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This course will be devoted to the in-depth study of language and composition. We will read, discuss, analyze and write on texts in English from the 16th century to the present day. We will consider sentence structure, word choice, organizational patterns, rhetorical strategies, and historical significance. Although the main focus will be on non-fiction prose, we will also consider poems, stories, novels, plays and visual texts. The study and practice of AP test taking skills will be embedded in the course throughout the year. The course will be conducted like a college seminar and comply with the requirements of the AP Language and Composition description. Students will have the materials read and prepared on the days of discussion. Grades will be determined from papers, projects, essays, objective exams, practice AP exams, classroom participation, continual re-writing of essays and, above all, attendance. 

Summer reading:

The Best American Non-Required Reading, Houghton Mifflin Company



Elements of Argument, eighth edition, Annette T. Rottenberg and Donna Haisty   

Winchell, Bedford St. Martins, 2006

English Language and Composition, third edition, Barbara Swovelin, Wiley Publishing,

Inc, 2006


Web-Site: www.thelearningcurve.net



Lord Jim, Julius Caesar, Pride and Prejudice, The Importance of Being Ernest.



The Third Man, Inherit the Wind, Bowling for Columbine




The year will be divided as follows:


Quarter One: Understanding, recognizing and applying rhetorical theory:

                           ethos, logos, pathos,

                           exigency, audience, purpose

                           invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery

                           persona, content, subject, genre, occasion

                      Selected texts from textbook and website: www.thelearningcurve.net


                      Selected poems: poetry as rhetoric

                      The Third Man: a study in visual rhetoric


Quarter Two: Understanding, recognizing and applying argument:

                            claims, supports, warrants, fallacies.

                       Understanding, recognizing and applying rhetorical devices:

                            anaphora, synecdoche, metonymy, paradox, metaphor, hyperbole…etc.

                       Selected short stories: narrative as rhetoric

                       Selected texts from textbook and website: www.thelearningcurve.net

                       Lord Jim: discovering theme and close textual reading

                       Inherit the Wind: applying argument and close textual reading


Quarter Three: Developing and presenting arguments

                        Preparing for the AP synthesis question

                        Creating a research document

                        Julius Caesar: applying argument and close textual reading

                        Bowling for Columbine: collecting research

Selected texts from textbook and website: www.thelearningcurve.net

                        Selected poems: poems as argument


Quarter Four: Review for AP exam

                       Evaluative essays on selected tests

                       Preparation of the class AP book.

                       Selected texts from textbook and website: www.thelearningcurve.net

                       Selected short stories: narrative as rhetoric

                       Pride and Prejudice: discovering theme and close textual reading

                       The Importance of Being Earnest: satire and close textual reading



During this course I want you to analyze the rhetorical decisions that writers make when they compose meaningful and effective prose and apply those decisions to your thinking, writing, and speaking. I want you to seriously prepare for the AP exam during the year by writing and rewriting AP prompts and by practicing, analyzing and deconstructing AP multiple-choice passages. I want this formative assessment process to support and guide you in your development as writers and critical thinkers. When you leave this class you should not only be able to read and write more thoughtfully, but you should also be able to establish more mature relations with your family, your fellow students, your fellow citizens and the world around you. This course should give you the skills to lead a well-examined life.


At the end of this course you should be able to:


             invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery

             ethos, logos and pathos

             exigency, audience, and purpose




I think non-fiction prose has been in the back row of the English classroom for too long. Some of the greatest texts in our language are examples of non-fiction prose: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, E.B. White’s Once More to the Lake, Ann Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, M. L. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, not to mention numerous Supreme Court decisions, dozens of essays on the arts, hundreds of war correspondences, countless private letters, libraries filled with biographies and histories, and any page from Speak, Memory. The list is endless. In the last two decades non-fiction prose has finally moved to the front row in the English classroom; it should stay there. This country needs educated involved citizens and we can develop those citizens in our schools by creating courses that expose students to non-fiction prose and nurture in students a life-long interest in reading and a passion to seek the truth, where ever it may be--magazines, newspapers, on-line journals, blogs, comics, speeches,  debates, biographies, op-eds, even people shouting from corner pulpits. These are the voices that make us free.



QUARTER ONE: Understanding and applying rhetorical theory




There are several goals this quarter. First, to recognize the importance of rhetoric in thinking, writing, convincing and succeeding. Second, to discover, understand, and apply classic rhetorical appeals, contextual parameters and invention strategies across a wide range of texts--others and your own. Third, to expose youself to a variety of AP writing prompts and mutiple choice passages so you can begin to prepare for the AP Language and Composition exam. Fourth, to apply what you have learned to poems, plays, short stories and visual texts. Fifth, to broaden your interests by reading articles, op-eds, essays and reviews from important publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker magazine and various on-line journals. And finally, to keep a journal of your own that explores your spiritual, emotional and philosophical development.



1)      reading journal discussed in conference

2)      reading of materials, contribution in class, professional conduct

3)      analysis of problems in AP pre-test (study plan included)

4)      analytical essay exploring how rhetorical appeals work in a text

5)      analytical essay exploring how contextual parameters work in a text

6)      persuasive essay using the five traditional canons of rhetoric (include notes)

7)      open essay on a poem, short story or drama selection.

8)      verbal presentation (your choice of subject)

9)      AP essay exam as quarter final




Week 1: I’ll give you a brief introduction to the course and we’ll talk about our plans for the future. We’ll take an AP pre-test--one essay question, one multiple choice selection. Afterwards, we’ll examine and discuss sample responses to the essay question and begin to internalize the AP scoring rubric. We’ll also discuss the multiple choice answers and see where we succeeded and/or struggled. You will then write your first reflective essay analyzing your problems with the exam and detailing your plans for improvement.


Week 2: I’ll give you a short lecture on the history of rhetoric and you’ll practice note-take methods. We’ll examine the everyday use of rhetoric in our lives, focusing on a typical ad, and then we’ll discuss various advertising tricks. We’ll explore how the rhetorical triangle works and I’ll introduce you to the classic rhetorical appeals. You’ll read the selections in chapter 12 of the textbook—“How Far Will We Go to Change Our Body Image?”--and we’ll begin, as a class, to recognize the rhetorical strategies in these texts.


Week 3:  We’ll discuss the value of journal writing and I‘ll provide examples. We’ll begin to broaden our reading interests by examining The New York Times, New Yorker magazine and various Internet publications, and then write reactions to these articles in our journals. You’ll hand in your first reflective essay and we’ll conference. You’ll read the selections in chapter 13 from the textbook—“How Has Terrorism Affected the American Idea of Justice?”--and be prepared to do two things: 1) come to class in week 4 ready to summarize for the class any essays in chapters 12 or 13. 2) come with an essay where you identify the rhetorical appeals in one of these four texts.


Week 4: We’ll discuss the contextual parameters of a text--exigency, audience and purpose--and apply it to our previous readings. I’ll give you another AP essay prompt and a multiple choice passage, followed by more sample responses, rubrics…etc. We’ll conference on your essay identifying rhetorical appeals. Hopefully there will be time for more reading. Your first two essays and your professional conduct in class will constitute your first progress report grade, which we’ll discuss in conference. An essay examining the contextual parameters of a text--you’ll use a selection from the text book--will be due week 6.


Week 5: I’ll introduce the five canons of rhetoric, we’ll identify them in texts and apply them to our own writing. I’ll ask you to begin to assemble ideas for a persuasive essay due week 8. You’ll read the selections in chapter 14 of the textbook--“What is the Future of the Family?” By this time you’ll have some knowledge of three important issues, with several essays about each issue under your belt. If you wish to read the rest of the essays on any of the three issues, you may write about that subject in your persuasive essay. Or you can choose a subject of your own liking.


Week 6: You’ll hand in an essay examining the contextual parameters of one of the six essays you’ve read and we will conference on it. You’ll show me what’s happening with your journal and we will conference on that too. We’ll take another practice AP essay and MC test and then begin to discuss your summer reading


Week 7: This week we’ll look at some poems to see if any of the rhetorical strategies we have been learning are present. You’ll discuss your favorite three selections from your summer reading book.


Week 8: You’ll hand in your persuasive essay and we’ll conference. You may begin to take notes on a personal essay reacting to one of the poems we looked at in week 7. There will another simulated AP exam. You’ll be free to read more from the textbook or from the magazines and newspapers available in the classroom.


Week 9: This week we’ll have an open forum in which each student will discuss for five to ten minutes some important issue they feel strongly about and/or what they have discovered so far in the class. Come prepared to talk. I’ll also collect the personal essay on the poem, short story or drama selection. At the end of the week I’ll give the final for the quarter--an AP essay prompt.


Week 10: We’ll see a movie--The Third Man--and discuss its rhetorical strategies. I’ll give you a novel--Lord Jim--to begin reading. You’ll have four weeks to read it.



QUARTER TWO: Understanding and responding to an argument

                                 Understanding and applying rhetorical devices




The goal this quarter is for you to understand the nature of argument and to be able to marshal effective rhetorical strategies when arguing in your own essays. We’ll build on what we learned in the first quarter, using Elements of Argument, The Best American Non-Required Reading of 2006, English Language and Composition, various AP handouts, and our magazine library, hopefully improving our AP exam results. I’ll ask you to write a commencement speech and we’ll read, discuss and write on Lord Jim




1)      reading journal discussed in conference

2)      reading of materials, contribution in class, professional conduct

3)      AP essay and MC passage

4)      Lord Jim quiz

5)      AP essay and MC passage

6)      Lord Jim AP open essay

7)      commencement speech

8)      AP exam as semester final.




Weeks 1 and 2: We’ll carefully walk through the first three chapters of Elements of Argument: “Understanding Argument,” “Responding to Argument,” and “Definition,” using both selections in the book and supplementary handouts. We’ll also evaluate several AP prompts that focus intensely on argument: Queen Elizabeth’s speech to her troops, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural…etc. We’ll continue discussing our summer reading and read the selections in chapter 15—“Are Limits on Freedom of Speech Ever Justified.” You’ll continue to build your journals. I’ll give you an AP essay prompt and a MC passage that focuses on argument and it will count it as a grade.


Week 3: We’ll begin discussing Lord Jim. I’ll give you a reading quiz on the first half of the book. I’ll also give you some background on the history of fiction. We’ll discuss the importance of this book, delving into the moral issues it examines. I may include some shorter texts that will help illuminate the book


Weeks 4 and 5: We’ll carefully walk through the next three chapters of Elements of Argument: “Claims,” “Support” and “Warrants.” We’ll follow the same plans as weeks 1 and 2—supplementary handouts, AP prompts, etc. The AP essay prompt and MC passage will be graded.


Week 6: We will finish discussing Lord Jim and I’ll give you an open AP literature question that you will use the book to answer. We’ll also have conferences.


Week 7 and 8: We’ll walk through the next two chapters in Elements of Argument “Induction, Deduction and Logical Fallacies” and “ Language and Thought,” following the same plan as weeks 1, 2, 4 and 5. We’ll also read some famous commencement speeches and I’ll ask you to write one, due week nine.


Week 9: Open forum again. Further discussion about the class or any issue you wish to examine. I am open to alternative presentations: poetry readings, theater scenes, debates, soliloquies, speeches, videos. The only requirement is that you spend 5-10 minutes talking. The commencement speech is due this week.  I’ll give an AP prompt as the semester final.


Week 10: We’ll see another movie that examines moral issues. We’ll select from the following: Dr. Strangelove, Inherit the Wind, Strangers on a Train, The Rules of the Game, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Train, and Bridge on the River Kwai. You’ll write an essay creating a criteria for a great movie and then arguing which of the two movies you’ve seen so far is great, if either. It will be the first assessment of the second semester. Note: You’ll also begin reading Julius Caesar.



QUARTER THREE: The research process




My goal this quarter is for you to be able to synthesize materials for an argumentative essay and to be able to do a college level research paper. We’ll begin by reading, discussing and writing on several AP synthesis questions, spending a week per question. During this time we will also examine the chapters in the textbook that deal with writing, researching and presenting an argument. What you learn in these weeks will prepare you to write a 7-10 page research paper on a subject of your choosing, due at the end of the quarter. (Note: I will only allow 25% of your sources to come from the Internet.) In addition, we’ll examine one major play--Julius Caesar--with an eye to analyzing the rhetorical strategies of the speeches in the play. Finally, we will continue to discuss our summer reading book and the essays in the remaining chapters of the text: 16) “What Limits to Privacy Exist in the Information Age,” 17) “What Does the Future Hold for Sports?” 18) “Have We Become Too Reliant on Standardized Testing?” 19) “What Is the Role of Sex and Violence in Popular Culture?”




1)      persuasive essay on the greatness of a movie

2)      reading of materials, contribution in class, professional conduct

3)      team AP synthesis essay

4)      individual AP synthesis essay.

5)      AP open essay on Julius Caesar

6)      research paper (Note: the process and the final product will both be graded)

7)      AP multiple choice exam as quarter final




Weeks 1-4: Four AP synthesis questions will be examined. We will discuss strategies for writing on these texts--first as a class, then in groups, then in pairs, then individually. In the last two cases, you will write essays: first in pairs, then individually. Both essays will be graded. During this time you will create a preliminary proposal for your research project and we will adjust your focus during conference. It’s expected that you know MLA format.


Weeks 5 and 6: We’ll examine the play Julius Caesar, discussing the theme of public responsibility and reading supplementary texts that throw light on the play. We’ll also rhetorical analysis of the speeches and soliloquies in the play. We’ll continue our research conferences, and I will expect a rough draft of your research paper by the end of week six.


Weeks 7 and 8: This will be research and conference weeks. You’ll be expected to examine and criticize other students’ papers. We’ll discuss the essays in chapters 16-19 and an occasional AP prompt, depending on how well we’re doing.


Week 9: Open Forum. Let’s talk about what we have learned, where our weakness are and how we can improve. During one of the days this week, we’ll take a multiple choice AP test that will count as the quarter final.


Week 10: We’ll discuss documentary films and see one of the following : Harlan County USA, Hoop Dreams, The Thin Blue Line, The Sorrow and the Pity, 49 Up, Good Fight, Bowling for Columbine, The Selling of Iraq, When We Were Kings, Salesman, Ring of Fire (Indonesia), Ring of Fire (Emile Griffith), The Fog of War, Grey Gardens, Stop Making Sense, Louisiana Story.



QUARTER FOUR: AP prep, evaluative essay, class book, final novel and play




During the first five weeks of this quarter we’ll prepare for the AP Language and Composition exam. We’ll discuss sample tests, practice writing prompts, rewrite earlier essays, dissect multiple-choice passages, and share test strategies. There will also be an extensive test on rhetorical terms. In the five weeks after the exam we’ll create a class book, examine some famous English poems, read and discuss Pride and Prejudice, read and discuss The Importance of Being Earnest, give class-length  presentations on three works of English Literature--Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and Mac Beth, and write an expostory essay.




1)      final two-day AP essay prompt and MC exam

2)      reading journal discussed in conference

3)      reading of materials, contribution in class, professional conduct

4)      AP essay on Pride and Prejudice

5)      AP essay on The Importance of Being Earnest

6)      student presentations on Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and Macbeth

7)      final expository essay


Week 1- 5: AP prep. We’ll take sample tests, practice writing prompts, rewrite earlier essays, dissect multiple-choice passages, and share tests strategies.


Week 6 and 7: AP exam: Discussion of Pride and Prejudice.


Week 8: The Importance of Being Earnest. Final work on class book.


Week 9: Student presentations on Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and Macbeth.


Week 10: Expository essay.




Any books on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the 20th century:  http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnonfiction.html


Essential non-fiction books of the 19th century:

Natural Selection, Charles Darwin

Das Kapital, Karl Marx

Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas, Frederick Douglas

The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, Alfred Thayer Mahan

Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Beyond Good and Evil, Frederic Nietzsche

The Book of One Thousand Nights and a Night, Richard Burton


Recent non-fiction of note:

Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation, Paul Berliner

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser

Among the Believers, Jon Krakauer

Language of the Third Reich, Victor Klemperer

Made in America, Bill Bryson

Talk to the Hand, Lynne Truss

Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich

Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings, Clea Simon

Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi

A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson

Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor, Paul Wright

Into the Heart of Borneo, Redmond O’Hanlon

American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of De Toqueville by Bernard-

          Henri Lévy

The End of Education, Neil Postman

Lincoln at Gettysburg, Gary Wills

Survival at Auschwitz, Primo Levi


Books on writing:

A Rulebook for Arguments, Anthony Weston

On Writing, Stephen King

Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss

Elements of Style, Strunk and White

Simple and Direct, Jacques Barzun

On Writing Well, William Zinsser

Sin and Syntax, Constance Hale

Writing Relationships, Lad Tobin

Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams

The Kinneavy Papers: Warsham, Dobrin, Olson

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

Errors and Expectations, Mina P. Shaughnessy

The Craft of Revision, Donald M. Murray




All essays and essay exams will be graded on a 1-9 AP scale.


A= 8 and 9

B= 6 and 7

C= 5

D= 3 and 4

F= 1, 2


Multiple-choice exams will be graded with percentages.









Students looking for examples or models of class work, including presentations and essays by former students, can visit the Write Zone (Room 343). I also have these types of materials, so you’re free to come to my room (336). If you cannot find the proper examples or help online, contact me at mjrychlewski@comcast.net and I can direct you to the proper locations.


Please visit my web-site for excellent essays in the pages labeled “Street Smart” and “Reflections” and/or for ideas and help in general: www.thelearningcurve.net


Mr. Michael Rychlewski

AP Language and Composition

Schurz High School

Chicago, Il



NOTE: Here is the 2010 course description for AP Lang and Comp, including sample exams. It's a PDF file.