Dorothy Westenskow

Web page:

Room 203

Use Wikispaces as source for individual homework assignments



Advanced Placement Language & Composition Syllabus


Course Overview: (from the AP English Language and Composition course description). Standards at


In addition to preparing students to take the AP Language and Composition test from College Board, this course will prepare students for college level thinking, reading, and writing. The text materials are predominately nonfiction featuring expository, analytical, personal, and argumentative texts from a variety of authors and historical contexts. Through close reading of these texts, students will develop their ability to work with language and text increasing their awareness of purpose and strategy, while strengthening their own composing talents. An emphasis on vocabulary building and grammar will be part of the course and help prepare students for the ACT test. The course will be organized around assignments devoted to writing in a variety of rhetorical patterns with an emphasis on argumentation. Students taking the AP test may be granted advanced placement, college credit, or both as a result of a satisfactory performance.


Because this is a college-level course, performance expectations are high and the workload is challenging. Students are expected to commit to a minimum of five hours of course work per week outside of class. This work will involve long-term writing and reading assignments. Effective time management is important. The curriculum is demanding, so students must bring to the course a sufficient command of mechanical conventions and an ability to read and discuss prose. Other than in the classroom setting, students in need of help can go to the tutoring lab (316) or to after school tutoring for assistance.


Goals/ Students will be able to:

  • analyze and interpret samples of good writing, identifying and explaining an author’s use of rhetorical strategies and techniques
  • produce expository, analytical, and argumentative compositions that introduce a complex central idea and develop it with appropriate evidence drawn from primary and/or secondary source material, cogent explanations, and clear transitions
  • write for a variety of purposes
  • demonstrate understanding of how to cite primary and secondary sources using established guidelines including formatting from MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.
  • move effectively through the stages of the writing process, with careful attention to inquiry and research, drafting, revising, editing, and reviewing
  • learn to recognize areas in which the student makes errors in mechanics and grammar and to develop editorial strategies for dealing with these errors
  • use strategies such as peer editing and revising for a different audience to produce a focused and effective final product
  • learn to substantiate, evaluate, propose, argue, and persuade
  • demonstrate understanding and mastery of standard written English as well as stylistic maturity in their own writing
  • analyze images as text (including advertisements, billboards, magazines, paintings, etc.)


Materials: Students need to bring supplies to class each day.

  • 3 ring binder with college ruled paper and folders for handouts
  • blue or black pens
  • hi-liters of different colors
  • dictionary and thesaurus (for home use)
  • student planner
  • text: 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology by Samuel Cohen



Every week students will receive twelve words for a vocabulary section in their notebooks. Most of the words will be new but some will review important literary and rhetorical vocabulary. I will give the part of speech, a definition, and a sentence for each word. Students will need to learn the words and be able to use them correctly in sentences. The first block day of the following week students will have a usage test on the words. The use of vocabulary words in speech or writing will earn bonus points to be applied to the quiz grade. It is the student’s responsibility to get the words if he/she is absent. If absent for the test, a student must make it up before the next test is given. Make up tests must be scheduled with me. Beyond the regular vocabulary, students will work with the connotation/ denotation of words, root words, prefixes, and suffixes.



review of essay structure (PowerPoint)

thesis development

paragraphs and transitions


close reading (hand out)

review of literary elements (PowerPoint & hand out )


rhetorical modes (PowerPoint & samples)

grammar, usage, and mechanics workshops

quotation and punctuation of reported speech

timed in-class writing assignments (from AP exams)


synthesis of material

research techniques and practice





Writing Tasks:

Most of the extended writing assignments in this class consist of two to four page papers that explore the different rhetorical patterns. Each of these essays will go through the standard writing process with prewriting, writing, and revising. One-on-one conferences will be held during the prewriting stage to help with thesis development, organization, and the provision of adequate support. Once a computer draft is finished, students will peer edit and complete a final draft to be submitted for a grade. When papers are graded and returned, students will have the option to rewrite for a better grade and for use in the portfolio assignment. Students may seek assistance from me or from the writing lab. Essays will be graded on the basis of style, syntax, grammar, focus, organization, and the modes inherent to the rhetorical category. Other than the peer editing, the essay writing will be done for homework, approximately one essay every two weeks through the first 9 weeks. As students move toward more complicated argumentative papers, they will be given more time to synthesize the material into the essay. Additionally, students will complete in-class timed writings with topics drawn from AP released items.

Format: all essays must be word processed with the following parameters

1 inch margins

double spaced

12 pt. type, Times or Arial (no fancy fonts)

MLA format for research

Late Work:
All work is due on the assigned dates. Work not done but critical to class participation will receive a 0. Essays are due by 2:50 on the due date. One letter grade will be deducted per day (not class day) for every day the essay is late (see me for extenuating circumstances). Essays late one week or more can receive no more than a 50%, but remember that this is better than a zero.
Students will have the opportunity to employ a variety of strategies for writing and understanding a text. This may include SOAPSTone, OPTIC, RAFT, journalistic formula, syntax analysis chart, etc. Many of these strategies will be practiced in pairs or groups with non-graded work.
Plagiarism Policy:
The following paragraph must be submitted with proposals and all drafts of student assignments. Any plagiarized work will receive a zero grade and parents will be notified. Students must sign below the paragraph to indicate that they are aware of this policy:
  Plagiarism is using another person’s thoughts, ideas, and/or words without giving proper acknowledgement or documentation to the source. In keeping with this policy students will receive a zero for the plagiarized work.
If you do not understand what comprises plagiaristic work, seek help from me immediately. The first assignment of the year will be to identify possible sources for proper documentation.
Attendance and Tardy Policy:
Regular classroom attendance is required to be successful in this course. On the third unexcused absence a parent/guardian conference will be required with the Counselor and Academic Dean. Students with six or more unexcused absences may fail the course. Students may be assigned to  lunch time or after school tutoring to complete missing course work and obtain tutoring assistance. Students with habitual attendance issues may be placed on an attendance contract, face legal intervention, or be referred to an alternative school. Students late for classes will be assigned to Saturday school.
Homework Policy:
Homework will be assigned throughout the year and will usually consist of writing and/or reading assignments. All written homework needs to be completed and turned in on time. I will not accept homework later than one day from the due date, and homework turned in one day late will receive half credit.


Your grade is your reward for learning. In general, I grade on product, not the effort; however, hard work usually produces a better product. Your grades will be based on your daily work, tests, and writing. I will use the school grade scale for letter grades. Based on the class work, the percentages listed below for daily and test grades may be revised as the term progresses.


(10% of grade) classroom work, homework, journals


(15% of grade) quizzes, grammar, vocabulary


(75% of grade) all essays and major writing assignments


It is important that students be able to reflect on past work and see their growth through the year. To facilitate that sense of growth, students will keep all of their work in a portfolio. Periodically through the year students will be asked to write reflections on their reading and writing process and analyze its development. At the end of the year, they will select two pieces of writing for final revision and grade. All of the written work will be compiled with a final reflection and displayed for class judging.


Rather than give you a specific time line for the work, the following is a tentative list of the writing assignments, model essays, and culminating activity. We will also work with grammar as needed and sentence variety (fluency). Specific assignments can be found on the wiki pages as they are assigned.

1st Semester

Rhetoric Mode

Model Essays


Personal essay

(Barrons) Essays That Will Get You Into College

(McGraw-Hill) Writing an Outstanding College Application Essay

(College Board) 20 Outstanding SAT Essays


College essay

(Barrons) Essays That Will Get You Into College

(McGraw-Hill) Writing an Outstanding College Application Essay

(College Board) 20 Outstanding SAT Essays



(Bedford Reader) ad

Zora Hurston – How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me

E. B. White – Once More to the Lake

newspaper ad


Sojourner Truth – Ain’t I a Woman

Scott Russell Sanders – The Inheritance of Tools


Cause & Effect

William Buckley Jr. – Why Don’t We Complain?

Marie Winn – Television: the Plug-In Drug



Lars Eighner – On Dumpster Diving

Joan Didion – On Keeping a Notebook

Find and analyze a process – present to class using PowerPoint or visual


Dave Barry – Lost in the Kitchen

Bharati Mukherjee – Two Ways to Belong in America

Henry David Thoreau – Where I Lived, and What I Lived For

1 essay point-by-point


1 essay block style


Amy Tan – Mother Tongue

Mike Rose – “I Just Wanna be Average”

Stephanie Ericsson – The Way We Lie


2nd Semester


(Everything’s an Argument) proposal, definition, evaluation

Nancy Mairs – On Being a Cripple

Edward Said – Clashing Civilizations?

Langston Hughes – Salvation

3 essays  one each pattern

750-1,000 words

Research Paper

Synthesis of sources – MLA style

8-10 pages

Literary Analysis

outside reading book


Each rhetorical pattern will be accompanied by one or more model nonfiction essay(s). Students may be asked to analyze these essays for rhetorical strategies and/or to model the style in their own writing.

Semester grades are determined by averaging the percentages of the two nine weeks plus the final.


Scoring Rubric:

Total Score


Exceeds Expectations


Meets Expectations


Somewhat Meets Expectations


Does Not Meet Expectations/Rewrite


The paper is clear and focused and interesting.  The thesis is clearly defined and supporting details/commentary are relevant and interesting.

The paper is clear and focused.  The thesis is clearly defined.  Supporting details and commentary are relevant.

Thesis is identifiable.  Supporting details and/or commentary are present but leave questions for the reader.

The paper is not focused and does not contain a clear thesis.  Supporting details are missing or questionable.



Structure of the essay makes thesis and support strongly evident to the reader.  Good transitions tie focused paragraphs together and the essay flows.

Structure of the essay makes thesis and support strongly evident to the reader.  Paragraphs are focused. 

Thesis and support are present but reader must infer important details and struggle to follow train of thought.  Paragraphs are not focused.

Organization is lacking.  There is no clear thesis or evidence to support it.  Paragraphs are random and unfocused.



Evidence is well documented, plentiful, and relevant to the purpose/thesis of the paper.  Evidence is seamlessly integrated into the structure of the paragraphs. 

Sufficient evidence is documented and relevant to the purpose/thesis of the paper.  Evidence is integrated into the structure of the essay

Evidence is lacking, not always properly documented, and not always relevant to the purpose/thesis of the essay.  Evidence is choppy and often just plugged in at random

No evidence is used, or evidence is undocumented and not relevant to the purpose/thesis of the paper.



Author demonstrates an excellent understanding of standard writing conventions (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.) 

Author demonstrates understanding of standard writing conventions (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.)

Author shows overall understanding of basic writing conventions with some deviation.

Errors in writing conventions make the essay difficult to read.



Proper MLA format is used throughout the paper, including the heading, page #’s, font size and type, in-text citations and works cited.

Proper MLA format is used with some common errors present.

MLA format is attempted but contains many errors.

No MLA format is used.