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AP Summer Institute: English Language and Composition

AP® Institute-English Language and Composition

Instructor: Dr. Renee Shea

SYLLABUS: Language and Composition,      Montgomery College  

Dear Teachers:
You have been selected or elected to teach AP Language and Composition because you possess experience and have a record of success.  This Institute is designed to enhance your skills.  Each of us is different and the profiles of our students differ as well; consequently, we organize our classes to reflect individual strengths and challenges.  The Institute should reinforce your strengths and draw upon your creativity.  
What gives an APSI its power is the combined wisdom and experience of the group, sharing ideas and discovering creative strategies. To this end, the class will be as interactive as possible.  Each day will provide an opportunity for you to contribute. Your input is valued and respected.

Objectives of the Advanced Placement Institute

Participants will:

  • Develop a new syllabus or enhance an existing syllabus for AP Language
  • Share useful strategies for examining a variety of texts
  • Explore ways to motivate and guide students to become confident writers
  • Learn how AP essays are scored
  • Build a course that will prepare students for the AP Language exam

Materials for the Course:

  • AP English Language and Composition Workshop Handbook. New York: College Board, 2015.   Print.
  • AP English Language and Composition: Expanding Definitions of Argument. New York: College Board, 2015. Print.
  • Copied material in print and digital form.

Recommended Texts:

  • A handbook like. . . Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual. New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s,      2009. Print (and Web)
  • The Language of Composition. Ed. Renee H. Shea, Lawrence Scanlon, Robin Aufses. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 20011. Print (and Ebook)
  • An anthology, such as the Norton Anthology, and/ or an Argumentation text


Day 1: What is AP Language and Composition?

AM:  What are the essentials of the course? 

Activity: Reading Phillis Wheatley’s “On Being Brought to America” as an argument

How does one develop an effective syllabus?

  •       Class profiles: how to determine class needs
  •       School curriculum
  •       Time perameters
  •       Organizational options: theme, genre, time periods

            Theme centers:  Choose one of the following themes or suggest another that you believe would be effective with your students?  Walls,  Freedom, Music, Sports, Gender Roles etc. You will be part of a group, developing a unit using a selected theme.

PM: What are the demands of the AP Language Examination?

 Exam components   
  • The multiple choice section  (Workshop Handbook, pp. 40 - 57)
  • What is required of the student?
  • How does one prepare for this part of the exam?
  • What strategies can be used to achieve success?
  • The synthesis question  (pp. 58 - 67)
  • What skills must the student have to be able to develop a claim?
  • What must the teacher do to prepare students?
  • The analysis question  (pp. 68 - 69)
  • How would you answer the question (10 minute outline)?
  • What problems did you encounter?
  • The Argument (p. 70)
  • Why is this question the most difficult for some students to write?
  • How would you prepare your students?

For Wednesday:  Download from AP Central or bring in a copy of an AP Language Syllabus that you can use as a guide to develop or enhance your own class syllabus.
Select a text to add to the thematic unit your group is developing.

Day 2:  Analysis

AM: Elements of Argument

AP Language Question 2 sample student essays
  • What obstacles might the reader/ writer encounter?
  • Analysis of the AP Scoring Guide for Question 2
  • Review of student responses on a scale of 1 - 9
  • Examination of selected responses with a view toward assisting the student writer,.
Identifying specific strategies.

Group Activity: Sojourner Truth’s “Aint I A Woman?”

  1. How would you present this text?
  2. Which elements would you emphasize?
  3. Create a writing assignment
  4. Group Activity: Convene in unit groups; share selections suggested by members; refine the list; consider sequencing of texts.  Assign one text to each participant.

PM: Developing Strategies for Argumentation

Mapping An Argument: pp. 9 - 12 in Curriculum Module

  • Analysis: “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost (copies)
  • Reading and understanding the poem
  • Looking at elements of argument: speaker, occasion, audience, claim, support for the claim, counterarguments.
  • Group Activity: How would you teach this poem as part of a unit on Walls?
  • Consider activities, student responses, strategies.
  • Provide prompts or writing assignments.

The writing process: inspiration, free writing, planning developing drafts, editing
Assessing student writing: holistic method, analytical, peer response, other?

For Thursday:  How would you teach the text assigned to you in the group?  Include presentation, focus on argument, writing assignments.


Day 3:  Synthesis

AM: The Confident Student Reader/ Writer

  • AP Sample Synthesis Question:  Read the prompt; then the sources.  Plan your own essay.
  • What problems did you encounter?
  • How would you prepare students to deal with the same problems?
  • Which sources did you find most useful?
Strategies for Teaching Use of Sources:
  • How to use sources: intellectual property
  • Direct quotations, indirect quotations, combination forms
  • Significance of the speaker or source
  • Integration of sources into personal writing
  • MLA Style, others


Scoring Guide (2011)
  • Analysis of student essays scored 9 - 7.
  • What makes the essay a “9”?   (positive elements)
  • What makes the essay a “7’?  (how is it less competent than the “9”?)
  • Analysis of student essay scored a “2”:  how can we help this student?
  • Group Activity: Share teaching approaches to the text assigned to you. The group may offer suggestions for refinement.  If time permits, some of the texts and teaching approaches may be presented to the group as a whole.  The final product will be emailed to the leader of each group who will post the unit on line.

For Friday: Continue working on your syllabus and your unit.

Day 4:  The Personal Argument

AM: Question 3, the student essay
  • Samples from AP exam
  • Scoring and analyzing results
  • How can we help specific writers from this group to write better arguments ?

Group Activity: Analyzing student responses to the prompt

  • Identify problems that your students might encounter.
  • How can we prepare students for this assignment?
  • Analyze student responses.
  • If this were a pre-test, how would you guide the students (from samples) using specific steps to improve their writing?        

PM: All Parts Come Together

Group Activity:  Question 3 prompt:  Your school has been given $100,000 by a wealthy graduate.  Plan a well organized, well supported argument explaining how you believe the money should be spent.
What obstacles do you think your students would face in writing the essay?
How would you prepare your students to produce an effective essay?

Sharing of syllabi: Each teacher will discuss how the syllabus was developed or how it has been changed to reflect current times or a new student population.
What were the greatest challenges you faced in designing the syllabus?
Can the group help you with a problematic area?

Final Products of the Thematic Groups: Each group will present the new unit, which will include additional readings/ texts, class activities, strategies for analysis and argumentation appropriate to the selections, writing assignments including at least one that could be an AP
Exam topic.

Best Practices

A P Instructor for English Language and Composition is Dr Renee Shea

Instructor: Dr. Renee Shea

Instructor Bio: Dr. Renee Shea has taught English at the college level for more than thirty years. At both the University of the District of Columbia and Bowie State University, part of the University System of Maryland, she has spent her career working with underrepresented, nontraditional, and minority students. In the past five years, Dr. Shea has coauthored two textbooks for Advanced Placement students: The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric and Literature and Composition: Reading, Writing, Thinking. She is currently working on an American literature text for AP Language and a Pre-AP project.

Dr. Shea taught in high school early in her career, conducted teacher research in her graduate studies, and has been committed for several decades to developing connections between secondary and college teaching and learning. To those ends, she has had the pleasure of being a founding member of the D.C. Area Writing Project and supported the initiation of Advanced Placement English Language programs in D.C.P.S. and Montgomery, Anne Arundel, and Montgomery Counties in Maryland. An active member of the National Council of Teachers of English, she frequently presents at the annual convention, chaired the Committee on World and Comparative Literature, and has coauthored two volumes in the High School Literature Series (Amy Tan and Zora Neale Hurston).

Dr. Shea's academic commitment naturally translates into support for the College Board's agenda for equity and excellence in the Advanced Placement Program. She has worked with AP since the early 1980s as a reader, table leader, and question leader for the English Literature and Composition Exam and for the Language and Composition Exam since its inception. As a faculty consultant, she has led numerous one-day workshops and summer institutes in the U.S. and Canada. She was a member of the English Language and Composition Test Development Committee, as liaison between the College Board and Educational Testing Service, from 2004-2007. She has contributed many articles to APCentral that are posted on the home pages of AP English Literature and Language. Dr. Shea has conducted online workshops on special topics (e.g., Teaching Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Reading the Poetry of Li-Young Lee) as well as more general introductory and advanced workshops on the exams and courses.

Dr. Shea began working with documentary film as a form of nonfiction that engaged her college freshman students in ways that traditional print medium did not. She developed curriculum on the rhetoric of documentary film, proposing it as a bridge to the critical analysis of print texts. This interest evolved into a collaboration with the American Film Institute's SchoolDocs, a program for teachers that is part of SilverDocs, a renowned documentary film festival. It also resulted in a Curriculum Module consisting of six essays written by and for AP teachers on The Rhetoric of Documentary Film ( Currently, Dr. Shea is collaborating with a group of AP English and Art History teachers on a series of curriculum modules on "The Rhetoric of Monuments and Memorials." This project involves examining monuments and memorials as visual arguments and examining them as artistic objects within specific historical contexts and targeted to particular audiences. Students research the history, including funding sources and controversies about placement, design, and purpose. They present their findings in the form of conventional essays as well as multimedia designs. A final part of this project involves students proposing their own monument or memorial to an authentic audience.

A charter member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Dr. Shea has taught courses in women's studies and writes frequently about contemporary authors. Her research on Caribbean authors has been published in Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, and The Journal of Haitian Studies. Since 1997, she has written twelve cover profiles for Poets & Writers Magazine; these include Edwidge Danticat, Sandra Cisneros, Julie Otsuka, Monique Truong, Helena Viramontes, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Andrea Levy, and Maxine Hong Kingston. Dr. Shea recently relocated to Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two dogs (Rose and Mr. Darcy) to be closer to her extended family. She continues to write and lead workshops and is currently working as a consultant to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards on a pilot project for principals

Contact Us:
  • Marcy Jackson, Program Director
  • Program Coordinator 240-567-3823
  • Montgomery College, Workforce Development & Continuing Education
  • 12 South Summit Ave. 4th Floor
  • Gaithersburg, MD 20877

Montgomery College

Montgomery County, MD


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