AP English Language
On-Line for the 2020-2021 School Year
Teacher: Maya Inspektor
As of March 31, 2020, both my section and Ms. Pochily's section of this class are full. If you would like to be placed on the class waiting list, please submit a completed application. Thanks!
Course description: This highly interactive course is designed to prepare students for the AP English Language and Composition exam in May. Students will learn to understand complicated texts and write with complexity, clarity and polish. Essentially, the goal of an AP English Language and Composition course is for students to develop maturity as readers, writers, and thinkers. To reach this goal, this course will involve extensive reading, writing, and online discussion.
Reading and writing nonfiction lies at the heart of the AP English Language and Composition exam. Students should anticipate reading 40 - 60 pages (mostly engaging nonfiction essays) and writing one essay (or the equivalent) weekly as well as numerous shorter written responses. Students will also participate in interactive discussions of their readings throughout the week, composing responses to discussion questions and commenting on their classmates' responses, and they will generally write a short reply to a "Morning Message" each day.
Students may be happily surprised to discover just how engaging nonfiction writing can be, from Martin Luther King's inspiring "Letter from Birmingham Jail" to Sherman Alexie's humorous account of how Superman helped him learn to read. We will also study image as text, critiquing Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoons and photographs. Students will track down logical fallacies and read satire from Jonathan Swift and others. Nonfiction readings prepare students for readings in every discipline of college study, but that doesn't mean they need to be dry! In addition, students will choose novels, plays, and nonfiction works to study either independently or in interactive book clubs with their classmates throughout the year.
Course writing will cover a wide range of genres. During the year, students will compose journal entries, discussion question responses, argumentative papers and analytic essays. They will also write several personal creative narratives. They engage in the challenging process of composing a researched argument essay that they can submit as an entry into an essay competition (usually the AFSA essay contest, though this is subject to change). Throughout the year, I will emphasize the writing process, as students move from prewriting to drafting and revisions with the help of extensive critique from both their classmates and from me.
Finally, let's not forget one of our ultimate focuses: throughout the year, but particularly at the end, students will engage in guided test preparation for the AP English Language and Composition exam.
Note: It can be tempting to take this class along with other literature-based English classes, but I strongly recommend against this. AP English Language demands a great deal of reading and writing, and students usually find themselves overwhelmed if they combine this class with any other formal English class. I would like to see students continue to read high-quality fiction for pleasure outside the class, though, and they will read and discuss three AP-level novels with classmates as part of the class "book club" activities.
Our readings will center around driving questions such as the following:
1. How does language and literacy change who we are? For example, how did the acquisition of English change Richard Rodriguez's identity? How are we shaped by the books we read?
2. How can we see through the rhetoric that surrounds us? Our reading in The Omnivore's Dilemma, for example, will push students to confront the complexity in a basic choice they face every day: what to eat for dinner. Eschewing easy answers, this book examines the American "food chain" in depth and looks beyond the shiny promises that products use to lure customers.
3. How can we use words to change the world? How do we critically examine the words used by politicians? How to writers craft arguments? What is Henry David Thoreau trying to accomplish in his story of retreat from society? How can we harness the tools of rhetoric to persuade others of our arguments?
I have been very proud by my students' performance in the past. For the past years, over two thirds of my students have earned scores of 4 or 5 on the exam at the end of the year (with 5 as the most common grade). In addition, my students have won almost $30,000 in college scholarships for entries into essay contests they have completed as part of the class, and they have also won numerous Scholastic Arts and Writing awards for essays they wrote in class. This year, students will most likely will enter the AFSA essay contest as our major researched argument challenge of the year. You can see two of the students from my 2017-18 class in the picture below (advertising the 2019 contest; the 2021 question has not been released yet). In 2018, we swept first and second place nationally! However, I may change my mind if I see the 2021 essay question and feel that a different assignment will serve my students better.
(Note that only U.S. citizens living abroad or students living in within the United States are eligible to enter this contest, and the children of AFSA members are ineligible. Any ineligible students are still welcome to join the class, but they should be aware that they won't be able to submit their essays to the competition.)
Who should apply: Students with a love for words, argumentation, and reading who would like to invest time and energy into exploring language more deeply. As this is a college-level writing course, students should come in with the ability to write with polish and read difficult high-level texts, and they should have a solid background involving reading and writing in rich and varied genres. No background or interest in foreign policy, bilingual education, food science, or living in a hut in the woods is necessary. Students do not need extensive experience with formal literary analysis or essay writing.
I do not recommend this course for students who are seeking remedial instruction in reading or writing. While I do provide some grammatical instruction, this course is not appropriate for students who struggle with extensive grammatical errors or who have great difficulty with the writing skills section of the SAT. (I recommend an SAT score in both the English and writing sections of the SAT of at least 600 as a pre-requisite.) This is a challenging, high-level course designed to take students who have mastered high-school-level work to an even more advanced level. Students who are self-disciplined and internally-motivated tend to excel in this class, while students who have trouble managing their time and the abstract demands of an online class may be better served by a more conventional class setting.
I also do not recommend this course for any students taking other formal English classes at the same time.
Note: this course is open to 10th, 11th and 12th graders. I occasionally admit 9th graders who present exceptional credentials, but I feel that younger students (9th and 10th graders) should only take this class if they are prepared to excel in it, not merely manage its demands-- otherwise, they are better served by waiting until they can have a completely positive class experience.
- The Language of Composition: Reading - Writing - Rhetoric, second edition, by Renee H. Shea, Lawrence Scanlon, and Robin Dissin Aufses (This anthology includes the nonfiction essays that will form the bulk of class reading.) Note: The third edition is now available, but we will be sticking with the second edition.
- The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White (Any edition is acceptable, but be sure you buy a version by Strunk and White rather than one only by Strunk.)
- Hunger of Memory, by Richard Rodriguez
- The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan
- Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
- In addition, students will read five AP-level works of fiction or nonfiction of their choice (within certain limits), discussing these works in small groups with classmates.
Registration deadline: Applications will be accepted through August 1st or until the class is full (which usually occurs much sooner, most likely before the end of April).
Tech needs: Students must have full web and printer access (broadband Internet recommended but not required), and they must be able to view and create PDF files.
Hours of study each week: Approximately 10-12 hours. (We don't meet at set class times; rather, you will have assignments due by midnight on most days of the school week. I will also post an instructional message every weekday morning by 8 AM EST; usually this message involves a student response. I do accommodate student travel plans, illnesses, and special events.)
Course meeting times: Students will have assignments due every weekday on our course website. This course has no required live components; work can be completed at any time on the day it is due. I am happy to accommodate students who need to work ahead or who face particularly busy times during their school year.
Course fee: $725 if payment is received before July 1st; $775 after July 1st.
Length of course: Monday, August 31, 2020 to Friday, May 14, 2021
Breaks: There will be no assignments due on any U.S. National Holidays. Students will have one week off for fall break, one week off for Thanksgiving break, two weeks off for Christmas / New Years, and one week off for spring break.
Instructor Qualifications: This is my thirteenth year teaching online AP English Language. I graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 2004, majoring in English nonfiction writing and Psychology. I obtained a Masters of Education in secondary English from Carlow University, studying homeschooling English programs for my master's thesis. I taught at a private school in Pittsburgh for two years and have taught AP English Language and AP English Literature through AP Homeschoolers since 2007. In addition, I taught creative writing classes at the School of Advanced Jewish Studies in Pittsburgh and served as an SAT tutor for a major test preparation company, and I've recently had the pleasure of teaching a bunch of little Israeli kids how to read in English. I have always loved writing nonfiction and once served as memoir editor of the University of Pittsburgh's undergraduate nonfiction magazine, Collision. My husband and I live in the Czech republic with our daughter and son. As a past participant in many online AP courses, I'm thrilled to have returned as a teacher!
Section 2: This year, I will accept approximately 25 students into my section of AP English Language. A section teacher-- Ms. Meredith-- will grade the work for up to 15 more students, for a total class size of approximately 40 students. The students in Ms. Pochily's section will participate fully in the class as a whole, completing the same assignments, learning from the same general instruction, and interacting with all of their classmates (in my section and in Ms. Pochily's section). Ms. Pochily will be responsible for grading the work from the students in her section and for monitoring their progress.
I determine admissions to the two sections by a simple procedure. I (Mrs. Inspektor) will handle all admissions, and the first (approximately) 25 students I accept will be automatically admitted into my section. The next (approximately) 15 students that I accept will be in Ms. Pochily section, though they will be moved to my section in the order in which they paid for the class, should space open up. If you have a strong preference about either section-- for example, you wish to be accepted directly into Ms. Pochily section even if there is room in my section, or you ONLY wish to be considered for my section-- please explain this preference at the top of your application. When I accept you, I'll let you know where you stand in terms of admission to one section or the other.
Ms. Pochily is a top former student and AP Lang Teaching Assistant, and this is her third year co-teaching AP English Language. She graduated summa cum laude from George Washington University, where she majored in International Affairs, specializing in public health. After college, she worked with an organization that provides training and capacity building services to state child welfare agencies, where she managed publications and oversaw the editorial services team. Ms. Pochily is currently finishing up her Master of Social Work at the University of North Carolina -- Chapel Hill. Writing has been a significant part of her life since she was young, and, in addition to co-teaching AP Lang, she has worked extensively as an English tutor with students of all ages. She is passionate about guiding others to find their voice through writing.
You can contact Ms. Pochily directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, but ALL applications should be sent to my e-mail address: email@example.com.
Details: I am happy to respond to any and all questions about the class. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't hear from me within two business days, I encourage you to send an e-mail to these backup addresses in case for some reason your e-mail got snagged in my spam filter: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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