As expected, the kids are off and running with argument. It always makes me laugh how kids that obsess over specifics and guided instruction give a sigh of relief when it comes to Question 3. They relish in the freedom of the question - maybe, until they realize HOW open ended the question is this week.
It’s FRQ week, and we’re following the same plan. They’ll write collaboratively. Then review feedback. Then write. And then revise.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Give me a little brag moment, please. I passed my National Board Certification! If you want to hear about the process, check out this past post.
I am so happy, relieved, amazed, and proud. But now I am trying to pick out what my next adventure will be. Ideas?
This last week was a bit chaotic with a Student of the Month luncheon, subbing multiple times, a NMSI Saturday session, and a stack of grading that would make the most seasoned English teacher shed a tear. (I have not been listening to my own feedback advice).
My biggest disappointment this week, however, is that I didn’t have time to differentiate the synthesis prompt, as I wanted. I am reassuring myself by banking on student revisions. They have unlimited revision, and they have another one in a few weeks. (Thank you, standards based grading).
This week is a good one - in my opinion. We’re starting argument, or Question 3! We’re also confronting a common AP Lang issue: that students don’t know much about the world around them. At 17 years old, they are too distracted by a million other things to worry about politics, domestic and international affairs, etc. However, as we all know, the test - particularly Question 3 - needs that current awareness.
So it’s News Studies, evidence strategies, and prose this week!
In reflecting on last week….I will be frank. I tried to put too much into two days. I wanted to teach them counter argument (which I sort of did, but not well), to assess their prewriting skills using another PAT outline (which they did, but I didn’t even look at), and have them practice synthesis in groups (which, again, they did, but maybe not well).
In reflection, I would have spread it out over another day, or had them do the PAT template as homework over the weekend. As it was, we did NOT do counter argument justice, and I worry their papers will show it. (Sigh).
That said, this week we are starting with time for students to work on their semester portfolio. In this time, I am hoping to differentiate the FRQ for Thursday. Provide outlines, paragraph templates, etc. I want to make up for rushing through material last week and give the kids the best shot on the summative for this synthesis unit.
I'm going to keep it short and sweet this week. Here are my plans for a mini week (2 days):
Have a great Thanksgiving!
So...I officially got beef with ACT.
I have a class of young, yet decent writers - writers who can analyze the nuance of presidential speeches and other challenging texts - but still, they struggle with the ACT task. Do they counter all perspectives outside their own? Do they simply acknowledge that other views exist? Is it expository or argumentative?
Of course, I know the answer to these things, and I walked them through it this week, but in all honesty, I hate the ACT writing portion. It’s too scripted so that students’ writing becomes rigid and lifeless. The perspectives are often too thinly different to effectively discredit one over another, or the prompt itself is so obvious that every single student agrees with one of the perspectives.
Now, I know this isn’t ACT faults entirely. Students need to write on anything and do it well, but I just gotta blame someone. And ACT is responsible for possibly the most hectic afternoon of my year with their field test.
So pretty much I’m whining. Let’s move on.
Back to AP world this week! Aaaaand… its not really anything new. I posted most of this week’s plan previously when I thought we’d be doing synthesis earlier.
Here’s the “Student-10-Minutes-Before-The-Test” version.
This week was five days of sharp right turns and putting the car in reverse.
Detour #1: As mentioned, last Friday, my kids did their first FRQ (JFK Rhetorical Analysis). Upon returning to school Monday, I realized that a large portion of them had not written more than their introduction and a body paragraph. I am a firm believer in not wasting my grading time on something I know won’t go well for the kids, so we decided to give them another period to finish and revise.
That moved Synthesis back to Thursday. No big deal.
Detour #2: My admin (well, my department chair) tells me that we are going to require all juniors to complete two ACT writing practices. (Awesome. I’m down.)
Then, I find out it has to be done by Nov 16, which would be right in the middle of my synthesis unit, so we duck and weave.
Synthesis goes on the back burner while we do ACT prep.
Here’s what Week 10 looked like instead.
Monday: Rubric Analogy Project Presentations.
Tuesday: Sample study (JFK).
Wednesday: Finish and revise JFK FRQ.
Thursday: Review scoring and look at two samples from peers.
Friday: Task analysis and prewriting for ACT. (I used a PAT Template my department put together that I will be sharing next week when we get into synthesis).
So that means, this week is far from what I planned. Instead of synthesis, we are going full ACT prep - something that I usually try to save for early March. The kids are going to practice the writing three times (as that feels most aligned to AP prep). They will also complete two diagnostic exams: one for each of the English parts of the text. Not an exciting week, but necessary.
This week is a great example of making the best out of an obligation. Teaching Sincerely is how I approach those roadblocks and detours that seem to get in the way of your real intentions as a teacher.
No. I didn’t want to do ACT prep this week. No. I don’t think it’s the best time in the year. However, Teaching Sincerely is about making the best of these hiccups. So - with synthesis in mind - we are focusing on addressing a unique task. That's why I pulled in the same prewriting template I'll be using with synthesis.
As much as I hate handouts from above, I have found some of my best teaching moments are born of adaptation and adjustment. These moments force me to think about why I do what I do and what needs to take precedence. It forces me to stop, rethink, and adapt. And that’s what Teaching Sincerely is about.
Last week stayed pretty well on target. The kids completed their collaborative FRQs… kind of. Most of the groups ran out of time, but at least they got words on the paper. Our scores were in the 3 to 5 range - which is expected - and the kids weren’t actually that scared about Friday’s first FRQ.
Now...what those look like - I have no idea. I was at a training Friday, so I haven’t seen any of the work yet. Regardless of how great (or not so great) those essays are - my plan is pretty much the same this week.
Tomorrow, we are going to present their rubric projects so that students can really understand the rubric and holistic grading. Then, I am going to task them with table reading and picking out what we need to work on as a class. I use skills lessons or reteaches after each FRQ to make sure we are slowly correcting the issues that come up in their writing.
After that we’re on to synthesis with an AWESOME activity I stole from Erin Palazzo - a great voice in the #aplangchat I look forward to every Wednesday. THANKS, ERIN!
Being able to teach sincerely relies more on the people we surround ourselves with than our school initiatives or restrictions. A common illustration of this is the “Find Your Marigolds” advice we pass to new teachers: Surround yourself with a community that will help you grow, not weeds that will suck you dry.
For me, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) helps me teach sincerely by giving me tools and ideas to stay true to what is most important to me. For instance, I believe strongly in authentic experiences, even when we are prepping for an AP exam. The High School Drama Synthesis Prompt is such a fun way to point out the type of discourse students see on a daily basis. I am so grateful that an idea like this was graciously shared. It may not be mine, but it falls right into place with what I sincerely want for my kids.
So here's the deal…
First let me apologize for the delayed post. I was in California consulting this weekend and I used about every spare second to grade my kids’ stuff.
Now, let's talk the heartache of a weak performance on an assessment. What I realized while tackling their prewriting check was that the same old issues are popping up with rhetorical analysis. Describing strategies is so hard for them, and it seems like more of the same. I'm hoping my sample moves them in the right direction... but it's always discouraging.
But we are on the move nonetheless, the kids are tackling their first RA tomorrow, and I am honestly just hoping they finish. Ha!
We all know the hard truth that is the first solo RA. They'll make silly mistakes you explicitly told them NOT to. They'll write "uses pathos" no matter how many times you tell them that doesn't make sense. They'll manage their time poorly, even though you did all the prewriting before class. Nothing feels quite as discouraging as that first FRQ, but we'll persevere! (After a little shock).
Something I am passionate about is building a growth mindset. This week - or rather, whenever they get their scores - is ROUGH. A three kills them more than any F on a math quiz ever did, and for that reason, it's about a positive positive positive reaction for me:
“You know, a three is pretty good when a 6 means you qualify to skip a year of college.”
“You were so close! I needed one more sentence. Fill in the gap, and you're there!”
“This is just a check in. We'll revise and keep at it!”
So plaster on your best teacher smile, hide the panic, and brace yourself. It's FRQ week.
Back for a short week! Yay teachers' convention!!
I won’t lie. I have a little bit of anxiety about the fact that this week is the first time we’re even digging into test materials. In theory, it’ll be smooth sailing because of all the critical reading prep, but I’m pretty sure the usual rhetorical analysis panic will soon be upon us.
(There's a horror film in there somewhere).
Here’s how I approach the RA essay...
And that’s the pattern I follow for all three with a few extra lessons thrown in for synthesis and argument.
So this week, it’s modeling - task and passage analysis, writing claims and assertions, and evidence integration. (Oh my!)
Here are some images to support your modeling. I have my annotation of the Adams passage as well as my outline.
As we begin our exam prep, I always find myself thinking about teaching authentically, or Teaching Sincerely. AP teachers are always conflicted by the “teaching to the test” feeling - and I am no exception.
Here’s how I stay true, or sincere, to my own goals as an AP teacher…
Teaching Sincerely is about finding the best way to adapt to your teaching situation because that will never stay the same from year to year (or let’s be honest, PD day to PD day). So for me, AP is not about teaching to the test, but using what’s best in the test to teach what I sincerely care about. Make sense?
Phew! We are done with a unit. (Well, after Tuesday). It took us quite awhile, but next week, we are on to rhetorical analysis! I’m optimistic that the extra time with critical reading helps us out.
As per usual, I found my kids struggling through determining purpose and tone on SOAPSTone. In order to make sure they were prepped for the test Tuesday, I went over collective feedback with them.
Basically, I wrote out detailed notes about Purpose and Tone - which they then copied into their notebooks. Since those notes are available for their test, they can use these notes to get through those two tough spots on the test.
BUT before we jump into RA, we are taking a pause to assess their reading habits. I have an Independent Reading Assessment for them to complete this week which will ask them to analyze the book they chose but also (and possibly more importantly), they will do a self-assessment of their own habits.
To be honest, it isn’t a busy week. Just a test and this assessment.
For me, Teaching Sincerely is about being able to pursue what you deem most important. Independent reading is one of those things for me. I look at the other teams in my building, and despite how much we all value this reserved reading time, it always takes a back seat - for a lot of different reasons. I myself even find that I will cut them off a couple minutes early in order to get to the skills lesson.
Nonetheless, the day I decided to give students reading time every day was an essential move for me. Even if it is just 50 minutes a week, I at least know I’ve got them engaging with text for that long. And, frankly, that’s a lot more reading than I did in high school. People sometimes scoff at me investing this much time here, but my kids scored better on their AP test and its a better bell ringer than anything I’ve tried to sustain in the past.