English Language and Composition

For use with AP® Courses

Congratulations on your decision to take English Language and Composition (for use with AP* courses). Your choice suggests that you are an accomplished, confident reader and writer. In most cases, students who elect to take this class are seeking a course that is academically challenging, and they expect to work hard. English Language and Composition is a year-long, college-level course that will require independence, initiative, and commitment—not to mention a full schedule of reading and writing assignments. The reward for your efforts will be the empowerment that comes from finely honed communication skills, greatly enhanced chances of college success, and the possibility of college credit and higher placement in college composition courses. Although taking the College Board Advanced Placement* Examination in May is not a condition of enrolling in this class, doing so is encouraged for everyone and is required for those students seeking college credit. One goal of this class is to help you prepare for that examination.

The course content links United States Literature and Composition. In the fall of 2005 the College Board announced changes in the design of the AP* Language and Composition exam. One of the new expectations is that nonfiction will be at the heart of the exam. Anticipate being engaged in careful reading of nonfiction texts that will always include a close analysis of the ways writers use the resources of language to achieve their purposes and connect with their intended audiences. You will also be participating in an ongoing investigation of issues and ideas. Although our focus will be on language and the way language works, you will find that your studies in this class and your past or present studies in United States history will be mutually supportive. However, fiction, poetry, and drama will receive a lesser emphasis than in your past English courses.


Reading critically will be a major factor in your success. You will be reading not only to understand content, but also to understand the writer's craft. Assigned texts come from a variety of historical periods and serve a wide range of purposes and audiences. Your assigned reading will come from historical documents, professional and technical journals, personal narratives, news reports, Op/Ed columns, literary criticism, speeches and many other sources. Many of your texts will be visual, and a portion of this course is about learning to "read" visual text. Reading skills you will be expected to demonstrate include:

  • Getting facts straight
  • Identifying an author's thesis, whether stated or implied
  • Identifying stated and unstated assumptions
  • Analyzing an author's argument (and realizing that argument is about much more than winning or losing; it is much more than debate)
  • Examining an author's reasoning and evidence
  • Identifying the basic features of style
  • Identifying structure and patterns of development
  • Exploring your personal response and those aspects of the text that evoke that response
  • Evaluating a text overall and determining its significance
  • Exploring the connections you find between and among texts


An equally important aim of this course is to help you develop your abilities as a writer. You will write frequently in response to a variety of formal and informal tasks. There will be more information on your Response Journal requirement in Unit One. You will work hard to produce writing that is characterized by:

  • A wide-ranging vocabulary, chosen for its precision and for its appropriateness for both the audience and the task
  • A variety of sentence structures including effective use of subordination and coordination, periodic and loose sentence structures, and an understanding of how these can be used to create rhythm, balance, and emphasis
  • Logical organization enhanced to increase coherence (transitions, repetition, and parallelism)
  • An effective balance of assertions and support
  • Thoughtful attention to revision and editing
  • Overall mastery of grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation
  • Attribution of sources using Modern Language Association conventions
  • Focus, clarity, and substance, even under timed conditions


Each unit begins with a listing of Unit Objectives. These highlight the skills and knowledge that you are expected to master by the time you complete the unit. Next there will be a listing of Readings for the unit. Your reading assignments will come either from the texts you have purchased for the course, or from a series of separate readings accessible from links in the assignments. Following the reading list, an introduction will give you a sense of the focus of the unit and what you will need to know and do. The introduction will provide the kinds of overview you would generally get in a classroom lecture.

The heart of the reading assignment is the Reading Guide. The guides give an introduction to each text to help you focus your reading. For each selection, the reading guide highlights the issues you should attend to in the text, and provides a context for understanding the writer's strategies and techniques. Plan to read each assignment at least twice. The better you understand what you have read, the better prepared you will be to write the formal essay you will be submitting when you have completed each unit.


Most units will conclude with a Formal Essay Assignment. Each assignment will have different demands, so each unit will include a detailed description of what you are expected to do, a suggestion of procedures for writing the essay, and special instructions you will need to follow to complete the task. For these assignments, you are expected to submit polished, academic writing that shows careful organization and revision.

To help guide your writing, every formal writing assignment will also include a self-rating and reflection guide to help lead you through the same evaluation questions your instructor will use in grading your essay. Each unit will also include a guide for peer feedback that you can give to a friend or family member to help judge your paper.

In most units, you will also find Response Journal assignments. These assignments represent less formal opportunities to "think in ink" about issues and ideas in the reading assignments. Often you will have several prompts from which to choose. Your response journal entries will be graded on how thoughtful they are, and how well they demonstrate your engagement with the issues and ideas in the readings. They will not be evaluated for technical correctness and organization in the way that a formal, revised paper would be.

Response journal assignments often fall in the middle of a unit and will be submitted as they are completed.

Finally, in some of the units there will be one or more multiple choice quizzes. The quizzes will be modeled after the kind of questions you will encounter on the Multiple Choice section of the AP* exam.

State: National, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington
Grade Level: 11, 12
Category: Advanced Placement
Course Length: Year