When I had my younger son a year ago, I was in the tough position of asking a long-term substitute to lay the foundation for my students’ entire year of learning. My maternity leave stretched from August until mid-October, so a quarter of my students’ learning occurred with a different teacher. I was lucky to have our recently retired department chair; however, she had never taught AP before, and she was nervous going in. Let me tell you, there is nothing like prepping for someone else to start your course to make you really examine the critical content, timelines, and systems.

Ultimately, the most important year-long routines to start right away boiled down to three things: vocabulary, sentence patterns, and multiple choice practice. Here are (mostly) the same instructions I shared with my lovely substitute for approaching each. I’ve added in links to the materials and resources I use.

The AP Lit teacher and I split this text.

Vocabulary: Hot Words for the SAT books need to be checked out to students at the beginning of the quarter. We go over PowerPoint notes (lecture-style) on one list per week (usually on Monday). Students are responsible for taking notes on definitions and examples. They will then independently complete the exercises on Vocabulary.com to master the lists. Students will need to provide proof of 100% mastery bi-weekly to earn a grade of 3 (proficient) for the assignment. They may also master an advanced list for each bi-weekly cycle to earn a grade of 4 (advanced). Partial completion will result in a grade of 0-2.5, depending on how much the student has achieved. [See more on my grading system here.]

a. Assign on Mondays (2 weeks in a row)
b. Collect proof of mastery on the third Monday (off-week)
c. Summative grade

art of styling2. Sentence Patterns: Sentence patterns come from The Art of Styling Sentences by Longknife and Sullivan. One sentence pattern is presented every third week (during the off-week from the vocabulary work). My AP English partner and I have started creating videos to teach each pattern, along with a note taker and exercises. Students are responsible for watching the video and completing the exercises outside of class. On Thursday, they bring their completed exercises to class. First, they check their partners’ sentences for accuracy and coherence. Then they use clickers (sticky notes and a document camera work, too) to enter sentences (usually self-generated), and we discuss the sentences to determine which to keep as exemplars and how to improve those that fail to meet the criteria for that sentence pattern. Having students write their sentences on sticky notes and then projecting them would work just as well. I generally collect the exercises a few times during the first semester to put them in as a formative grade. Students are then held accountable for using the patterns in their writing.

a. Assign on Mondays (every third week, in place of Hot Words)
b. Go over on the following Thursday
c. May be a formative grade; will be summative when required on formal papers.

3. Multiple Choice Practice: Students need ongoing multiple choice practice to develop familiarity with the content and skills of the AP test. Each Friday, they should receive a copy of a multiple choice passage (text only). They have until the following Friday to complete a series of tasks for the multiple choice passage. They will bring a printed copy of their work, along with the annotated text, to class; at the beginning of the period on Friday, they will be given the corresponding multiple choice questions as a timed quiz (one minute per question plus one minute). They will then turn in all their work along with the quiz. The quiz and the preparation are separate grades.

a. Assign on Friday
b. Quiz on the following Friday and turn in prep work
c. Quiz is summative; prep work is formative

The multiple choice process variations that I use, including the instructions for this weekly assignment, are available in my TPT store.

3 thoughts on “Critical Back-to-School Routines for AP Language and Composition: Year-Long Processes

    1. Sure thing! I have a free teacher account, and my students sign up for accounts and connect to my class with a code. Since I have the free version, I can’t track the progress of every student (just the class as a whole). When I make and assign lists to my classes, they go through the exercises to master the words. The program continues to give them exercises until they’ve mastered the words. I just have my students turn in a screen shot of the page that shows their mastery. If you want more information, vocabulary.com has a white page explaining how the exercises work.

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