• AP 12 Literature and Composition-- Course Description, Policies, and Syllabus

    Mrs. Allison Becker 


    All classes are taught in D 114 (open classroom, 1st floor of D pod) 

    Recurring Google Meet link for Remote Students: 




    “The AP English Literature and Composition course aligns to an introductory college-level literary analysis course. The course engages students in the close reading and critical analysis of imaginative literature to deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure. As they read, students consider a work's structure, style, and themes, as well as its use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. Writing assignments include expository, analytical, and argumentative essays that require students to analyze and interpret literary works.” -- The College Board 

    Enduring Understandings of the Course

    • Meaning is made in the interaction between the reader and the text, and is historically and culturally situated. This means multiple ways of making meaning in any text exist.


    • Literary theory provides the framework to help construct multiple meanings. Understanding the different ways one can read a text helps build empathy and understanding among widely varying groups of people, helping to foster the critical dialog needed to help solve some of the world’s most difficult and persistent problems.


    • Language and power intersect in a number of ways.  If we want to break down unequal power structures, we need to look at the places that language and power converge and diverge, and then make decisions about how to negotiate these power dynamics both interpersonally and in the world.  


    • Academic writing is a “literacy of power,” which allows those that master it access to privileged spaces. Entering into this discourse-- one of intellectual writing far beyond the five-paragraph essay--will benefit you immensely throughout the course of your life.


    The Curriculum

    A complete overview of  the units we will teach, including the readings, the writing assignments, can be found below. Basically:

    • We spend the first week or two of class in “Writing Boot Camp” where we work on writing a college essay (personal narrative) and work on the skills needed for strong writing all year. 
    • We  will study Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where we  study Existentialism and  look at how this story helps us to better understand the human condition, and where you will take a quote analysis test with an AP style essay question. 
    • We read Their Eyes Were Watching God, where you will learn about post-colonial, feminist, and new historicist literary theories and where you will write a fully processed literary analysis.
    • Then we will read either the literary classic Crime and Punishment or Moby Dick (the class will come to consensus on what to read), where you will take a test or write a paper, your choice. 
    • You read a  novel of your choice from the list of works of “literary merit” as recommended by the AP Exam, and you will write a literary synthesis paper with one work we have read as a class already
    •  We will delve in poetry from a wide variety of sources, and you will write your own poetry and do an analysis of poetic style, culminating in an AP style poetry test 
    • If time, we study a wide variety of modern plays, and you will perform a section of the play and teach the class about the significant social commentary of the piece you choose
    • As a final project you will construct your own creative, end-of-year synthesis project


    Grading and Expectations

    Grades are compiled on a point system. Each assignment has points assigned: basic homework assignments and quizzes tend to be 5 points, informal and in-class responses tend to be 10points, presentations can range from 20-40 points, and formal papers will generally fall between 50-100 points. The bulk of your assignments will consist of written journals  and analytical, formal papers. However, you should be far more concerned with your learning and thinking than with your grades. Sometimes, as Taylor Mali writes, “a C+ [can] feel like a Congressional medal of honor and an A- [can] feel like a slap in the face,” and I get that.

    I am also committed to the concept of grading you once you have learned, not as you are learning. So, that means that I may assign work that I don’t grade, but that I use as a measure to see how well you are mastering ideas/concepts. It also means that you are allowed to revise fully processed papers as many times as necessary to get the desired learning outcome. That’s right: IF YOU HAVE COMPLETED ALL THE REQUIRED PRE-WRITING, AND THE PAPER IS COMPLETE AND TURNED IN ON-TIME, PAPERS CAN BE REWRITTEN AS MANY TIMES AS NECESSARY TO EARN THE DESIRED GRADE, up to the week before the end of the unit.  Isn’t that amazing? That means that you can honestly earn whatever grade you desire, as long as you are willing to work for it. Now this doesn’t apply to all writings, especially since this is an AP course and the AP test is a timed, non-revisable essay, but it will apply to big papers, and it is through the process of revision that I usually see the most learning happening.

    Inclusive Excellence

    Inclusive Excellence is the understanding that working, living, and learning environments benefit when diversity is recognized and utilized. Inclusive Excellence helps us to engage in civil conversation with those who hold views that differ from our own; and to socialize with persons who have had different life experiences. SCASD does not tolerate racism, violence or bullying by any individual or group. Just as importantly, we are actively working toward a more inclusive and caring environment to provide every student with a respectful, safe, and positive experience on a daily basis. 

    Teacher Availability

    I am happy and eager to meet with you about anything you may need. I am available both block 2 and block 3 to meet either in person or in zoom, whichever you prefer. Just email me or talk to me in person to set up a time to chat. 

    Block 1: Advanced English 10 

    Block 2: Open for help by appt

    Block 3: Open for help by appt

    Block 4: AP English 12 


    Student Resources and Mental Health

    SCASD and I are committed to advancing the mental health and wellbeing of its students. If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and/or in need of support, services are available.  Additional resources are described and linked below: 


    Safe2Say: threats, behaviors, actions and harassment. Examples include bullying or intimidation, threats of self-harm or bragging about planning an attack, violence, depression and social isolation, reckless behavior and substance abuse.


    SAP: any non-urgent concern related to something that is a barrier to learning, or is preventing a student from being successful in school (substance use, mental health, or other)


    REACT: to help any State high community member who feels that she or he is a victim of an act of bias or discriminatory behavior. REACT is not a punitive entity. The mission of this initiative is to promote education and dialogue around issues of diversity and inclusion.


    Centre County Crisis/Emergency Services: 1-800-643-5432 (open 24/7)

    If you have concerns that you/ a peer, or someone else is experiencing an urgent mental health crisis, please call Center for Community Resources. 


    Academic Integrity

    Basically, you must be the sole author of all work produced in this class.​ Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. Intentional plagiarism occurs when a student knowingly submits someone else’s words or ideas as if they were his/her own.  Unintentional plagiarism occurs when writers and researchers use the words or ideas of others but fail to quote or give credit (perhaps because they don't know how). When in doubt, students must check with a teacher or librarian.

    Additionally, this course exists for people who want to read and think and discover books for themselves. Spark Notes or Cliff Notes or any other online “notes” on the texts we read in this class should be unnecessary for you—I am far more interested in your original thoughts than having you parrot mundane information from these types of sources. Keep in mind, confusion is often the site where learning occurs. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand the readings. Before you cheat, ask for an extension and a writing conference. Others may have similar questions.


    Examples of plagiarism may include but are not limited to:

    1) purchasing or copying work produced by others

    2) direct copying (“cutting and pasting”) of selected sections from another source without quotation  marks and/or documentation.

    3) paraphrasing, summarizing, or otherwise rewording another’s original work that is not common knowledge without documentation.

    4) failing to document the use of charts, graphs, diagrams, statistics, or other materials not    created or compiled by the student.

    5) working together on an independent assignment and then submitting individual copies of the assignment as one’s own individual work.

    6) fabricating data or in any way falsifying the results of an experiment or inquiry process.

    Cheating includes, but is not limited to, a student copying an assignment or test and submitting it as his/her own; allowing someone to copy an assignment or test and submit it as his/her own; unauthorized use of or communicating with notes, calculators, computers, textbooks, websites, cell phones, etc. during an exam or project; telling other students what is on a test or quiz or providing specific questions or answers before or after the test. 

    **The consequences for these infractions are detailed in the student handbook. Please, if you are in a bind, unsure of what to do, or need help in anyway  TALK TO ME BEFORE YOU CHEAT. We can always answer any question you have, give you an extension, or negotiate with you about the assignment.



     I want to propose a mindset for this year, one that has helped me a great deal in my own growth to become an interesting and interested person.  The mindset is one of open inquiry and trust, where we see every activity as a place for learning to happen if we make it happen. In other words, every activity you engage in can be made meaningful or it can be made into busy work, depending on your desire to learn from the activity.  On my part, I want to make you a promise not to assign work that I see as having little ability to help your reading, writing, understanding, and critical literacy skills. You’ll have to trust that I won’t give you busy work and you will have to agree not to treat potentially meaningful activities as such.


    I am also committed to the idea of  “teaching up,” which means that I will set high standards for academic success, and make sure that you are personally supported in ways that makes it possible (if you provide the hard work) to reach a level of excellence in your understandings and writings.


    Finally, I want all of you to know that I am unconditionally dedicated to your success. I am in your corner, and I try as hard as I can to put what is best for you at the forefront of my thinking at all times.  I am a teacher, and I am a mother, and I will work as hard for your success as I would want a teacher to work for my sons or daughter. But most of the responsibility for success rests on your shoulders. Carry it well.



    Essential Questions for the Course:

    Why is precision in language useful?

    How does literature address, consider, and examine the human condition?

    How can literary theory provide a framework to construct meaning in text and in life?

    UNIT I: The College Essay


    Essential Questions

    • How can the original French definition of the word “Essay” -- “to try, to attempt” help me to construct a college essay that reveals my attempt to understand myself, the world, and my place in it?
    • How can my writing accurately represent my thinking and learning?
    • What kind of environment is best for my learning?
    • What is the purpose of higher education for me?



    Various essays, including excerpts from The Opposite of Loneliness, Known and Strange Things,

    “Footsteps in the Hall” , excerpts from The Journey is Everything, James Joyce “Eveline”;

    Ken Liu “Paper Menagerie”


    • Students will have the opportunity to construct their own college essay, receiving multiple opportunities for feedback from peer and instructors focusing on the best possible ways to use language to express ideas as clearly, concisely, and elegantly as possible.

    UNIT II:  Literary Lenses of New Criticism and Existentialism


    Essential Questions:

    • How do New Criticism and the idea of Existentialism help  build close reading strategies?
    • How do we construct meaning in our own lives?
    • How can Shakespeare help us better understand the human condition?
    • How can looking at a character’s existential crisis help us to better navigate our own?
    • How can different audiences use Hamlet to help them better understand their own existence?  



    Hamlet W. Shakespeare; sonnets by Shakespeare;  

    Act V (This American Life)



    • Students will write  traditional quote analyses as their exploration where they will analyze the text, demonstrate complete and careful reading,  incorporate careful observation of textual details that address figurative language, and  create questions for use in class discussion.
    • Students will familiarize themselves with literary terms often found on the AP exam and will be encouraged to use these terms throughout their writing and class discussions for the year as the move from quote analysis to literary analysis as the play continues.
    • Students will write Explorations where they will analyze the text, demonstrate complete and careful reading, show connections to other texts, incorporate careful observation of textual details that address figurative language, and  create questions for use in class discussion.
    • Students will write a 40 minute in-class essay using a former AP free choice essay and a nine-point AP scoring style rubric as part of a multiple choice, AP style exam.


    UNIT III:  Adding in the Lenses of Postcolonialism, Feminism, and New Historicism

    5 weeks


    Essential Questions

    • How are language and power intertwined?
    • How do power structures impact our identities?
    • How do post-colonial, feminist, and new historicist literary theories offer lenses to negotiate power dynamics both interpersonally and in the world?



    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston



    • Students will write 500 word Explorations considering the work’s  social, cultural, and historical values.


    • Students will write a formal essay of 4-6 pages where they will create an original thesis (possibly springing from a reading exploration or explication idea). There will be numerous opportunities for revision, peer workshops, and conferences with the teacher. Students will be permitted to revise this essay after it is graded. As we have carefully analyzed style in this unit, students will be encouraged to play with their own writing style in this essay.

    UNIT IV: Adding in the Lenses of Queer Theory, Marxism,  and Psychoanalysis

    Essential Questions


    • How does narrative structure impact story function?
    •  How can  we identify strong influences of a literary movement in a text?
    • How can literature explore  aspects of the human condition that transcend time and place?
    • To what extent can we apply modern theories to understanding a text?
    • How can viewing a text via literary theory allow us to understand each text in multiple ways?
    • How can literary theory provide a framework to construct meaning and empathy?



    Moby Dick by Herman Melville


    Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoevsky 



    • Students will write 5 traditional explorations where they will analyze the text, demonstrate complete and careful reading, show connections to other texts, incorporate careful observation of textual details that address figurative language, and  create questions for use in class discussion.
    • Students will also create one alternate exploration where they will used their own skills (music, art, computers) to respond to the text in a creative way.
    • Students will complete a close reading/explication of a significant scene of their choice and write 400-500 word analysis of the value/purpose/themes extant in their chosen scene.
    • AP style test or literary analysis, student choice 

    UNIT V: Synthesizing Two Texts: The Awakening +1


    Essential Questions

    • How is authorial intent irrelevant, to a certain extent, when creating meaning?
    • How and why can one work of literature influence generations?
    • How can texts be brought together to help create a new understanding?



    The Awakening by Kate Chopin



    • Students will write explorations where they will analyze the text, demonstrate complete and careful reading, show connections to other texts, incorporate careful observation of textual details that address figurative language, and  create questions for use in class discussion.
    • Students will write a synthesis paper where they synthesize ideas from The Awakening with at least one other book read for this class.


    (Possible) UNIT VI: Teaching and Learning Drama



    Essential Questions

    • What are the affordances of drama?  
    • How can modern drama spark relevant social commentary?
    • How can we recognize subtext, and how does it add to our understanding of the larger meaning of the text?


    Readings (done in small groups):

    W;t Margaret Edson

    The Flick Annie Baker

    Proof David Auburn

    Laramie Project Moisés Kaufman

    Necessary Targets Eve Ensler

    Anna in the Tropics Nilo Cruz

    Six Degrees of Separation John Guare

    Disgraced Ayad Akhtar

    The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde



    • Students will create a presentation where they will perform once scene and then teach classmates about a specific play, guiding them through a close reading of a particular significant scene.

    UNIT VII: Poetry and Language


    Essential Questions

    • How can understanding annotation, denotation, and connotation help with reading and understanding poetry?
    • How can careful diction and understanding of semantics create visual experiences?
    • What is the value of reading and understanding other people’s creative expressions of the human condition?
    • How does poetry address the question of the human experience in different ways than other genres?



    Various poems



    • Students will write 2 explorations on poems
    • Students will write 2 poems in a particular form (sestina, villanelle, sonnet, ode, occasional poem).
    • Students will compose an in-class essay analyzing a poem from an old AP exam.
    • Students will write an evaluative, analytical essay about a poem of their choice.  This essay will require students to analyze a poem and make an argument about the artistry, value, and quality of the poem they choose. Paramount in this assignment will be carefully supporting claims with textual evidence, anticipating counter-arguments, and having a clear, arguable thesis.  Students will be encouraged, as usual, to carefully craft their own writing style and narrative voice.


    UNIT VIII: Synthesis Essay

    Essential Questions

    What does it mean to be human?

    How can writing be a discovery process?

    What is the value of illustrating our writing with relevant charts/graphs/infographics?



    Harold Bloom How to Read and Why

    Various other theory & criticism



    • Students will compose a synthesis essay of 6-8 pages where they seek out the answer to a guiding question.
    • Students will create infographics of their essays and may include them in their final version if they are useful.
    • Students will peer edit each other’s work.

Last Modified on August 20, 2020