reflecting: AP Summer Institute Training

July 2, 2015

Well, this week I attended the AP Summer Institute for teaching AP Literature and Composition. I’ve spent four days being a student again and been able to be a part of a larger movement for rigor and a pursuit of analysis, working with teachers from other schools and other states. It’s enjoyable to challenge myself, and reignite my excitement for literature by really dissecting the act of reading, writing, and finding meaning.

There are a few things that I have learned about classroom instructions, writing for analysis, and reading for analysis that I want to record and share.

Classroom instructions: 

Teenagers, and even adults, benefit from clear instructions, especially in regards to routine and expectations. Often, our class was left to make decisions about ending times for class, or we were expected to decide when to start an activity. I loved the ideas presented in this training, but unintentionally, the instructor taught me about the vital necessity of preparation, clear cues, and the teacher making scheduling and routine decisions. Student choice has a place, just not when directions need to be clear to help things run smoothly.

Reading for analysis: 

I love what our instructor told us to start our training: “Language is the black marks on the page. Literature is about the white space between the marks.” It’s so true: the allure of literature lies in the meaning created by the interaction of the reader and the text. We read a lot of poetry, which was a great divergence from my usual choices for class; in the last few years I have shied away from teaching poetry because it felt like such an undertaking. But in our use of poetry, we were able to look at language condensed, used at it’s most potent, which makes analysis really interesting and fruitful. We also talked about reading for the meaning of the work as a whole, and then matching the analysis to that overall meaning. This process could be adapted to the three steps of close reading: summarize the topics, find the overall meaning with proof and create nuanced theme statement, and then make a connection and explain why it matters.

Writing for analysis: 

The most helpful information I received for writing were the tips on the creation of a nuanced thesis statement. I often include this phrase, “nuaced thesis”, on my rubrics. But, I discovered language and steps to give students to get there, rather than just telling them to be interesting or original. Our instructor described a strong thesis as: stated in a full sentence, the text provide ample proof of the devised meaning, the thesis should not be too universal, too big, not too small, or cliché. A nuanced thesis will also talk about the interplay of two themes or ideas to create meaning, rather than just focusing on one idea.

He also suggested a structure for a sophisticated introduction paragraph which I quite like. It not only breaks the inane hook, background, thesis structure, but it also mirrors how the essay is set up. It could look something like this:
  • 1st Sentence: Specific evidence to start the essay that ties to the meaning.
  • 2nd Sentence: Strong link to the meaning, identify a complex theme.
  • 3rd Sentence: Answer the prompt. How is it used?
  • Conclusion: Why does it matter? Bring it home.
Overall, there’s a lot to mull over. It was an overwhelming, at times unorganized, but overall challenging and compelling week.

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