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By Amy R. Thomson
This is an approximately four week unit intended for senior AP Literature students with daily forty five minute class periods. It is based on the novels My Antonia by Willa Cather, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
These novels were both summer reading assignments, so the students should have read them previously during the summer and completed assignments based on them 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 novels have already been read, this unit goals focus on helping students acquire meaning from them, and on helping them lay the foundation for AP Literature curriculum with timed writings, Socratic Seminar, and open ended AP essay practice.
The first two weeks are spent on My Antonia. After collecting and reviewing the summer reading questions, we begin on class dialogues designed to help students unpack the text, connect their reading to themes, and become better at close reading and analysis. Afterwards I introduce Levels of Questioning and Socratic Seminar, which will be meaning and analysis tools we continue to use in every unit this year. Next I 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 previous class dialogue. The students then use that timed writing as a basis for revision and editing with peer and teacher feedback, which gives them practice and helps them expand and enhance their original responses.
The second two weeks are spent on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We begin by comparing and contrasting the two summer reading novels with Pride and Prejudice, which is a novel they have read in a previous year. In this we focus on structure (form) and purpose (function) of the novel, which will help them in their analysis of this and future text. We continue with more reading dialogues and activities, and then a scaffolded revision of their Summer Reading Essay over Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where they receive feedback from the teacher. We finish with a second Socratic Seminar, and a final independent Timed Writing Essay where they show their transfer of thematic textual analysis and AP timed writing skills.
After this unit is completed, students should come away with understandings about how the past, our surroundings, and society can affect us, as well as increased knowledge and skill in Socratic Seminar skills, timed writing, and crafting AP style essays.
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