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AP English Language and Composition Syllabus

Instructor: Mark

 2024-2025 AP English

9/8 - 12/1, 1/5 - 5/4 Sunday 4:30 - 7:30pm (31 sessions)

The course prepares students to take the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition Exam. 

  • Close reading, annotation, analysis and interpretation of major essays from The Norton Reader and AP passages. 

  • Essays of Rhetorical Analysis

  • Synthesis Essays

  • Argument Essays

With consistent practice and feedback students get acclimated to timed essays.

Overview of Course Content:

Rhetorical Analysis:

Your critical reading and analysis of the passage does not depend on spotting and naming a variety of rhetorical devices; it depends primarily on your understanding of the passage as a whole. 

  1. Identify the genre of the passage. Are you reading a letter, a speech, an inaugural address, an obituary, a eulogy, a personal narrative, a diary entry, an excerpt from a scholarly article, a political analysis, a sermon, an argument, etc.? Genre, to a great degree, determines purpose and diction. The author chose the genre because it suited her purpose.

  2. Identify the audience—the single intended reader, readers or listeners—and what the author did to meet the needs of the audience. How did the author’s perception of the audience determine the way the work was written? What are the most effective strategies, approaches, word choices, considering what the audience would empathetically respond to, resonate with, be convinced by or simply understand? 

  3. As best you can, consider the passage in its original context. Be especially aware of dates, titles, and references to historical events in the prompt. 

  4. As you read the passage, remember that you are not reading solely for content, but for an understanding of how the content is tied to a purpose.

  5. When you think about an author’s purpose, you are not looking for a moral or a message, a generalized bit of wisdom that can apply to everyone. An author’s purpose can be found only in what the author does. Does the author define, redefine, juxtapose, compare, reflect, argue, mock, satirize, undermine, narrate, describe, rant, challenge, confront, muse, distance herself from the reader or bring the reader closer…? Authors do not convey information; they shape information in a purposeful way. 

  6. Look for internal connections and oppositions in the text. Be especially sensitive to revelations of irony, paradox and subtle distinctions. 

  7. Consider every detail in context and every paragraph (if there is more than one) in relation to the structure of the piece as a whole. Selection of detail—choosing and emphasizing some and leaving others out—is a rhetorical device.

  8. Consider the likelihood that the author is redefining, defamiliarizing, shedding new light, looking in a new way or from a new perspective, overturning a typical or accepted view. It may no longer be new, but it might have been when it was written. Authors are valuable precisely for their keen ability to reveal what no one else has seen, recognized, or understood.

  9. As you read, your reading should gather force and momentum, an understanding of purpose, tone, context and use of language. Don’t fragment the reading or pick out details as if they were unrelated to the piece as a whole.

  10. Look for examples of diction that stand out because their connotations make them unexpected in the context the author has used them in. You may find a group of words that share the same connotative value. These words reveal the author’s tone, her attitude toward her subject. 

  11. The author’s use of rhetorical devices—how the author uses language to shape information—reveals purpose.

  12. Close reading of the prompt and passage should take about 10 minutes. 

  13. The introduction should be a concrete statement that addresses the genre, purpose, tone, context and audience of the piece. Let the reader know that you grasp the passage as a whole. Don’t repeat the prompt, but you may want to choose a key word or phrase to emphasize. Avoid ending the introduction with “The author uses…”

  14. The body paragraphs have to explain how the author uses language strategically—for a purpose, which you have already stated in the introduction. Avoid saying the author “mentions,” “states,” “talks about” without settling on a rhetorical focus. If you claim the author describes, then there should be examples of vivid, sensory detail you can explain in relationship to the purpose. If you claim the author argues, you should be able to point out the aspects of argument. If you claim the author explains, you must delineate the aspects of explanation.

  15. Choose the central rhetorical devices or moves you see in the text.  Explain what makes the device appropriate to the author’s purpose. Remember that each device is a purposeful use of language. It is best to write about diction if you can explain the connotation(s) of particular words. Is the diction abstract or concrete, formal or informal, jargon or words specific to a particular context?


Elements of personal narrative, memoir, autobiographical narrative:

  • Narrative distance (narrative objectivity)

  • Developing characters through their actions (Show. Don’t’ Tell.)

  • Visual writing—imagery, sensory detail

  • Dialogue

  • Reflection—the author’s self-evaluation, self-discovery

Elements of argument:

  • Logical reasoning, ethical appeals, emotional appeals

  • Anticipation or recognition of opposition (they say/I say)

  • Tone of certainty, rejection of opposition

  • Thesis

  • Definition/ redefinition

  • Euphemism

  • Precedent or example

  • Appeal to authority, testimony, statistics, data, experts

  • Discussion of or distinction between levels or degrees

  • Hiding or revealing assumptions

  • Conditional statements: If…, then

  • Enumeration: first, second, third…

Always evaluate arguments for their weaknesses or vulnerabilities:

  • Sweeping, unsupportable generalizations

  • Reliance on thin or anecdotal evidence

  • Ad hominem attacks

  • Relying on doubtful authority

  • False dilemma—either/or

Writing the Synthesis Essay:

  1. The goal is to develop a point of view, an argument, relying on the sources.

  2. Read and mark the sources in the same way that you read the material in the multiple choice section and the passage analysis. 

  3. Write an introduction that contextualizes your position in a concrete way. 

  4. Your thesis does not have to be elaborate, but it has to be clear, and it has to be specific enough to guide the body paragraphs.

  5. Don’t organize by example or source; organize by idea, by the subtopics of your thesis.

  6. Don’t decontextualize the material you take from the sources. Remember that there may be more than one voice in source, so don’t write Source A says… consider the information in the source box as a means of contextualizing the material.

  7. Try not only to use the material from the sources but to put the texts in conversation with each other. You can explain how one text agrees with another or use one text to refute another.

Writing the Argument Essay:

  1. You may want to read the prompt before you begin reading for the other essays so that you can begin to consider your position and appropriate evidence.

  2. Write in a voice that is natural and authentic to you. Try to avoid writing a pro forma school essay. 

  3. Use the introduction to define the context of your position and introduce the reader to your perspective in a concrete and compelling way.

  4. Avoid definitions that the reader will already know or other statements of the obvious.

  5. Use evidence that you know well and can write about fluently. Don’t choose evidence that you are only vaguely familiar with.

  6. To the extent you can, develop a position that you actually hold. Use evidence that you know from your experience, your life, your knowledge of popular culture, your areas of expertise. One example that you know well and can explain extensively is enough. You don’t need three separate examples unless you are explicitly asked for that, which is not likely.


Rhetorical Device-Figures of speech:

Extended or enlivened metaphor
Implied metaphor
Extended analogy
Rhetorical Question
Irony: situational and dramatic
Verbal irony-sarcasm

Arrangement. Syntax, Balance, Patterning:


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