Monday, July 21, 2008

Making More of AP

My mind is caught up right now on striking a balance between the "AP" part of my course and the "world literature" part. I feel very fortunate to teach AP Lit because the College Board does not set a prescribed content curriculum. Instead, the curriculum is skill-based, and as long as my students are reading works of "literary merit" as defined by CB, deeply analyzing them, and carefully writing about them, then we read what we want and do what we want. So, my course is listed on students' transcripts as AP Literature and Composition, but it is really a world literature course with college-level skills empahsized. At least, as I see it. But ...

My school is radically changing our daily schedule (from a traditional 7-period, 45-minute class day to a collegiate modular schedule), so we have been told to make our #1 priority in our lesson planning to focus our time with students on meaningful, incisive learning. (Yes, we should be doing this anyway, but the mandate is clear and no more "work on your project" days if I can help it.) So, I have looked over my plans with new eyes this summer, and that is scary and exciting. Scary because it always makes me remember that first year of teaching when I felt like I was recreating a wheel every single day (if you are a first-year teacher reading this, please teach for another year -- it is so radically different and you WILL now have time -- I promise). How nice it is to have old plans that work well to use again. But that leads me to the exciting part -- to be forced to look at these old plans and make them even better. As I have said before on this blog, even the best lesson can be made even better through reflection. Yet, sometimes we don't make time for that reflection, so when my admininistration makes me do it, all the better.

Back to the "But ...": what I saw when I opened up my first unit was that I have focused on establishing only the "AP" part of my course on the first day. We talk about what it means to be AP, look at books used on the exam, think about how prior classes have prepared us for this point ... all good stuff, but none of it about world literature. So as much as I have always said, "I do not teach this course towards the AP exam," I was setting up the course just this way. Ah, what new eyes can show us.

Now I am going to use this first day, this first class that is ripe for setting the tone for our year, to talk about the world and my essential question, "Why must we think?" I have not yet figured out HOW I am going to do this (it is really only July still -- plenty of time to solve this puzzle), but I know it will change my course for the whole year. Maybe not so much for my students -- the first day, as important as it is, is still only the first day and just one part of their whole experience. But for me, this first-day shift of focus has allowed me to see that I really do for the most part teach a world lit course that also prepares students well for college. Now I am going to capitalize on just that.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it amazing when we look at the world through our various lenses? I would love to be a fly on the wall in your class on the first day. I'm wondering if sharing our first day plans as a faculty (or division or department) during work week isn't a good idea (especially for new or "tired" faculty!)