• Course Syllabus

    AP English Language and Composition

    Mr. Rigney


    Course Overview:


    The purpose of this course is to help students “write effectively and confidently in their college courses across the curriculum and in their professional and personal lives” (The College Board, AP English Course Description, May 2007, May 2008, p.6). The course is organized according to the requirements and guidelines of the current AP English Course Description, and, therefore, students are expected to read critically, think analytically, and communicate clearly both in writing and speech.

    Grading System:

    Grades will be based on a combination of major essays, timed in-class writings, “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” Essays, AP reading practices,  class work, language card assignments, quizzes, class participation (including blogs), literature assignments and the researched argument paper.


    The AP Language and Composition Exam is given in May. All students are expected to take the exam. The cost of the exam is $86.00. If you have a demonstrable financial hardship, please see me regarding fee reductions and scholarship opportunities. Remember, taking the AP exam is the only way you may become eligible for college credit for this class—although our main focus is on you becoming a better writer and reader, the exam is an excellent opportunity for you to assess your success in this class.



    This is a writing class. We will write informally to learn, and formally, to share learning and practice the techniques we are seeing modeled in the reading we do in class. You will write narrative, expository, analytical, and argumentative essays on assigned topics as well as topics of your own choosing.


    Each writing unit requires you to acquire and use rich vocabulary, to use standard English grammar, and to understand the importance of diction and syntax in an author’s style. Therefore, you are expected to develop the following:

    • a wide-ranging vocabulary used appropriately and effectively
    • a variety of sentence structures, including appropriate use of subordination and coordination
    • logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques to increase coherence, such as repetition, transitions, and emphasis
    • a balance of generalization and specific illustrative detail
    • an effective use of rhetoric including controlling tone, establishing and maintaining voice, and achieving appropriate emphasis through diction and sentence structure

    (College Board AP English Course Description, May 2007, May 2008, p. 8)


    In addition to timed, in-class writings, informal reflective essays and other writing exercises, you will write one major paper for each writing mode unit. Your papers will initially be submitted electronically via the hand-in folder/email as polished first drafts, which will be assessed with comments and suggestions by the teacher and/or peers for changes but not graded. You will then resubmit finished essays for a holistic grade according to the AP 9-point scale. The AP scale will carry a progressive grade point conversion as the year goes on; as we expect you to improve as writers throughout the year, we will adjust our expectations accordingly.

    Writing Modes Units

    In our investigation of each mode of writing, we will focus our attention on the what and the how: what is the writer saying and how are they saying it. We begin with the assumption that all writers are attempting to persuade us and that all writing inherently attempts to argue a position. As we study each mode, we know we will be emulating that structure in a major paper at the close of the unit.


    Throughout the year, you will be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of a variety of tools a good writer has at his or her disposal: Style, tone, vocabulary, organization, sentence structure, logic, details and a variety of rhetorical devices.  For the most part my assessment of your development and control of these tools will be through commenting on successive drafts of your writing submitted to me either electronically or via hardcopy However, tests and quizzes will also serve as benchmarks of your progress in these areas as well. I will also offer feedback through conferences (an after school requirement) and via email when necessary. Assessments and feedback are a necessary part of any class, but because your goal is to improve as a writer, it is fundamental that you look to this aspect of the work as crucial in your progress as a writer. Late assignments will not be accepted without a medical excuse or prior arrangement.

    Summer Reading

    Over the summer of, we will read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Sherry Turkle’s  Alone Together.  You will be responsible for a number of informal writing assignments throughout the summer to be posted on a class blog. Details of these assignments will be distributed in June 2014. We will maintain the blog throughout the year to create a community of writers and readers sharing our reactions to the reading and writing we do in class.



    Independent Reading/What I’ve Been Reading Paper

    It has been often said that the only good writers are voracious readers. You will be expected to independently read a wide variety of outside materials in addition to the required reading assignments for class. Each month, you should read one outside book, as well as items from the newspaper, magazines and online materials. On the first Friday of each month you will be required to hand in a critical/reflective essay describing and commenting on what you have been reading the previous month. As there are 9 first Fridays in our school year (not including September), you will be expected to read 9 books: 3 fiction titles selected from an approved fiction list, 3 selected from an approved non-fiction list and 3 titles you select on your own that are appropriate to the level of our work in this class.


    Timed In-Class Essays

    Timed in-class essays will be 40-minute essays modeled on previous AP Exam questions. They will be graded on the 9-point AP writing rubric.


    Researched Argument Paper

    Throughout the year, you will be learning research skills in order to strengthen your own arguments. As a class, you will move beyond research to find sources, to learning to analyze, evaluate, use and cite primary and secondary sources. You will continue to use the Modern Language Association (MLA) style for citing sources as you have throughout high school, but we will also examine other editorial styles, including the American Psychological Association (APA) and The Chicago Manual of Style.


    In the spring, you will also be assigned a researched argument paper, which goes “beyond the parameters of a traditional research paper by asking students to present an argument of

    their own that includes the analysis and synthesis of ideas from an array of sources” (College Board AP Course Audit Manual p. 37)

    Readings will come from 50 Essays or teacher provided materials.

Last Modified on September 10, 2018