Advanced Placement English Literature

Report
ADVANCED PLACEMENT
ENGLISH LITERATURE AND
COMPOSITION
WRITING THE AP ESSAY
The Century Quilt

Take the first 5-7 minutes:
 Read
the century quilt and the prompt
 Determine what the prompt is asking you to
write about
 Write a thesis for this prompt
One Prompt
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Is there a single, essential question that you are
being asked each time you write your essay in
class?
What do you think you are asked to write each
time?
One Prompt (the uni-prompt)
All three AP Lit questions are versions of a
single question:
How do writers use literary techniques in
order to communicate (or explore)
specific, complex meanings?
One prompt
What implications does this have?
 The uni-prompt is, in a nutshell, what you have been
studying in literature classes since elementary
school.
 In an AP Lit class, the focus on this master-task
narrows and intensifies.
Raising the level of student work

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Essays scored 4 or lower most often result from
students “simplifying” the task.
A series of lower-scoring sample essay opening
paragraphs will be projected in the next few slides.
What instructions would you give these students in
order to get them to engage the task more fully?
The Prompt and the Problem
The following prompt can be found on Question 1 of
the 2010 AP English Lit/Comp Exam:
Read carefully the following poem by Marilyn
Nelson Waniek. Then write an essay analyzing
how Waniek employs literary techniques to
develop the complex meanings that the speaker
attributes to The Century Quilt. You may wish to
consider such elements as structure, imagery,
and tone.
The Problem…
2010 Q1 Sample B; score: 4
…and the Problem again…
2010 Sample A; score: 3
…and the Problem again…
2010 Q1 Sample XX; score: 2
…and the Problem again
2010 Q1 Sample R – Score 4
What important tasks are these essay
writers failing to take on?
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These writers don’t discuss specific “complex
meanings” that the speaker attributes to The Century
Quilt.
They introduce specific literary techniques without
stating how these are used by the poet “to develop
the complex meanings that the speaker attributes to
The Century Quilt.”
The Pitfalls of Personalizing and
Quantifying meaning.
All of these ineffective essays commit one or more of
these errors:
 they respond as if the prompt is asking how the
speaker feels about the quilt,
 or they respond as if the prompt is asking HOW
MUCH the quilt means,
 or they respond as if the prompt is asking HOW
MANY literary devices are used by the author.
The fallacies of Personalizing and
Quantifying meaning.
1.
2.
The prompt will NEVER ask you to write about
HOW MUCH something means to someone.
Literary Techniques are not added to a work of
literature. They are the work of literature in exactly
the same way that a painting is composed of brush
strokes.
Review the Prompt for 2010 Q1
Read carefully the following poem by
Marilyn Nelson Waniek. Then write an
essay analyzing how Waniek employs
literary techniques to develop the
complex meanings that the speaker
attributes to The Century Quilt. You may
wish to consider such elements as
structure, imagery, and tone.
What an adequate response might look like:
Sample YYY; score: 9
What strategies does this highly
successful student-writer use?


The first paragraph has a thesis which defines the
complex meanings attributed to the quilt.
The description of the quilt’s theme or meanings
respects that fact that the poem’s meaning is not
static but “develops” as we read and as we deepen
our understanding of the work.
What is this highly successful studentwriter NOT doing?
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The student does not repeat the prompt.
There is no laundry list of technical terms for literary
techniques.
There is not much of a distracting “grabber”-type
introduction. Nearly all of this first paragraph is
about the poem; there is a brief “grabber”
sentence, but it is seamlessly related to the
statement of the poem’s theme (i.e.“complex
meanings”).
How does the successful writer
introduce the “literary techniques”?
The one “technique” mentioned in ¶ 1, “symbol”, is not from the list
of suggested techniques in the prompt; moreover, it is embedded
in a meaningful statement about a specific idea:
A different way to succeed:
2010 Q1 Sample VVV – Score 8
A different way to succeed
VVV remains vague in the first paragraph and does not
provide a specific interpretation of the complex meanings
attributed by the speaker to the quilt. However, the student
does not dumb down the task and, eventually, produces a
specific statement connecting the structure of the poem with a
specific description of the quilt’s meaning.
The Always-Never List
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Always spend as much time as possible writing; never begin
writing until you have a thesis.
Always respond directly to the prompt; never repeat the
prompt.
Always begin with an interesting and clear thesis; never
begin with a paragraph-long “grabber”-type introduction.
Always focus on how the writer’s use of literary techniques
communicates the meaning of the text; never discuss one
literary device per body paragraph.
Always use many short quotations to support your analysis;
never use a quotation from the poem/passage/work unless
it is first introduced and then fully explained in relation to
the prompt and thesis.
What is the AP English Literature Exam
asking student-writers to master?
Every single essay prompt that ever was or will be
asked on the AP English Literature exam is a version
of the universal prompt, or, “uni-prompt”:
How do writers use literary
techniques to communicate or
explore (complex) meanings.
Question 2 and The Uni-Prompt
The similarity between Q1 and Q2 is easy to see:
2010 Question 2 (Prose): Read the passage carefully.
Then write an essay in which you analyze Clarence
Hervey’s complex character as Edgeworth develops
it through such literary techniques as tone, point of
view, and language.
Question 3 and The Uni-Prompt
However, Q3 seems different, and in some ways it is.
Q3 does not provide students with a text, but requires
that students come to the exam having already
thoroughly studied how literary techniques function
in a specific work of literature.
Q3 and The Uni-Prompt

2010 Question 3 (Open):Select a novel, play, or epic in
which a character experiences such a rift and becomes
cut off from “home,” whether that home is the
character’s birthplace, family, homeland, or other
special place. Then write an essay in which you analyze
how the character’s experience with exile is both
alienating and enriching, and how this experience
illuminates the meaning of the work as a whole. You
may choose a work from the list below or one of
comparable literary merit. Do not merely summarize the
plot.
Q3 and The Uni-Prompt
Nevertheless, if you look closely, you will find that Q3 is also a
version of the uni-prompt. The literary technique the student
must discuss is referred to in these phrases:
“a character experiences such a rift and becomes cut off from
‘home,’”
“analyze how the character’s experience with exile…”
The “complex truth” being communicated is in this phrase:
“…is both alienating and enriching, and how this experience
illuminates the meaning of the work as a whole.”
In other words, in 2010/Q3 the student is being asked to
discuss a work in which a writer uses the literary device of a
character who experiences exile in order to communicate a
complex truth about the alienation and richness of exile.
Reviewing the prompt
1.
2.
3.
Read the prompt at least twice out loud
Take some time alone to notice things that stand
out and mark it up
In small groups, compare and discuss what you
noticed and marked on the prompt
Essential Pre-Writing Skills
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Analyzing the prompt and understanding how it relates
to the “uni-prompt”
Identifying significant discrete elements in a text, and
the relations between them
Identifying patterns and repeated identical or similar
elements, then comparing and contrasting them and
placing them all within a single narrative.
Reviewing the text to see what important elements may
have been left out after the first two steps above
Formulating a “reading” of the text that responds fully
and clearly to the prompt
Essential Composition Skills
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Writing Analytic Paraphrase
Using embedded quotations
Appealing to the intelligent reader with plausible
interpretation and carefully presented evidence
Now its your turn…
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Using the timed write “The Pupil”
Review the prompt
Write a well written sophisticated thesis statement.
Share your thesis statement with the members of
your table
Give each other feedback and comments to
improve the thesis statement
Now complete a rewrite of the essay on “The Pupil”

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