Saturday, 7-23-11, AP Pre-Conference: Second Day of Formal Conference

Composition as Design: Reading and Writing in the Digital Classroom The official program description:

Current research (Hocks) shows that students who act not only as critics of linear prose but also as designers of visual rhetoric will be best prepared for the future digital world. This session provides teachers and their students strategies for analyzing and creating multimodal documents within AP curricula. Participants focus on composition as a design project: the hybrid of visual, spatial and verbal arguments created for the electronically engaged user-audience. They compare and contrast the interrelationships between print and visual texts and the rhetorical strategies they share, along with examining how the synthesis of word, image, and design proliferates literature and composition. In these environments, teachers fully engage their students, even collaborate, model, and co-learn in the reading and writing processes.

Presenter: Michael Stultz, Mountain Lakes High School, NJ

My response:

Mike was the only other teacher from New Jersey in my Thursday, "Experienced A.P. English teachers'" Seminar. Over lunch, I found out that he had grown up in Indiana, had come to New Jersey and was teaching in an independent school, and his wife was flying to San Francisco the same night my wife was. Talk about coincidences!

Like Kerry Mahoney's workshop yesterday (second session), Mike offered a great deal of information and examples for teachers in general using 21st century technology, not just English teachers. His teacher home page ( ) offers many relevant articles and web pages to draw from, and his individual page provides further background ( ).

He started with an opening video by Carl Fish ("Shift Happens"), which I'm almost sure Steve Loy has played at a faculty meeting, and offered a continuing discussion about how teachers can become more multimedia savvy, without abandoning fundamental literacy skills. I was particularly interested in his use of Prezi, as a multimedia software, instead of using the traditional PowerPoint. It reminded me a little of Inspiration software on steroids, but that's probably not helpful. He provided examples of "digital literacy" and discussed graphic story telling, hypertext, and other relevant school projects. Living so close to Rutgers Prep, he might be a good in-service presenter.

Scaling the AP Language Mountain: Managing the Paper Load for Rookie Rhetoricians The official program description:

Nothing overwhelms an AP English Language teacher more than the voluminous amount of required writing. Yet the number of papers that a student produces is not as important as the caliber of the writing: quality trumps quantity. In this session, participants learn tools, strategies, and tips designed to simplify and ease the assessment of writing in both traditional and block scheduling. Presenters help participants choose individual strategies for implementing best practices in the teaching and assessment of writing. Participants leave the workshop with ready-made concrete resources that can easily be incorporated in their own classrooms.

Presenters: Stacey Aronow, Souderton Area High School, PA (at Thursday's seminar? in my small group after lunch?) Sheryl Miller Hosey, Council Rock High School South, PA

HUGE green printed packet, including the complete power point; can also download PowerPoint at:

My response:

Stacey and Sheryl formed an excellent team. They provided an enormous booklet of handouts, offering a case study of their topic. I would say, in hindsight, that while their session did offer legitimate ways to be more efficient and use resources in a variety of ways, it was far more than that. They showed, both in the three dozen slides off of their PowerPoint (effectively used, with a print out of all the slides at the beginning of the booklet) how to balance quality with quantity in providing students with steady practice in strong writing, without spending every waking moment on it.

Their examples were loaded with A.P. English Language assignments, but also could apply to non-A.P. English assignments as well, whether it was creating seasonal poems using rhetorical devices, making "Shrinklits," or employing "visual rhetoric." They also had many standard expository writing topics, but often with suggests of streamlining the time spent or employing a long-range goal, as the school year progressed, towards increasing autonomy with their writers.

12:15-2:00 The Formal Lunch and
Plenary Session

Advised by a neighbor at the second morning workshop, I didn't have lunch with Liz as I had first planned, but instead attended the more formal, sit-down dinner in the Banquet Room of the third floor of the Moscone Center. Trevor Packer, the Vice-President of the Advanced Placement Program, gave the opening remarks. We enjoyed his several anecdotes about successes and failures of AP students, especially Scotty McCreery, the winner of the latest American Idol contest, who declined the standing offer to appear on the Jay Leno television show the following night because--wait for it--he had to take his AP English Language and Composition test the next day. The audience roared with approving laughter and applauded.

He then introduced Judy Woodruff, the 30-year Washington, D.C. correspondent and co-anchor of PBS evening news, who addressed the plenary session more formally. She started in a light humor, saying it was easy to escape Washington, D.C. this week, since "there was hardly anything going on,"

(alluding ironically to the raising of the national debt crisis), and noting "It doesn't take long to describe a temper tantrum or a lover's quarrel . . . The Democrats are like John Edwards, about to face a paternity suit."

She shifted into a more serious note, wondering, "Are We really governable?" and observing that in past administrations and Congresses, Democrats and Republicans would go at each other tooth and nail when debating legislation, but then Tip O'Neill would drop by the White House for a drink with Ronald Reagan, or chat with each other at D.C. restaurants in a civilized and friendly fashion. She cited four factors that have influenced this shift over the last decade or two, and that "demonizing opponents or not giving any ground makes for an extremist view." After quoting Secretary of Education Duncan's prediction that 80 per cent of the public schools won't make the "No Child Left Behind" deadline of qualifications, she felt that "Massive emphasis on testing has gotten out of whack," to more rousing applause from the crowd. She did conclude on a hopeful note, "I want to believe that Americans can come together to solve our problems," although as educators, we need to be aware and involved in the democratic process.

Speed-Dating Essays "An effective way to generate a thesis and topic sentences for essays" The official program description:

In this session, participants will learn about “speed-dating essays,” a fail-safe outlining method that prepares students for the high pressure of timed essays. Named after the dating system that involves a time-limited social interaction, this strategy develops the student's ability to focus thoughts quickly, an essential skill for the AP Language and Composition Exam and other high-stakes exams with essays. Participants learn and practice this technique, which helps students outline and organize their thoughts for an essay. Participants also learn techniques for critiquing student work.

Presenter: Carrielynn Haedtler, Santa Clara High, CA

My response:

I almost went to another session, because the title initially put me off, somehow, but I finally decided that the description was most appropriate for some of the nuts and bolts of writing a lot and writing under pressure that are an inherent part of the AP writing curriculum. The presenter displayed a wicked sense of humor, pushing her kids but also respecting them. She had a helpful packet of information and we also did a 5-10 minute simulation of her technique, on the topic: "Terminally ill people, with no hope of recovery and in pain, should be able to have assisted suicide. Write an essay where you support, dispute, or qualify the claim that physician assisted suicide should be legalized." (p. 3 of handout)

She doesn't grade these quick, pressure responses, but rather cultivates a group critiquing process that involves the class, first as partners, and then with the whole class. I liked her philosophy that "You have to be gentle, but honest" when giving feedback about organizing thoughts on paper, especially when generating under a timed period.

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