Sunday, May 25, 2014

Summer Assignment and a few thoughts

Note: On the 2nd or 3rd day of class, you will be asked to share some of the insights you made in re-reading a novel you'd studied in a previous class.
Also, there is a new thing Google has developed called Google Classroom. Me being me, we're trying it out this year. If you were registered as of August 16th, you should have an invitation to the AP Lit class in your school email. There are 34 students currently signed up for AP lit in one section. Should be interesting. I'm hoping we can fit Caitlyn and Bella on the windowsill. ;) 

See you guys soon!!!

A Few Thoughts
Welcome to AP English Literature and Composition! This is the capstone class of your study of English (reading and writing) at Fife. It will attempt to bring together all that you've learned along the way, celebrating humanity's attempt to describe, explore, and chronicle what it means to be human. Of course, we'll also be prepping our skills for the AP test in May, but I trust that won't get in the way too much.

As in AP English Language and Composition, we will endeavor to reach and master the AP College Board standards. Those of you who've been in the program your first two years at FHS should be well on your way to doing so already. The summer assignment is simply a means to shake off the summer doldrums and re-sharpen our academic prowess. It's not a test. Don't obsess. Be thoughtful, but don't obsess.

Summer Assignment
Step one: read good books*
  • Re-read Gatsby, Huck Finn, or a book you read for Pre-AP: Mockingbird, Great Expectations, Macbeth, Old Man and the Sea, Kite Runner/Power of One, or Lord of the Flies
  • Read one other good book. If you need help distinguishing "good books," pick one from this list: The books we read in class this year will be taken from that list as well. If you happen to pick one we will read, no harm done. If you'd rather read something we won't, this is the likely list (subject to adjustment, and it is highly likely we won't get to all of these): The Crucible, Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Things Fall Apart, Pride and Prejudice, Oryx & Crake, Death of a Salesman, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and 1984 or Brave New World
Step two: a) write about the books as you read them, and b) write a nice substantive piece (300 words +) about each book once you finish reading it.

Further details on step two: annotate in the margins, open yourself to the ideas of the book and elaborate on them in your own reading journals. If you would like more formal writing practice, try to break down a few of the key devices the author uses (symbolism, imagery, dialog, foreshadowing, narrative structure, etc) to convey certain themes (unrequited love, the inexorable passage of time, the simultaneous beauty and ugliness of human existence, etc). Don't stress about the details of "What does he want? Oh my gosh, what am I supposed to write? What does he mean when he says to write about the books?!" Just start a conversation with the book. Pretend the book is your buddy and you have some questions to ask it and comments to make to it. Nothing formal is required, but try not to be boring and waste everyone's time by making this writing portion busywork. Be evocative. If you'd like, you can be creative. You can "interview" one of the characters and make up the responses yourself. Write a poem inspired by the book and write about the connections you made. Ask yourself through writing why you chose this book and what you think of it as a piece of literature. How did the book impact you? What questions do the characters, situations and themes raise in your mind? Did you like it? If you do not have anything to say in response to these or any other questions, you did not actually read the book. You may have run your eyes over the pages, and even experienced a bit of story, but you didn't read it.**

Further, further details about step two: For the re-read (Gatsby, Huck Finn, Mockingbird, Great Expectations, Macbeth, Old Man and the Sea, Kite Runner/Power of One, or Lord of the Flies), focus your journaling on your new understandings, noticings, and insights into the novel. Literature is greater than just a novel largely because they yield up additional rewards upon repeated reading. This is your opportunity to begin to experience that.

Step three:
  • If you did not take my AP Lang class last year, email a brief introduction of yourself that includes your full name, why you're taking this class, the books you're reading for the summer assignment, and a bit about yourself as a learner to  
  • If you did take my course last year, still write to me (I've missed you!). In your email, talk about why you're taking this course and what you hope to get from it. Talk about how you think you may have grown over this summer as a person and a learner. Also, let me know the books you're reading for the summer assignment. 
Highly Recommended: If you aren't very familiar with the biblical stories, you might want to take care of that. Biblical allusions are important to much of western literature, of which we will read a fair bit. Good news is that it's pretty easy to shore that up. I highly recommend reading the books Genesis, Exodus, and one of the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) in the Bible. Some of you may have your favorite translation(s), but we aren't reading the Bible for devotional reasons, but academic ones. It would benefit you most to read those three books in the King James Version (not the New King James) in order to help you pick up the vocabulary and cadences of 16th/17th century language.

Deadline: Wednesday, 3 September 2014 bring a hard copy of your books and all of your writing on the books to class.

Buying Books: Many of you will want to buy your own novels and possibly anthology. I'm evaluating some anthologies we'd be able to get online for super cheap (a $70 book for under $10 with shipping) because they are an edition or two behind the current one. I'll keep you posted on what to buy as school gets closer (ideally by the beginning of August).

Any questions? Just want to chat about books? About the class? Email
No really, you can email me about (almost) anything you'd like. Fear not young padawan. ;)

See you in September!
As Fitzgerald once wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

* Steps for the summer assignment adapted from my esteemed colleague Ms. Robison.
** Remember not to obsess. I know some of you just thought to yourselves, "Hmmm, I wonder if I should just do all of the suggestions just to be on the safe side." Stop it. Focus, but be thoughtful and just engage with the books.