High school students become more sophisticated readers and writers while deepening their knowledge through the study and exploration of various themes in American and World Literature. Students meet graduation requirements by earning at least 8 English credits. High school students who score at least 65 on the ELA Regents exam fulfill the English requirement toward the Regents diploma.
AP English Language and Composition
The AP English Language and Composition course is designed to help students become skilled readers of prose written in a variety of rhetorical contexts and to become skilled writers who compose for a variety of purposes. Both their writing and their reading should make students aware of the interactions among a writer's purposes, audience expectations, and subjects as well as the way generic conventions and the resources of language contribute to effectiveness in writing.
The goals of an AP English Language and Composition course are diverse because the college composition course is one of the most varied in the curriculum. The college course provides students with opportunities to write about a variety of subjects and to demonstrate an awareness of audience and purpose. But the overarching objective in most first-year writing courses is to enable students to write effectively and confidently in their college courses across the curriculum and in their professional and personal lives. Therefore, most composition courses emphasize the expository, analytical, and argumentative writing that forms the basis of academic and professional communication, as well as the personal and reflective writing that fosters the ability to write in any context. In addition, most composition courses teach students that the expository, analytical, and argumentative writing they must do in college is based on reading texts from various disciplines and periods as well as personal experience and observation. Composition courses, therefore, teach students to read primary and secondary sources carefully, to synthesize materials from these texts in their own compositions, and to cite sources using conventions recommended by professional organizations such as the Modern Language Association (MLA), the University of Chicago Press (The Chicago Manual of Style), and the American Psychological Association (APA).
As in the college course, the purpose of the AP English Language and Composition course is to enable students to read complex texts with understanding and to write prose of sufficient richness and complexity to communicate effectively with mature readers. An AP English Language and Composition course should help students move beyond such programmatic responses as the five-paragraph essay that provides an introduction with a thesis and three reasons, body paragraphs on each reason, and a conclusion that restates the thesis. Although such formulaic approaches may provide minimal organization, they often encourage unnecessary repetition and fail to engage the reader. Students should be encouraged to place their emphasis on content, purpose, and audience and to allow this focus to guide the organization of their writing.
College writing programs recognize that skill in writing proceeds from students' awareness of their own composing processes: the way they explore ideas, reconsider strategies, and revise their work. This experience of the process of composing is the essence of the first-year writing course, and the AP English Language and Composition course should emphasize this process, asking students to write essays that proceed through several stages or drafts, with revision aided by teacher and peers. Although these extended, revised essays cannot be part of the AP Exam, the experience of writing them will help make students more self-aware and flexible writers and thus may help their performance on the exam itself.
As well as engaging in varied writing tasks, students become acquainted with a wide variety of prose styles from many disciplines and historical periods, and gain understanding of the connections between writing and interpretive skill in reading. Concurrently, to reflect the increasing importance of graphics and visual images in texts published in print and electronic media, students are asked to analyze how such images both relate to written texts and serve as alternative forms of texts themselves.
In addition, the informed use of research materials and the ability to synthesize varied sources (to evaluate, use, and cite sources) are integral parts of this course. Students move past assignments that allow for the uncritical citation of sources and, instead, take up projects that call on them to evaluate the legitimacy and purpose of sources used.
One way to help students synthesize and evaluate their sources is the researched argument paper. Researched argument papers remind students that they must sort through disparate interpretations to analyze, reflect upon, and write about a topic. When students are asked to bring the experience and opinions of others into their essays in this way, they enter into conversations with other writers and thinkers. The results of such conversations are essays that use citations for substance rather than show, for dialog rather than diatribe.
AP English Literature and Composition
The AP English Literature and Composition course is designed to engage students in the careful reading and critical analysis of imaginative literature. Through the close reading of selected texts, students can deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure for their readers. As they read, students should consider a work's structure, style, and themes, as well as such smaller-scale elements as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone.
The course should include intensive study of representative works from various genres and periods, concentrating on works of recognized literary merit. The works chosen should invite and gratify rereading.
Reading in an AP course should be both wide and deep. This reading necessarily builds upon the reading done in previous English courses. These courses should include the in-depth reading of texts drawn from multiple genres, periods, and cultures. In their AP course, students should also read works from several genres and periods -- from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century -- but, more importantly, they should get to know a few works well. They should read deliberately and thoroughly, taking time to understand a work's complexity, to absorb its richness of meaning, and to analyze how that meaning is embodied in literary form. In addition to considering a work's literary artistry, students should consider the social and historical values it reflects and embodies. Careful attention to both textual detail and historical context should provide a foundation for interpretation, whatever critical perspectives are brought to bear on the literary works studied.
Such close reading involves the experience of literature, the interpretation of literature, and the evaluation of literature. All these aspects of reading are important for an AP course in English Literature and Composition, and each corresponds to an approach to writing about literary works. Writing to understand a literary work may involve writing response and reaction papers along with annotation, freewriting, and keeping some form of a reading journal. Writing to explain a literary work involves analysis and interpretation, and may include writing brief focused analysis on aspects of language and structure. Writing to evaluate a literary work involves making and explaining judgments about its artistry and exploring its underlying social and cultural values through analysis, interpretation, and argument.
Writing should be an integral part of the AP English Literature and Composition course, for the AP Examination is weighted toward student writing about literature. Writing assignments should focus on the critical analysis of literature and should include expository, analytical, and argumentative essays. Although critical analysis should make up the bulk of student writing for the course, well-constructed creative writing assignments may help students see from the inside how literature is written. The goal of both types of writing assignments is to increase students' ability to explain clearly, cogently, even elegantly, what they understand about literary works and why they interpret them as they do.
Writing instruction should include attention to developing and organizing ideas in clear, coherent, and persuasive language; a study of the elements of style; and attention to precision and correctness as necessary. Throughout the course, emphasis should be placed on helping students develop stylistic maturity, which, for AP English, is characterized by the following:
Wide-ranging vocabulary used with denotative accuracy and connotative resourcefulness
A variety of sentence structures, including appropriate use of subordinate and coordinate constructions
A logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques of coherence such as repetition, transitions, and emphasis
A balance of generalization with specific illustrative detail
An effective use of rhetoric, including controlling tone, maintaining a consistent voice, and achieving emphasis through parallelism and antithesis
It is important to distinguish among the different kinds of writing produced in an AP English Literature and Composition course. Any college-level course in which serious literature is read and studied should include numerous opportunities for students to write. Some of this writing should be informal and exploratory, allowing students to discover what they think in the process of writing about their reading. Some of the course writing should involve research, perhaps negotiating differing critical perspectives. Much writing should involve extended discourse in which students can develop an argument or present an analysis at length. In addition, some writing assignments should encourage students to write effectively under the time constraints they encounter on essay examinations in college courses in many disciplines, including English.