Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interview with Prestwick House AP Language and Composition Author, Douglas Grudzina

In the coming weeks, Prestwick House will debut our newest title, Prestwick House AP Language and Composition. Author and former AP teacher, Douglas Grudzina, has agreed to speak about his experiences in writing this unique guide that will help you teach your students to effectively read and analyze unfamiliar texts, while also introducing them to the literature most likely to appear on the exam.

How does this approach to AP prep and teaching writing differ from other programs?

Most Advanced Placement prep books (at least in English) are pretty generic. The focus of the AP exam is skills rather than specific knowledge, so most AP books are designed as supplemental materials, not core curriculum. However, the teacher of an Advanced Placement class is still accountable to the school and district’s curriculum and to state and national standards.

Prestwick House AP English Language and Composition is unique in that, while teaching students how to analyze the elements and devices of language assumed by the College Board, it provides them many of the full-length nonfiction essays, letters, speeches, and so on, that their curricula and standards require them to read.

In short, this is a nonfiction literature book as much as an Advanced Placement prep book.

What are some of the full-length nonfiction selections included?

The carefully-chosen selections include Martin Luther King’s “Letter Written from Birmingham Jail,” two of Winston Churchill’s most famous speeches from World War II, several of the Federalist Papers by John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, and a number of speeches by Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, and Barack Obama.

What sorts of examples and exercises are included in the text?

I love the format of this book because it is so user-friendly and student-centered. For every chapter—each chapter focuses on analyzing a different element of language—there is a little direct instruction, explanation, and definition of the element, its use and importance. Then there is a passage that is annotated to point out how the particular element is being used. Five AP-like multiple-choice questions follow. The answers to these are revealed so the student can see how the material from the passage might appear on an AP exam. We then provide the student with AP-style answers and explanations for those multiple-choice questions. Finally, this section of each chapter ends with an AP-style writing prompt and a model student essay.

After this model, there is an exercise that includes another passage—not annotated—multiple-choice questions that the student must answer, and a writing prompt for the student to respond to.

Everything this exercise expects of the student, however, has been modeled and explained.

Is there a teacher’s guide to accompany the student books? What additional materials are included?

One of the appendices includes an answer key to all of the multiple-choice questions in all of the exercises. Therefore, there really is no need for a teacher’s edition. At some point, however, we may decide to issue a book with more models and exercises.

You mentioned “appendices.” What material is covered in these?

The book has two appendices. The second is, as mentioned above, an answer key to the multiple-choice questions in the exercises. The first is a glossary of terms: names, definitions, and examples of the most common literary and rhetorical devices as well as the logical fallacies and techniques of propaganda that the student encounters in the book and must be prepared to deal with in his or her analysis.

Is the new “Synthesis Essay” portion of the AP exam covered in this book?

Absolutely. This is a new and essential feature of the AP exam, and we would be remiss if we did not include it. Prestwick House AP English Language and Composition contains two annotated models with student essays and two exercises. Models and exercises include text, graphic, and pictorial documents for the students to read and glean information from for their synthesis.

How do you envision teachers using this book in their classrooms?

My first priority in designing this book was to create something that the AP English language and composition teacher could use as a core text. The AP teacher is always in the unique and stressful position of having to teach the curriculum and prepare his or her students for the AP exam. Most AP prep materials are, at best, supplemental, and the teacher must devise ways to tailor the curriculum to address AP skills and adapt the generic AP materials to support the curriculum. Because so many of the selections in this book are full-length and were chosen because of their appearance on such reading lists as the new Common Core State Standards lists of illustrative texts—this book can be the core nonfiction literature text of the course with the AP prep material built right in.

What level of student is this book appropriate for?

First and foremost, this book is designed for the student who intends to take the Advanced Placement Exam in English Language and Composition. Most schools that I am familiar with offer this course in the eleventh grade.

Again, however, due to the nature of the selections and model of instruction (especially the annotation and the answers and explanations), this book can be used with any on-or-above-grade-level students in grades 10 - 12.

What was your favorite part of the book to write?

I think more than having a “favorite part” to write, the part of the process (or the consequence of the process) that I enjoyed most was having the opportunity to examine the annotated passages closely enough to annotate them and then develop the multiple-choice and free response items based on them. It was fascinating really examining these passages—many of which I’d been familiar for years—from the standpoint of how they were constructed, what the author’s intent was in doing it “this way,” and so on.

The glossary was fun to write, too. Especially making up the examples.

What new projects are around the corner for Prestwick House?

We’re all pretty excited to be unveiling our new line: Levels of Understanding, Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Explore Literature. Right now we’ve got writers working to prepare the first 10 title-specific units for their premier in our January 2011 catalogue.

There’s also been some scuttlebutt about developing a PowerPoint Presentation based on our very popular Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers.

There’s always something cooking in the Prestwick House kitchens!


Future Related Posts:

  • What are Teacher Reviewers Saying About Prestwick House AP Language and Composition?
  • FAQs for Prestwick House AP Language and Composition

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