Though AP classes are not GT specific, they serve many GT students and teachers due to the flexibility allowed by the College Board. We have a great deal of freedom to teach in any way we like as long as all the bases are being covere, including writing.
Writing is one of the most essential skills to acquire for college bound students.
It is especially important that they are able to write across content areas. Unfortunately, most students don’t get enough practice writing in other content areas. However, as teachers we know that students are most responsive when we focus on topics that they are passionate about.
Ideally, your district aligns English I and English II with the AP Language course so that when students enter the class they already have a strong writing foundation to build on. You can read more about English I and II with AP Language for gifted students in this article.
In this training, our example will focus on American History as a central theme.
The focal point is “Who speaks for America?” Who speaks for us now? Who has spoken for us over our history?
The entire class revolves around the three themes within this greater theme and then supported by many pieces of modern and historical literature, speeches and essays. The three themes include:
John Winthrop’s City on a Hill
The American Dream
The first unit of this course focuses on the foundations of the United States and we examine and discuss questions by studying public speeches and personal correspondence of past/present important American figures with an emphasis on rhetorical analysis. Students also examine the importance of protest and dissent and it’s role in representing the American voice.
They are taught to avoid bad writing practices like including “the fact that” or “this shows that” unnecessarily in their writing or filling it with “stuff and fluff” or extraneous, intellectual sounding synonyms that don’t add any value to their piece.
Later in the course students also study themes such as the transcendentalism found in Thereau, environmentalism, the individual vs. society, government, individual privacy, socialization, self-reflection, self-aggrandizement, opposition, etc. about which they create synthesis essays or arguments and figures of importance such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King.
Students can be very passionate about some of these issues and when their work reflects this passion it can be educational to them to assign a second piece that argues the opposite point of view and only grade that second piece. This is useful in helping them acquire perspective and stretch their writing abilities.
Throughout the year students do a variety of writing exercises such as:
Learning about the rhetorical triangle which is manipulated from all angles by shifting around the persona or the speaker,
Writing letters addressed to a particular audience and then responding to them as that audience
Writing a “chapter” about their own American Dream.
Sometimes it is helpful to give the kids a little template to get them started if they are struggling with a piece. This gives them some security without being formulaic.
The class is not only focused on writing. Students are also required to give speeches, sometimes dressing up as the characters from their reading, as well as courtroom persuasive speeches to build their public speaking skills.
During this time of their lives, students are beginning to grow and mature into adults. Gifted students may need to abandon childish dreams. But it’s also a time for them to be more grounded as they enter the adult world.
The material in the course AP Language, You Bet It’s GT goes into further detail and provides written examples you can implement in your classroom immediately. Through this course, you will help cultivate the essential writing and critical thinking skills gifted students need to successfully transition during this critical time in their development.