Welcome to AP English Literature and Composition


    Mrs. MacDonald

    Mrs. Mac, what does it take to succeed in your class?

                It only takes curiosity and a good work ethic to do well.    I am required to teach this class as though you are college freshmen who are curious about the academic study of literature.  That means that you will dedicate the time to the analytical study of some of the greatest works ever written.  You need to be curious about the world and about the human condition.  You need to be willing to stretch your mind by thinking deeply and analytically. You need to be comfortable with challenges to your thinking and be willing to learn from the intellectual giants of the past.  You do not need to be brilliant, but you do need to be disciplined in your study habits.  Just be here, try, and be nice!

    That sounds OK, but what are the goals for the class?

                This class has three basic goals:  graduation, test preparation, college readiness.  My first goal is to have you pass the class and graduate!  I want to see you succeed, and I want to cheer you on as you get your diploma!  I never lose sight of this goal, and I'll make sure that you won't either!  Next, I need to help you prepare for the AP test in English Literature and Composition.  Since almost one-half of the test is about poetry, we will spend lots of time making you completely comfortable with that sometimes elusive art form.  This will require disciplined analysis on your part; if you like to solve mysteries by looking for clues, by investigating background information, and by creating a justifiable scenario, you will do well.  Don't worry if you've never done anything like this before, I'll break the process down into easy steps.  We will also learn how to decipher short stories, dramatic literature, and novels since you will have multiple-choice questions and essays to write based on these genres of literature, too.  Finally, I feel that we must hone your writing skills to their finest in preparation for the many essays you will be required to write in college.  You will create process essays on each of the major works we read using a thematic analysis model.  I think you will find it very useful since I've gotten lots of good feedback from former students on this process. 

    How will I be graded?

                Class participation, speaking logically, and listening to others actively is an important component of your grade.  I keep track of every time you speak!  One of the best ways to come to grips with an idea is to talk about it with others.  Socratic Seminar requires you to think and to question the text.  You must ALWAYS be prepared to take part in rigorous discussion and to ASK QUESTIONS.  The coherent oral presentation of your ideas is a skill you will use throughout your life.  You must be here in order to participate!

                Timed essays done in class, tests, quizzes, projects, presentations, and full process essays, built one paragraph at a time in class, constitute the majority of your grade.  We will work extensively on the thematic analysis essay and you should schedule tutorial time with me.  This is a vitally important habit of mind to acquire.  No one can master everything s/he needs to know without help from a study group, professor, teaching assistant, and tutor.  This helps you to triangulate on what is really important and gives you multiple opportunities to try out your ideas.  Use your friends and me!

                Homework, journals, and class work form the remainder of your grade.  You will practice many techniques for literary analysis so you can find out what works best for you.  We will utilize Socratic Seminars,  keep thematic journals, perform a Reader's Theater a play, participate in Literature Circles, and perform many close-reading exercises.  You need to keep great notes from the reading and from class discussion focusing on especially important quotations.  Without a careful gleaning of detail from the text, your papers and discussions become full of vague generalities and hazy thinking. 

                Grades are posted every week in the class room, and I email all parents every Friday with your updated grade.  I also use Parent Portal so that parents or you can look into my grade book on a daily basis.  You will always know what your grade is and how you can fix it.  Since this class is mandatory for graduation and college admission, I have a “no fail” policy.  If you do fail an assignment, test, or essay you may make it up, but please do yourself a favor and do it in a timely fashion.  It is easy to get behind.

    Why is this class so important, Mrs. MacDonald?

                Having strong communication skills will help you in whatever career you follow.  However, there is more to life than academics and professional growth.  The historical reason all educated people study literature is to help them think about the big issues in life, to understand themselves, and to gain new perspectives on their world.  This class will seek to fine tune your communication skills while deepening your intellectual development by examining the philosophical basis of our texts.

    What rules do you have?

      I have only two unbreakable rules:  (1) Everything we do must promote learning and (2) The classroom must be a safe place for everyone.    We have so much material to cover that we have no time to waste and no one has the right to prevent someone else from learning.  The class must be a safe place both physically and emotionally for everyone.  If people feel threatened or unsafe in any way, they simply cannot learn.  Their brains shut down the learning areas and go into survival mode until the threat is gone.  If either of these rules is broken you will have to face the consequences, and I will notify both of your parents at work that day!  If this kind of selfish behavior continues, you will be put on contract that may result in your permanent removal from the class.

    If I need extra help, how can I get in touch with you?

                Visit my web site on the Liberty Teacher tab to see the agenda including homework.  Look under “AP Literature and Composition.”  You can email me at macdonal@luhsd.net for a personal response.  You can come in for tutorial help every day at lunch and after school Monday-Thursday until 5. Your parents can sign up for Parent Portal and, thereby, have access to my grade book so that they can instantly know how you are doing in my class.

    What will we be reading this year?

                What we study is always based upon the availability of books so this is our tentative schedule.  Since we follow the growth and evolution of ideas over time, we sample our literature from each great literary movement.

    Our Jewish Heritage:  Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Luke  from The King James Bible

    (recommended by the College Board and available at www.guttenberg.org )

    Classical Greece:   Survey of classical Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology using Edith Hamilton’s Mythology (recommended by the College Board)

    Medieval WorldBeowulf:  Self-sacrifice:   the highest purpose in life.  The Canterbury Tales  by Geoffrey Chaucer:  We are all imperfect and need to accept dissonance in human behavior.

    RenaissanceMacbeth  by William Shakespeare:  What goes around comes around:  facing the consequences of our decisions. Hamlet  by William Shakespeare:  Revenge:  the ultimate no-win situation.

    17th and 18th Centuries: Candide  by Voltaire:  What is happiness in this best of all possible worlds?

    19th Century:  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:  You’re not a kid anymore:  tough choices all young adults must face.

    20th Century:  Heart of Darkness  by Joseph Conrad:  The Cruelty of Arrogance:  The Forgotten Genocide in the Congo.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley:  Is nothing sacred?  Will Science rule Humanity?  What’s the down-side of technology? Classics of Modern Fiction:  these twelve novellas cover a wide spectrum of modernist concerns expressing the ultimate alienation of humankind in a world without certainty.

    Poetry:  A survey of poets from the 16th to the 21st century focusing on form as meaning.  Sound and Sense 13th edition will be the text we will use throughout the year.

                Supplies are vital for this class.  You’ll need a binder (or two) dedicated to English, lots of binder paper college ruled NOT spiral bound, blue or black pens (pencil will be graded down), highlighter, and post-its.