Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Using AP English Resources

I just picked up a job teaching a few classes at a charter school, including AP English. As I cram to get up to date on what that class is all about, I'm discovering that a lot of it matches what we cover in 1010/2010 - which makes sense since the goal of AP English is largely to prepare students for college (and test out of our courses).

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 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." 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lesson Idea for Evaluating Resources

I've been a fan of Mignon Fogerty's Grammar Girl podcast for a couple of years now. It's the perfect podcast to keep you fresh and up-to-date on grammar controversies. It's short, sweet, and very well-researched/well-argued.

Yesterday's episode was quite germane to those of us who teach academic writing because it was about how to evaluate the credibility of your resources. In this episode, Fogerty talks about a link that she was sent by one of her listeners: Grammar Sticklers May Have OCD. The link discusses an article being published in Journal of Syntatic Cognition that people who go around correcting other people's grammar mistakes are suffering from a genetic disorder known as Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome. The link has a lot of markers to suggest that it's credible:
  • --It's published on a blog that is hosted on the University of Illinois's website
  • --The author, Dennis Baron, is a legitimate professor of English and Linguistics
  • --It cites its sources (The Journal of Syntatic Cognition)
  • --And it has a lot of other markers of a scholarly blog: formal citations, the use of fairly technical language, fancy brain imaging diagrams, etc.
The problem? It's a total hoax. If you read the article closely, there's a lot of subtle signals that it is a work of satire. For example, one of the researchers is named "Hi Ding Lo" (hiding low).

Grammar Girl goes through and discusses in-depth all of the ways she was able to verify that it was a hoax (such as Googling the journal name to find out it didn't exist).

I think it might be a fun activity to give the students the link and have them work in groups to decide whether they think it is credible or not and why. You could introduce it as being a fairly benign activity in which you are getting them to apply the concepts you've taught in class about evaluating resources.

My guess is that most of them will determine that it is credible for all of the reasons that I mentioned earlier. Then, you could play the Grammar Girl episode for them to help them realize they need to be a little more media-savvy and skeptical. Nobody likes feeling duped and so this will be a good lesson in the importance of using credible sources.