One of the most useful things I've found is that sample AP tests are excellent sources of teaching & practice material.
For example, if the rhetorical analysis paper gives students experience critiquing academic papers, isn't it a good idea to give them a clear idea of how to do so on simpler material first?
Below is a sample question and three paragraphs of a source copied from apcentral.collegeboard.com. Doesn't it seem easier for students to grasp as opposed to starting with a very formal academic journal article where bias, strategy, audience awareness, ethos, pathos, and other rhetorical aspects are far more difficult to identify?
If you successfully interest them in this game of analysis and critique, they'll launch into their papers with greater interest, enthusiasm, investment, understanding, and will thereby learn more. Nearly as important - your job satisfaction will increase due to more engaged students and better papers at grading time.
Alfred M. Green delivered the following speech in Philadelphia in April 1861, the first month of the Civil War. African Americans were not yet permitted to join the Union army, but Green felt that they should strive to be admitted to the ranks and prepare to enlist. Read the speech carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze the methods that Green uses to persuade his fellow African Americans to join the Union forces.
The time has arrived in the history of the great Republic when we may again give evidence to the world of the bravery and patriotism of a race in whose hearts burns the love of country, of freedom, and of civil and religious toleration . It is these grand principles that enable men, however proscribed, when possessed of true patriotism, to say, “My country, right or wrong, I love thee still!”
It is true, the brave deeds of our fathers, sworn and subscribed to by the immortal Washington of the Revolution of 1776, and by Jackson and others in the War of 1812, have failed to bring us into recognition as citizens, enjoying those rights so dearly bought by those noble and patriotic sires.
It is true that our injuries in many respects are great; fugitive-slave laws, Dred Scott* decisions, indictments for treason, and long and dreary months of imprisonment . The result of the most unfair rules of judicial investigation has been the pay we have received for our solicitude, sympathy and aid in the dangers and difficulties of those “days that tried men’s souls."