide a sentence that makes the purpose of the
paragraph clear (usually introductory).
Each paragraph should provide specific, relevant, and interesting details.
Each paragraph should provide sentences with varied structures. (Use various
methods of opening sentences and include relative clauses.)
Each paragraph should contain a ‘clincher’ sentence that summarizes but does not
repeat the main idea.
Your writing should contain no punctuation, spelling, or grammar errors and no
errors in agreement. Tone and voice should also be consistent.
Your work must be legible (For informal class work, double space hand-written
work to facilitate revision and avoid the busy work of producing a pretty copy for
Do not hand in work that will spread the blight of residue from your spiral bound
notebook throughout my office, car, and home.
Larger, more formal (not timed or reading response) assignments will include the
previous requirements in addition to the following:
Type and double-space these assignments using Times New Roman font, size 12,
and correct MLA format.
Provide a clear and useful introduction (ethos).
Provide well-documented and pertinent support including quotes, properly cited,
from applicable texts (logos).
Provide a conclusion designed to prompt the reader to action (or at least
Provide smooth transitions that unify paragraphs into one entity—your essay.
Provide early outlines, drafts, and revisions—the record of peer and teacher
feedback—that you have collected through writing workshops.
I will provide written feedback for formal writing assignments at least twice. You can
expect this feedback to provide direction and encouragement for making effective
revisions, especially regarding organization, sentence variety, and vocabulary use. You
can also expect me to make suggestions orally on an individual or group basis as is
Grammar and Vocabulary
I will assign grammar and vocabulary work each Monday. These assignments are due
each Friday unless the school calendar requires a due date adjustment.
I will clearly present the requirements for and weight of each assignment as I introduce it.
Quizzes, homework, informal writing, formal essays (early drafts and revisions), and
tests all contribute to your grade. You will receive no credit for late homework. This
year, I am adding a participation component to your grade for this class. I will calculate
your participation grade largely upon whether you arrive in class prepared (complete
homework and all necessary materials with you). You may discuss your grades (or any
other concern you have) with me at any time outside of class or check online. Your grade
will be the result of your earned points divided by the number of potential points.
Student Signature Date
Parent Signature Date
I am very excited about all the English courses planned for next year—but most excited
about how I can tie my passions for America and discourse to my passion for teaching.
I want this course to emphasize analytical and critical thinking practice with students
considering the rhetoric of others of note (written, visual, and spoken) and formulating
their own rhetoric (written, visual, and spoken), therefore, building defensible
worldviews of their own.
Our discussions will involve the following features:
Student led panel discussions
I want students to study rhetorical strategies and then practice identifying them by
analyzing opinion columns and speakers we have in class. We can also access news
feeds and speeches via the Internet. During this process, students will be honing their
own rhetorical skills through responding to the examples we consider and formulating
their own discourse.
By considering current events, the course will have a somewhat fluid nature to it. We
will be reacting to what is happening as it happens. Sounds like fun!
I am very excited about the book (The Greatest American Speeches) that will provide
students with great rhetorical matter to consider and introduce or reinforce distinctly
American concepts and events.
Two years ago when I last taught this course, I had just a couple speakers in. I’d like to
have perhaps one a month next year and include a wider variety of perspectives.
I also want to increase students’ understanding of the history connected with many of the
events planned for discussion.