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									AP English Language and Composition/American Experience Summer Assignments ‘08


Welcome to AP English Language and Composition! You are about to embark on a journey
toward becoming a more proficient reader and writer, with a focus on what it means to be an
American. Whether you are in the combo AE course or just plain old AP English, we concentrate
on works about various cultures and their representation in works of literary nonfiction and
fiction. Our journey begins with a summer assignment, and this is an important part of our
journey. Without it, you will begin the year with a deficit, both in your grade and in your
experience/preparation for the course.

Please be aware that you are expected to read these (and all) selections actively and closely.
Active reading strategies include highlighting/underlining significant passages as you read,
making notes in the margins of your book in response to these passages, reflecting upon
individual chapters/sections as you read them, and pondering the author’s purpose as it is
revealed in the text. For a detailed description of close or active reading, see
http://ozpk.tripod.com/APclose. I have also included photocopies of a couple of pages of my
own reading notes—although you will probably develop a system of your own, these examples
will demonstrate what works for me. The purpose of annotating (or marking) your book is two-
fold: First, it helps you remain engaged in your reading (it’s hard to fall asleep while you’re
writing!) and second, it will enable you to locate passages when you make connections within
the text, when we discuss the books in class, and later when you write in response to the
literature. Since you will be annotating your books, you will want your own copies of them.

Note: Rely on your own reading of the material rather than commercially-prepared notes, which
are lacking in credentials and are a poor source to supplement your reading. There are much
better critical commentaries available through Galileo or Google Scholar, but for our purposes,
you will develop your own analytical skills through using your own brain, not through listening
to the ideas of others. I am available throughout the summer via email—ask me for help!

Assignment #1: 50 points, due June 21 via email. Read The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy.
Conroy, a Southern writer whose works beautifully reveal the spirit of the South, is famous for
such works as The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. This
particular work chronicles his experience teaching on an isolated, underdeveloped island of the
coast of South Carolina. Conroy’s works make me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.
The Houston Chronicle describes the experience of reading his works as “like watching
Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.” As you read, consider Conroy the teacher vs. Mrs.
Brown—what does each believe about students, teachers, and the purpose of education? Write a
brief answer to this question, using support (and documentation) from the text, and email it to me
no later than June 21. I will reply that I have received it, so if you do not hear back from me,
assume that something has gone wrong. By the way, by brief, I mean essay length—typically
350-500 words.

Assignment #2: 50 points, due July 19 via email. Read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. If
you saw the recent film No Country for Old Men or the older film All the Pretty Horses, then you
are already familiar with McCarthy’s style. This book, though, is a bit of a departure for him.
The subject is a post-apocalyptic America, as a father and son travel toward the southeastern
U.S. coast. It’s a quick read—I read it during a four-hour layover in the airport. I think you’ll
like it. Pay attention to references to fire, and articulate your own explanation of what McCarthy
AP English Language and Composition/American Experience Summer Assignments ‘08


means by this. When you finish, answer this: Is the message of the book one of hope, or one of
despair? How does McCarthy demonstrate this? Send this response, also with support and
documentation from the text, no later than July 19. Again, you should receive a reply from me.

Assignment #3: 50 points, due August 1—Current issues. A key strategy for your success on
the AP Language exam is keeping up with current social/political issues, as at least one question
on the exam typically asks you to respond to something newsworthy. To help you develop the
habit of being interested in what’s going on in the world, please read and clip at least three
editorials from a major syndicated columnist. You might use something from the New York
Times, Time magazine, Newsweek, The Economist, etc. Many major papers can be accessed
online, but do be certain that you are using an editorial/opinion column rather than a letter to the
editor. The difference is that the columnist is employed by the newspaper; the letter-writer is
not. Bring these with you to class on your first day, but email to me no later than August 1 the
following:
    1. A brief summary of the author’s opinion.
    2. Your response either agreeing or disagreeing (or agreeing in part).
    3. Some references to the original text with which you agree or disagree.
For each of these, follow MLA style guidelines. You may find information about MLA
formatting at http://owl.english.purdue.edu. Although I would recommend you purchase your
own copy of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, this website has a condensed
and up to date version of the contents. For this and all college-level classes, it is assumed that
you can use a handbook for reference rather than having your teacher print handouts for you and
explain them, but if you need assistance, please let me know.

What I’ll be looking for, as I grade these, is evidence of thoughtful reading and an effort to
articulate your ideas through writing. I always avoid giving students a length requirement for
writing, as how much you need to write will vary according to the individual student. However,
your writing should provide a depth of detail and evidence of understanding sufficient to merit a
full score. I would hate to see anyone begin the year with zeroes in the gradebook, so please plan
your time wisely and know that due dates are firm; although I will probably accept your work a
day or two late, my practice is to deduct points from late assignments as well as to mark them as
such in the gradebook. When it becomes evident that a pattern of lateness has developed, we
will decide on further action together, usually with the help of your parents.

In short, I hope you have a fun and relaxing summer, but that you also take the opportunity to
keep your reading and writing skills sharp. I’ll be doing the same and will look forward to
talking with you in class when we return in the fall. If any of these assignments happens not to
be your favorite, don’t despair—I seek and use a variety of styles and subjects in our reading
throughout the year, so you may love another.

My home email is curlupandread@yahoo.com. I recommend that you copy and paste your work
in the body of the email as well as attaching via Word or Works (I have both at home). I prefer
that you use the home address for now and until we return to school in August.

Happy reading!
Ms. D.

								
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