Friday, 7-22-11, AP Pre-Conference: First Day of Formal Conference

Friday, 7-22-11, AP Conference 9:00-10:30
Results from the 2011 English Language and Composition Exam

The official program description:

Subject: English Language

In this session, participants examine results of the 2011 AP English Language Exam administration with the Chief Reader Designate. The objective of the session is to identify and analyze exam topics and questions that were most challenging for students. The presenter discusses with participants the reading and writing skills required for successful performance on those questions. Participants then compare those areas of challenge with questions and topics that their own students found most demanding and discuss instructional strategies for addressing those issues.

Presenter: Mary Trachsel, University of Iowa, IA

My response:

Between Mary's being the upcoming chief reader and her colleague, Jackie Rackham, being the chief table reader for the synthesis essay question this year (the "locavore" topic), I felt like I was receiving information about as close to the source as I could get. She went through each of the three essays questions for 2011, which my thirty Juniors responded to in May, and gave a specific, detailed de-briefing of what worked well and poorly. For example, she stated categorically that for the Thomas Paine prompt, asking how true the current United States is, compared to his predictions, that novels did not work, and that almost all of the successful responses used non-fiction and current events, an issue we had hotly debated in Kelly's seminar on Thursday. Jackie qualified this with "I wouldn't say never use novels, but not for this prompt."

21st Century Textual Analysis: Student Movies, Pictures, Podcasts and Essays

The official program description:

Subject: English Language The process of analyzing text is mirrored in everyday life and technology. By paralleling an array of texts within AP English Language class, students ultimately deepen their ability to read critically and write effectively. Participants in this session examine a model that allows students to better understand how the process of analysis enhances understanding; to perform analyses of visual, audio and written texts; and to create their own texts: podcasts, multimedia presentations (movies) and essays. Participants partake in model classroom activities, inspect authentic student work, and develop strategies logically sequencing and implementing technology in their classroom.

Presenters: Kerrigan Mahoney, Cromwell High School, CT

My response:

I was a little nervous for Kerry, because she was in her late 20's and clearly apprehensive about her audience. However, after she began, she spoke confidently about her experiences of incorporating audio into the English classroom, as well as making simple movies. She also provided a useful two-page handout, and took us through the steps for how her kids cultivated writing skills, but also other skills for the 21st century. Theoretically this was an "English" presentation, but many of her observations and recommendations for software, etc., could apply to any subject. This is one of the several workshops (Mike Stultz at 9:00 a.m. on Sat. being the other one) which might have considerable application to much of the faculty, not just my department.


After Liz recovered from a little of her jet lag in the morning, we walked around Union Square, and ate at a lovely outdoor cafe called Fresh Market, outside of Neiman Marcus department store on Stockton and Geary Streets. We walked around, with Liz posing with her favorite doorman at the Marriott on our return.

How to Free Students from Restrictive and Formulaic Essay Respo

The official program description:

English Language, English Literature In this session, participants learn how to implement and encourage alternative models -- models that can be used as formative or summative assessments if desired -- to formulaic writing strategies. While the session focuses on the use of these models in AP English Language and Literature, understanding the models is useful to students writing other humanities essays, including answers to free-response questions and, to some degree, to data-based questions.

Presenter: Davis James, Walton High School, GA

My response:

This workshop was about the only negative, or less positive experience. The presenter was well-qualified and had obviously prepared for the session. But he had far too few handouts (the last one disappeared just as I was reaching for it), and had a complex, abstract theory about writing involving a "Cartesian Coordinate System" of translating thesis statements and essays into an "X, Y" format. I felt a little like I had stumbled into a math workshop (no offense, Allison, Dave, et al.), and without the 8 page handout, could only type notes desperately in the hopes of figuring it out later. Oh, yes, he also put too much information on each slide of his PowerPoint, and then clicked through them too fast, making me really crazy. Too much ivory tower, and not enough experience in relating to his audience and pacing or adapting his presentation.

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