English department introduces new AP Literature subsections

This year, the English department has established new AP Literature subsections as more focused classes centered around four topics: The Study of Plot Structures, African American Literature, Drama, or Literature & Big Ideas. These subsections were introduced at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, during which students were able to enroll in their topic of choice for the 2018-2019 school year.

During the summer, students were required to read a specific book based on their class subsection: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte for The Study of Plot Structures, The Color Purple by Alice Walker for African American Literature, The Tempest by William Shakespeare for Drama, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston for Literature & Big Ideas. These sections were created with the goal of establishing a more authentic college course by focusing on a more specific subsection of literature.

“We wanted to make the class more than just the test,” English teacher Melissa Adams said. Adams currently teaches the AP Literature course for The Study of Plot Structures.

Adams detailed the process through which the subsections were decided. In an English department staff meeting, English Resource Teacher Daniel McKenna asked the teachers which courses they would want to teach if they could choose any subject within the realm of literature. The suggested ideas covered a range of ideas, including women’s literature, fantasy literature, even colonial and post colonial literature. These ideas were then narrowed down to just a few courses, which were then judged for student interest through a Google Forms survey given to students at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The top courses were sent to school counselors to be placed on the end-of-year course selection cards that all students received.

When asked about the courses that were cut out before the student interest survey, Adams explained that some subjects did not have enough approved books; for example, fantasy literature might have included books such as those from the Harry Potter series, but this book is not approved by Montgomery County Public Schools and cannot be used in the course. In addition, teachers had to evaluate which courses would be most useful for the AP Literature exam. The Harry Potter series and other fantasy books would not be as well-received on the exam compared to more classic literature.

Book choices also depended on the complexity of characters and themes, and Adams expressed her desire to include authors with more diverse backgrounds as well. She emphasized that a lot of consideration goes into student enjoyment of the books.

“I know the exam is very important, [but] for me personally, I’ve always wanted students to come out enjoying literature. I hope students will come out seeing that literature is always evolving.”

Adams noted that the skills students are meant to acquire in this course include theme analysis, written and verbal argument, and language analysis. The implementation of these new AP Literature subsections has allowed teachers the freedom to plan their class and play to their own strengths, while still ensuring that students gain these necessary skills to succeed in both the class and the AP Literature exam.

“I love teaching the class, and I hope the students enjoy it. We try to make it enjoyable as well as interesting.” Adams characterized the class as one that can be taken by even students that have not taken AP Language and Composition, and encourages students to enroll if they are interested.