Schools and Learning: Do They Go Together Anymore?
An AP Language and Composition writing unit.
Unit Description: This unit introduces students to two of the required AP Language and Composition essays: the open/argumentative essay and the synthesis essay. Students tackle both of these essays over the course of the unit. I use this unit in the beginning of the year to review basic essay writing skills. This ensures that all of my AP students have an understanding of a 5-6 paragraph essay.
The first part of this unit requires students to think about whether or not our current education schools develop the “minds and spirits” of students. The second half of the unit requires students to reflect on the conditions necessary for true, deep learning to take place. Students have a lot to say about this topic, so it’s easy for them to get involved in discussions and come up with evidence for their arguments!
This is a straightforward unit that covers the basics of essay writing through lecture, note-taking, and modeling.
Students also participate in discussions, read, and engage in small-group activities in order to gather evidence for their essays.
• Part I of unit: Do schools today develop the minds and spirits of students?
• Part II of unit: What factors lead to true, deep learning? (As opposed to superficial knowledge or nothing at all.) In other words, what conditions are necessary to foster in-depth learning?
• Review the basics of a persuasive/open essay
• Have students write a persuasive/open essay
• Students will write and revise an introductory paragraph
• Students will write and revise a body paragraph
• Students will write and revise a rebuttal paragraph
• Students will write and revise a conclusion paragraph
• Students will learn the basics of a synthesis essay
• Students will attempt their first synthesis essay
• Students will repeat the paragraph writing skills they learned for the open essay, but they will use evidence from the texts to support their ideas.
This unit includes:
• Clear objectives
• Essential questions
• 6 PowerPoints:
• Structure of a Basic Persuasive Essay & Introduction to the Open Essay
• Structure of a Basic Introductory Paragraph
• How to Write a Body Paragraph
• How to Write a Rebuttal
• How to Write a Conclusion Paragraph
• Introduction to the Synthesis Essay
• 5 Note-taking guides for each PowerPoint (No notes for “Introduction to the Synthesis Essay”)
• Step-by-step lesson plans
• Vocabulary list
• Small vocabulary activities
• Practice vocabulary quiz
• Vocabulary quiz
• Vocabulary answer keys
• Built-in checks for understanding
• 2 Journal prompts
• 2 discussions
• Assessments (two papers: open essay & synthesis essay)
• Rubric for essays
Texts (not included):
• William Deresiewicz: Introduction and Chapter 1 from Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life” (Available in most public libraries.)
• David Sedaris “Me Talk Pretty One Day” (Part 2, Chapter 2 of the novel Me Talk Pretty One Day; chapter easily found online or in a book like 50 Essays)
• Malcolm X: “Learning to Read” (excerpt from The Autobiography of Malcolm X; easily found online or in a book like 50 Essays)
• Frederick Douglass: “Learning to Read and Write” (excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; easily found online or in a book like 50 Essays)
• Access to YouTube to watch the student documentary “Losing Ourselves” by Rachel B. Wolfe (easily found with Google search)
• Optional: Everything’s An Argument by Lunsford & Ruszkiewicz (5th Ed.)
• Open/Argumentative paper
• Synthesis paper
• Class discussions
• ~13 forty-five minute class periods
• ~3 to 3.5 weeks (depending on your pace)