Readings and Thematic Units

What is AP Language?

This course prepares students for the AP Language and Composition exam, which is administered in May. Its focus is on rhetoric, critical reading skills, analysis, and interpretation; it is differentiated from AP Literature by its focus on non-fiction readings and rhetoric rather than literature and aesthetic concerns.

Because the focus is on skills, we have a significant level of freedom to choose the specific texts we will read. As a junior-level English class we are required to read The Great Gatsby, and other units have been selected based on student interest as indicated by a vote at the beginning of the year.

Links to Units

  1. Intro to Rhetoric and Argument
  2. The Great Gatsby
  3. Satire
  4. Science, Nature, and the Environment
  5. Mini-Unit: Multiple Choice Boot-camp
  6. Issues in Education
  7. Morals and Ethics
  8. “Weeks of Relative Discomfort” Essay Practice and Test Prep
  9. Novel and Indep. Research

Unit 1:  Intro to Rhetoric and Argument

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Unit materials:

The Great Gatsby

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  • Notes: Satire
  •  Readings
    • “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift
    • “Babycakes” by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Jouni Koponen
    • “Letter to My Old Master” by Jourdon Anderson
    • “Author’s Preface” and “Satire” from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
    • “The War Prayer” by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
    • “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” by Jessica Mitford
    • “The Educationist as Painkiller” by Neil Postman
    • “My Satirical Self” by Wyatt Mason
  • Other texts
    • Clips from Saturday Night LiveThe Colbert Report, and The Simpsons
    • Articles from The Onion
      • **NOTE** The Onion website, linked above, is a satirical news publication. It is not curated or edited by me, and may contain materials that are not appropriate for school, such as strong language and adult themes.
    • Dr. Strangelove and clips from This is Spinal Tap

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Science, Nature, and the Environment

  • Skills:
    • Rhetorical Analysis
      • Charting
      • The Arch Method
    • Synthesis
  • Readings:
    • “The Obligation to Endure” by Rachel Carson
    • “The Ends of the World as We Know Them” by Jared Diamond
    • “Seeing” by Annie Dillard
    • “Sex, Drugs, Disasters, and the Extinction of Dinosaurs” by Stephen Jay Gould
    • “Our Vanishing Night” by Verlyn Klinkenborg
    • “Curbing Nature’s Paparazzi” by Bill McKibben
    • “The Way to Rainy Mountain” by N. Scott Momaday
    • “What’s Eating America” by Michael Pollan
    • “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” by Henry David Thoreau
    •  “The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf
    • From “Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold
    • “Once More to the Lake” by E.B. White

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Morals and Ethics

  • Readings
    • “The Allegory of the Cave” Plato
    • “Shooting an Elephant” George Orwell
    • “Why Don’t We Complain” William F. Buckley, Jr.
    • “On Morality” Joan Didion
    • “On Being a Cripple” Nancy Mairs
    • “The Ways We Lie” Stephanie Ericsson
    • “In Defense of Prejudice…” Jonathan Rauch
    • “Regarding the Pain of Others” Susan Sontag
    • “Whose Life Would You Save?” Carl Zimmer
      • “How Moral Are You?”
    • “Kill Whitey. It’s the Right Thing to Do” David Dobbs
    • “The Maze of Moral Relativism” Paul Boghossian
    • “If It Feels Right…” David Brooks
  • Morals and ethics: 5 theories

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Year End Materials:

Test Prep

We will spend a week on each of the three essay modes:

  • April 8-12: Argument
  • April 15-19: Synthesis
  • April 22-26: Rhetorical Analysis

In each week you will write and revise two essays based on AP Lang FRQs from years past. This will allow intensive writing practice and review of materials and concepts from the last three quarters.

Materials are available on the Writing Prompts page.  Many of the handouts and notes you have received are proprietary and may not be released online. You will need your AP Lang Toolbox, the packet of notes and prompts, and the packet of 2014 test items.


In addition to reading one text to end the year, students will complete a final project.

2018: 4th period selected The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien as their text, 6th period selected True Grit by Charles Portis.

The Capstone project will be a presentation on a topic of choice, including an annotated bibliography. See details here.

Presentations will be graded with a rubric based in the 5 Canons of Rhetoric.  Students may want to review the 5 Canons via BYU’s Silva Rhetoricae site.

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