Course Syllabus

Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition

Sarah Henry, Instructor

Central Academy of Technology and Arts (CATA)

Union County Public Schools

Monroe, North Carolina   

Course Description

 The purpose of this course is to prepare motivated and engaged high school learners to become careful readers of works of literary merit and to improve their skills in writing critically about those works.  Literature in this course will be viewed with the same lens of scrutiny that all masterpiece works of art are examined by:  one that leaves no detail undiscovered and unconsidered.  The author’s craft will be pored over to discover his/her artistry by considering cultural and historical influences, making connections to earlier major works, and weighing the structure of the work.  Students are expected to not only perform these tasks of examination, they will also strive to convey their thoughts in formal and informal writing that is clear and substantive.            

Course Goals

Curricular Requirement 1 The course includes an intensive study of representative works such as those authors cited in the AP English Course Description.  By the time the students completes English Literature and Composition, he or she will have studied during high school literature from both British and American writers, as well as works written in several genres from the sixteenth century to contemporary times.

Curricular Requirement 2 The course teaches students to write an interpretation of a piece of literature that is based of careful observation of textual details, considering such elements as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism and tone.

Curricular Requirement 3 The course teaches students to write an interpretation of a piece of literature that is based on careful observation of textual details, considering the work’s structure, style and themes.

Curricular Requirement 4 The course teaches students to write an interpretation of a piece of literature that is based on careful observation of textual details, considering the work’s social, cultural and/or historical values.

Curricular Requirement 5 The course includes frequent opportunities for students to write and rewrite timed, in-class responses.

Curricular Requirement 6 The course includes frequent opportunities for students to write and rewrite formal, extended analyses outside of class.

Curricular Requirement 7 The course requires writing to understand: informal/exploratory writing activities that enables students to discover what they think on the process of writing about their reading (such assignments could include annotation, free writing, keeping a reading journal, reaction/response papers, and/or dialectical notebooks).


Curricular Requirement 8 The course requires writing to explain: Expository, analytical essays in which students draw upon textual details to develop an extended interpretation of a literary text.


Curricular Requirement 9 The course requires writing to evaluate: Analytical, argumentative essays in which students draw upon textual details to make and explain judgments about a work’s artistry and quality.


Curricular Requirement 10 The course requires writing to evaluate: Analytical, argumentative essays in which students draw upon textual details to make and explain judgments about a work’s social, historical and /or cultural values.


Curricular Requirement 11 The AP teacher provides instruction and feedback on students’ writing assignments, both before and after the students revise their work that help the students develop a wide-ranging vocabulary used appropriately.


Curricular Requirement 12 The AP teacher provides instruction and feedback on students’ writing assignments, both before and after the students revise their work that help the students develop a variety of sentence structures.


Curricular Requirement 13 The AP teacher provides instruction and feedback on students’ writing assignments, both before and after the students revise their work that help the students develop logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques to increase coherence.  Such techniques may include traditional rhetorical structures, graphic organizers, and work on repetition, transitions, and emphasis.


Curricular Requirement 14 The AP teacher provides instruction and feedback on students’ writing assignments, both before and after the students revise their work that help the students develop a balance of generalization and specific, illustrative detail.


Curricular Requirement 15 The AP teacher provides instruction and feedback on students’ writing assignments, both before and after the students revise their work that help the students establish an effective use of rhetoric including controlling tone and a voice appropriate to the writer’s audience.



 The AP English student must read a broad range of works across the expanse of American, British and world literature from the 16th century to the present.  The literary works will include novels, plays, and poetry written by men and women from a variety of backgrounds that reflect a diverse human experience.  Reading assignments will be constant, independent and rigorous; the student is expected to read carefully and record notes and reactions on an individual basis to aid in retention of detail.  Students will examine the craft of writing literature with attention to the artistry that creates meaning as well as pleasure for the reader.  The focus will be on literature that reflects the universal human experience. 

 Students will learn to recognize the specific features that contribute to a work’s literary success.  This recognition is tested in the multiple choice portion of the AP Literature Exam in which students are given passages from literature and asked to make informed judgments on the author’s technique in one hour.  Students must read closely and quickly.  The class will practice for this portion of the exam by becoming intimately familiar with literary terms, practicing diligently to identify them, and working closely with retired multiple choice questions.  Those retired exam questions and answers will be discussed in small cooperative groups and in whole class discussions.                    


 Essay writing will be a weekly and sometimes daily task in this class.  When examining literature at a collegiate level, students will express their observations in essay form.  The essays will range from note-taking and free-writing about literature to essays explicating the author’s purpose by explaining his/her use of specific literary devices.  Students will work toward writing that performs all of the following:

  • is analytical in its judgment
  • is effectively persuasive
  • exhibits strong organization and sound grammatical technique
  • establishes voice that is appropriate for the intended audience
  • employs varied and interesting sentence structures
  • displays a broad knowledge of vocabulary
  • shows a deep and imaginative process of thinking

Students will be writing essays in a variety of conditions but a particular focus will fall on the timed essay.  On the AP Literature exam, students are expected to write three essays in a period of two hours.  The first two prompts will ask students to analyze either a passage from a novel/drama or a poem/part of a poem.  The third essay will be an “open” question asking students to discuss a proposed literary feature in a work either from the list provided or a major work of the student’s choice.  In preparation for the timed writing exam, the class will examine (both in cooperative groups and individually) example student responses provided by AP Central to understand how essays are scored.  Students are expected to apply those lessons learned to their own writing in order to constantly improve.      


 Like in any academic class, hard work toward self-improvement will be rewarded in AP English.  Students who commit to adhering to the outside reading schedule; work to improve writing by constantly editing and revising; and are in class consistently with an enthusiastic and attentive demeanor will make good grades.   The grading scale for AP English is as follows:  Major Tests: 35%; Projects and Essays: 35%; Quizzes: 20%; and Classwork/Homework: 10%.   Please note that this grading system is inherently different from a system that relies on an accumulation of points.  I feel that awarding a specific weight to different tasks reflects a system that is similar to what students will most likely face in a college setting.       


 Students who are struggling with the work are encouraged to seek help; I am at school nearly every morning at 8:00am and usually stay until 5pm.  Students can also make up quizzes missed due to an excused absence during Cougar Time on the day that I am available to work with students.  When seeking additional tutoring, serious students will have a specific agenda or topic in mind and will let me know when they are coming in for help.  I may also assign a student who is struggling with a particular topic to my Cougar Time sessions on Tuesdays or Thursdays.  In this manner, I can best focus on making the most of individual time with students.  It is important for students to let me know when they are coming in for tutoring as I usually have a busy agenda before and after school and may have work that cannot wait if one comes in unexpectedly.  It is my purpose to help students succeed.


Parents can find helpful information on the county’s EmpowerEd page here:

Course Textbooks and Required Texts

The following texts will be available to all students [C1, C2]:

Literature and Composition: Reading Writing and Thinking. Bedford/St. Martin’s: New York, 2011.

Holt Elements of Literature: Sixth Course. New York: Rinehart and Winston Holt, 2005.

Vocabulary Workshop: Common Core Enriched Edition Level G. Jerome Shostak, 2012.   


Occasionally Advanced Placement students are asked to provide personal copies of various novels and some plays studied in the course. In most cases the school can provide copies although annotating while reading a personal copy is beneficial. Students are encouraged to purchase personal copies of the books in like editions.  The required list is as follows:


Anonymous-Beowulf (Seamus Heaney translation)

Anonymous-Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Burton Raffel translation)

Brontë, Charlotte-Jane Eyre

Chaucer, Geoffrey-The Canterbury Tales  

Conrad, Joseph-Heart of Darkness

Eliot, George-Silas Marner

Foster, Thomas C.-How To Read Literature Like A Professor

Gardner, John-Grendel (required summer reading)

Hosseini, Khaled-The Kite Runner

Shakespeare, William-Hamlet

Shakespeare, William Macbeth

Shakespeare, William-Othello

Shelly, Mary-Frankenstein

Steinbeck, John-The Grapes of Wrath

Wilder, Thornton-Our Town

Williams, Tennessee-The Glass Menagerie


This course will include a comprehensive study of poetry and short stories.  Most are included in textbook and those which are not will be provided.  The authors will include but are not limited to: 



16th Century           Marlow, Christopher

Shakespeare, William

Spencer, Edmund

Raleigh, Sir Walter


17th Century           Donne, John

Milton, John


18th Century           Blake, William

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor

Keats, John

Wordsworth, William


19th Century           Browning, Robert

Dickinson, Emily

Frost, Robert

Yeats, William Butler


20th Century           Auden, W. H.

Atwood, Margaret

Brooks, Gwendolyn

Collins, Billy

Eliot, T.S.

  Giovanni, Nikki

Heaney, Seamus

Hughes, Langston

Robinson, Edwin Arlington

Roethke, Theodore

Smith, Stevie

Soto, Gary

Thomas, Dylan


 Short Stories

Baldwin, James “Sonny’s Blues”

Carver, Raymond “Cathedral”

Chopin, Kate “The Story of an Hour”

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Hawthorne, Nathaniel “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

Oates, Joyce Carol “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

Updike, John “A&P”

Welty, Eudora “A Worn Path”



Shakespeare, William Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello

Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie

Wilder, Thornton Our Town




Performance Tasks

The following described writings and discussions will reveal a student’s skill in analyzing literature through writing; the two abilities (reading and writing about it) are inextricably tied in this course and heavy emphasis should be noted.  The writing assignments will include (but are not limited to):

Daily Journals [C1, C3, C4, C5, C7, C10, C14] Students will write each class day responding to a topic or reading selection and use his or her writing as a springboard for class discussion.  Journals will provide students the opportunity to form short analysis and to elaborate on those insights with the class.  Occasionally, students are asked to reflect on their current reading assignments in the daily journal.          

Poetry Analysis Assignments: In-Class Essays and Poetry Presentations [C2, C3, C5, C8, C13] Poetry will be discussed every Wednesday, sometimes more frequently.  Students will be presented with poems of literary merit each week for analysis and once a month students will choose a poem on which to write an in-class essay analyzing and interpreting the author’s use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism and tone and how these aspects of the poem function in generating meaning.  Additionally, students will work in small groups to analyze poems using both the TP-CASTT and the Vendler maps of analysis.  Students share their observations with the class for feedback from peers and the instructor.            

Literary Research Paper [C3, C4, C6, C8, C10, C11, C12, C13, C14, C15] Students will write a research paper based on their study of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.  Before writing, students will have fully examined the text and discussed the novel.  Students engage in a process of gathering and evaluating sources for inclusion on an annotated bibliography, taking careful notes from those sources on important information to cite acknowledging the value of creating general observations and gathering specifics as illustrative elaboration, creating a comprehensive outline, composing a rough draft, drafting and revising a works cited page, and revising and editing after feedback to create a final draft.  Students rough drafts are examined for attentiveness to the following: grammatical and mechanical acumen, a depth of vocabulary, a variety of sentence structure, and a clear organizational structure.  The paper focuses on the student’s observation of social and historical influences which existed in the United States during the setting of the novel and the influence that those values affect their interpretation of the novel.  Students examine Steinbeck’s response to the cultural, economic and religious impact of the Great Depression as depicted.  The paper draws from scholarly resources and is presented with works cited in MLA format.  Students conference frequently in peer-groups and with the instructor for feedback on revisions before a final draft is crafted.      

Argumentative Essays [C4, C6, C9, C10, C11, C12, C13, C14, C15] Students create a series of three letters which justify the inclusion of texts in the course which have previously been challenged as having “objectionable and inappropriate material.”  (Students may choose from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying, or Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.) The student demonstrates his or her mastery of use of rhetoric tailored to each of the following audiences: parents, school board members and college admissions representatives.  Students’ essays evaluate their own interpretations of the work and show the value in a comprehensive literary study by developing a voice appropriate to each audience which delivers his or her judgment of the value of the work.  These letters are developed outside of class and undergo a process of instructor feedback, revision and presentation of final drafts.      

Timed Writings on Retired AP Prompts [C2, C3, C4, C5, C6] Prior to practice with timed writings, students engage in evaluating a series of study of sample student essays to examine the features which determine individual scores.  Students practice writing essays with the time constraint with retired prompts from past AP exams and work in small peer groups and in one-on-one conferencing with the instructor to revise and improve the strength of the argument and the use of appropriate voice.  Students are encouraged to examine the passages first with a “microscope” and then with a “telescope” to develop writing which shows a clear argument for narrative intent. Comprehensive review and use of AP rubrics will be employed in this process.      

Course Grade vs. Exam Grade

Successful students in this course will attend to its tasks with a goal of preparing for college-level coursework in the coming years by assuming college-level work while still in a high school setting.  A passing grade in the class may or may not correspond with a passing grade on the AP Exam; the grade in the class will reflect a student’s commitment to improvement and to hard work.  The score on the AP test will reflect a student’s ability to think, read and write about what they have learned in 12 years of English classes under the intense pressure of a timed, regulated environment.  While a score of three, four or even five is a worthy goal, it must not be the only goal.  I have only one goal for my students and it is this:  to love to read good literature to discover depth of meaning.  If one walks in the door with it, so much the better; however, it is my goal that all AP students will exit the building with a passion for the written word that serves them well for life.                         


Notes for 2017-2018 School Year

  • Cell phones are put away during class.
  • Late homework is not accepted unless an absence is the cause.
  • Plagiarism is not tolerated on homework, classwork, or papers. Students are never to “work together” on an assignment unless they are specifically assigned to do so.  Sources must be cited at all times. 
  • Students must be prepared to read, write and think every class period with pen, paper, current work/works, and charged Chromebook.
  • British Literature is the primary focus of Semester One (see the English IV Honors Syllabus for a general outline of the units). Semester Two includes American, British and world literature.    
  • Vocabulary quizzes or tests are each Thursday and homework is due at the beginning of class.
  • Class agendas are posted daily on the class Canvas site; students are expected to make up work missed after an absence within two days.     
  • Tests are announced, some quizzes are not; students should read carefully adhering to due dates and study notes daily.               

Course Summary:

Date Details Due