AP Teaching Tips
Home AP Exam Info AP Student Presentations Semester 2 Calendar AP Teaching Tips


AP Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips:

Many English literature teachers believe that taking on an AP course is the ultimate challenge. Fortunately, you'll find plenty of advice to help you meet that challenge here at AP Central, in AP publications, and at College Board workshops and summer institutes. The online discussion group for AP English teachers is also a valuable resource. Currently, nearly 2,000 teachers from across the country use the online discussion to share ideas and materials.

Advice from the Trenches
We asked a few experienced members of the AP English online mailing list for a single piece of advice that they would offer other teachers. Here's what they came up with:

Newbie advice
Here's the condensed version of advice for new folks:

bullet Attend a College Board workshop this summer. You will leave with materials and a sense of direction.
bullet If you can design your curriculum, teach what you love to begin with. Your enthusiasm will infect your students, and you'll feel comfortable with the work, if not the AP approach. Branch out after you're more confident with the course.
bullet Network. Join the English discussion group. Ask questions, read all the threads of conversation you can, especially over the summer. Find other AP teachers through workshops or school connections and get copies of whatever materials they are willing to share.
bullet Use a college-level anthology for poetry and have the students read full-length plays and novels all year. Students need to read, write, and discuss their way through the course.
bullet Get a good review book for the AP Exam to provide practice for the students and an overview of the course as well. Cliff's Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition Examination Preparation Guide by Allan Casson is now in a new edition and seems to be the choice of many teachers on the AP English mailing list.
bullet Use a search engine such as Google.com to find AP Web sites and see what others are doing.
bullet If possible, convince your administration to send your whole department to an AP Vertical Team workshop. This will ensure that, from the early grades, kids are learning skills that will be requisite in the AP "ordeal."
bullet After teaching AP for a few years, consider applying to be a faculty consultant. This is one of the best professional development experiences you can imagine.

Mary Filak
Ridge High School, Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Advice from the Chief Faculty Consultant
The following tips were written by Gale Larson, the Chief Faculty Consultant for AP English Literature and Composition, after the 2001 AP Reading:

bullet Choose texts that truly challenge your AP students. Teach them to read closely, attentively, and comprehensively. Turn your classes into workshops in which the students are constantly reading, analyzing, writing papers, sharing their observations about literature with each other, and always learning what constitutes good writing.
bullet Educate your students out of literal-mindedness. Open up to them the language of poetry; that is, the metaphorical control of language. Teach them to recognize irony in texts that they can both see and hear. Have them read plays within the classroom in which they as actors come to understand the tone of language, the implication of language, and the subtext that is often unspoken but felt. Teach them the subtleties of language, which can be gained from a close reading of a text within the classroom, a text acted out by the students. Show them how playwrights craft their plays through the techniques of character revelation.
bullet Don't ignore the study of poetry. It's perhaps the most demanding of the genres and the least appreciated by the students. Encourage them to write their own poems, to explore ways in which they can express feeling through the use of metaphoric language. Have them read poems aloud in order to begin the process of their understanding of the nuances of sound and sense. Show them how structure can often be the door to meaning.
bullet In class assignments teach students how to write analytically, to make meaningful connections within the text itself, or to other literatures, or to life itself. Point out to them when they are merely retelling the plot. Remind them that paraphrase should always be in the service of analysis. They may know the meaning of many literary terms, but merely pointing out examples of them in a quoted passage or a poem is insufficient. It is their responsibility to make meaningful connections beyond mere definition.
bullet When preparing your students for the AP Exam, be sure to tell them to read the prompt of each question very carefully. Before they start writing, they should think about the implications of the question, plan how they will organize their responses, and focus on what is asked of them. Often, students are asked to select a play or a novel to answer a particular question; make sure they know that the work they have selected is appropriate to the question asked. See to it that they have a fair range of readings that they feel familiar with, ones that they can use to test the implications of the question and make the decision of the appropriateness of the work to the question asked. Without this flexibility they may force an answer that will come across as canned to the faculty consultant who scores the essay. Remind your students to enter into the text itself, to supply concrete illustrations that substantiate the points they are making. Have them take command of what they are writing with authority by means of direct quotation of pertinent information from the text, always writing into the question and never away from it. Help them to keep their point of view consistent, to select appropriate material for supporting evidence, and to write in a focused and succinct manner.
bullet Remind your students that films are not works of literature and cannot be used to provide the kind of literary analysis required on the exam..
bullet Advise students that when they begin answering the question, they should avoid engaging in a mechanical repetition of the prompt and then supplying a list of literary devices. Instead, get them to think of ways to integrate the language of literature with the content of that literature, making connections that are meaningful and telling, engaging in analysis that leads to the synthesis of new ideas. Pressure them into using higher levels of critical thinking; have them go beyond the obvious and search for a more penetrating relationship of ideas. Make them see connections that they missed on their first reading of the text.
bullet Build your students' confidence as readers and interpreters of literature. As all AP English scoring guidelines say: "Reward them for what they do well."

From http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/members/article/1,1282,151-165-0-2 124,00.html