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By Amy Thomson
This is an approximately four week unit intended for junior AP Language students with daily forty five minute class periods. It is based on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is paired with non-fiction pieces “Shooting an Elephant,” “On Morality,” “Live Free and Starve,” and “The Ways We Lie,” as well as student chosen current events articles in keeping with the goals of The College Board’s AP English Language and Composition course. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was part of a summer reading assignment, so the students should have read it previously during the summer and completed assignments based on it before the unit begins. This unit will be the first one of the year, after about a week of assignments focused on getting to know the students and teambuilding. Due to the fact that the main work, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, has already been read, this unit focuses on helping students acquire meaning from it, and on helping them lay the foundation for AP Language curriculum with introductions to rhetoric and argument, class discussion techniques such as On the Fence and Fishbowl, and AP argument timed writing essay practice. After collecting the summer reading assignments, we begin by reviewing literary terms, Freytag’s Pyramid, and annotating skills as a warm-up for the unit. Then students are introduced to new information such as rhetoric, argument, and rhetorical appeals in order to build a foundation for understanding. Students also have class discussion and dialogues designed to help unpack the texts, connect their reading to the essential questions and writer’s craft, and become better at close reading and analysis. Afterwards I introduce On the Fence and Fishbowl discussion techniques, which will be meaning and analysis tools we continue to use in every unit this year. I also introduce timed writing strategies, and the students do their first timed writing practice of the year, which is scaffolded as it is based off of a class walk-through. The students then use that timed writing as a basis for revision and editing with teacher feedback, which gives them practice and helps them expand and enhance their original responses. To end the unit students apply the essential questions to their own lives by creating a pentangle that represents their personal virtues, and finally transfer their knowledge and meaning through an independent AP timed writing essay and final draft. After this unit is completed, students should come away with understandings about how fear, honor, virtue, and morality can affect us, as well as increased knowledge and skills in class discussion, timed writing, and crafting AP style essays.
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