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AP Language and Composition: Attacking the AP Synthesis Essay

Critical Learning Objectives being taught in this lesson:


SWBAT:
Cognitive (know/understand):
A. Students will know the components of an essay.
B. Students will know how to organize claims, reasons, and evidence to
effectively support a synthesis argument.
C. Students will know how to evaluate the written work of their peers.
D. Students will understand how an organized presentation of ideas and
information is valuable to supporting an audiences understanding.
Affective (feel/value) and/or Non-Cognitive:
E. Students will value their peers as partners in collaborative learning and as
sources of authentic feedback.
Performance (do):
F. Students will be able to converse and write effectively about their personal
processes of composition.
G. Students will be able to critique their peers understanding and application of
strong organizational writing skills.
H. Students will be able to apply the knowledge gained from self-reflection and
peer interactions to their own writing revisions.
SOLs:
11.5 The student will read and analyze a variety of nonfiction texts.
h) Generate and respond logically to literal, inferential, evaluative, synthesizing, and critical
thinking questions before, during, and after reading texts.
CCSs:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.A
Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish
the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically
sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
AP Language & Composition Objectives: [Not identified formally]
-Gain control over various reading and writing processes, with careful attention to inquiry
(research), rhetorical analysis and synthesis of sources, drafting, revising/rereading, editing, and
review. (A)
-Converse and write reflectively about personal processes of composition. (B)

Procedures/Instructional Strategies
[Note: Any words that represent what I would say directly to students appear in italics.]
Beginning Room Arrangement: 7, 4-desk pods situated around the room and loosely
oriented toward the front of the room.

[Changes in this arrangement that become necessary later will be noted in the plan]
Greet students as they enter the room. I will hand them a Peer Workshop sheet as they
enter the door.
Good afternoon, (greet students by name). I hope you all are having a great Thursday!
Please take a computer from the cart and take a look at the board for directions on what
to do as youre getting settled.
1. [ 5 mins.] Opening, Do Now
(Refer to the board with the Do Now directions.) Hello! Its great to see you all this
afternoon. Were going to be working on the second and final part of the Synthesis Essay
writing today, but you should take a second if you havent already to do the Do Now on
the board. Youll need a half sheet of paper, and please hold onto it for your Exit Slip at
the end of class.
(Read directions.)
Grab a laptop on your way in! (keep it closed)
THEN...On a half sheet of paper with your name please answer this question:
What do you struggle with or find challenging about the synthesis essay and the time
you have to do it in?
If you have finished jotting down your answers, please have your Peer Workshop form
ready and wait quietly. I hope that the Peer Workshop process today will help you work
on an area you would like to see improvement in and will make you feel more confident
in your revisions.
2. [ 2 mins.] Step 1: Agenda for the Day
(Change to agenda slide)
Agenda
1. Mini Lesson / Reminder of Structure
2. Essay Re-read
3. Peer Workshop / Discussion
4. Action Plan
5. Revision Time
Here is our agenda for the day. While youll spend most of the class period working with
a partner and taking a closer look at what youve written so far, I have it broken down
into smaller steps. First were going to review the key elements for balancing your ideas
and your evidence and support in order to create a logical argument. Then youll take
another look at your own paper before trading and reading a partners paper. The two of

you will debrief, and you will come up with a short plan for what you hope to improve for
your second draft, and Ill give you the end of the period to begin typing that draft on our
computers.
3. [ 20 mins.] Step 2: Mini Lesson and Reminder of Structure
Okay, before we get started with the Peer Workshop lets think about the important
components of a synthesis essay overall and what we need in our body paragraphs to
make them effective. Outside of just this class, some of you all have prior experience with
this with DBQs in AP History classes. What do you think are the ingredients for a strong
essay - both in the introduction and the body paragraphs?
(Write their responses on the board use feedback and loops to move toward keys to the
essay like a thesis, topic sentences, introduction to the evidence, evidence, and
commentary)
Awesome, these are all on target. Since what we are ultimately striving for is an 8 or a 9
on our essays, lets take a look at the language in the scoring rubric which can be found
on the back of your handout (highlight the bolded ideas):
All essays, even those scored 8 or 9, may contain occasional lapses in analysis, prose
style, or mechanics. Such features should enter into a holistic evaluation of an essays
overall quality. In no case should an essay with many distracting errors in grammar
and mechanics score higher than a 2.
________________________________________________________________________
8 Effective
Essays earning a score of 8 effectively evaluate whether college is worth its cost. They
develop their argument by effectively synthesizing* at least three of the sources. The
evidence and explanations used are appropriate and convincing, and the link between
the sources and the writers argument is strong. The prose demonstrates a consistent
ability to control a wide range of the elements of effective writing but is not
necessarily flawless.
9 Essays earning a score of 9 meet the criteria for the score of 8 and, in addition, are
especially sophisticated in their argument, thorough in development, or impressive
in their control of language.
So with these details in mind, we see how the graders dont expect your essays to be
perfect, but on a holistic level they should be free of many mistakes in mechanics.
Now lets look at a couple of sample responses to our prompt. Im going to read the first
two body paragraphs of one of the essays, I want you to look for and jot down these
elements weve talked about: where do you find the topic sentence, how well does the
writer use evidence, and is there commentary beyond just the evidence he or she brings
in?

(Bring up passage in Smart Notebook so I may read and highlight it.)


The largest motivator behind going or not going to college seems to be money. It is
commonly accepted that a college education results in better financial situations later in
life. It is certainly true that college grads earn, on average, 20,000 dollars more per year
than those with only a high school diploma (source F). It is also true that college grads
are less likely to be unemployed. (D) These statistics fail to impress critics. They argue
that those employed in sectors that do not require a college degree are less expendable.
The people that fix cars will always be needed, even during economic downturns. (A)
The debate over the actual value of a college education is often boiled down to dollars
and cents when, in reality the gains made through an education encompass so much more.
Putting aside the issue of money may seem counterintuitive when considering the worth
of an education, but it is necessary, there is more to life. A large part of college is
personal growth. (B) Coincidentally personal growth also plays a large role in perceived
quality of life. Taking this into consideration makes college into more than a machine
designed to increase an individuals level of monetary success. While some may claim
that those who work in fulfilling jobs that do not require degrees feel more content, (A) it
is impossible to ignore the way in which colleges, help students discover what they love
to do (B). Higher education can ultimately lead to a better emotional quality of life,
and this cannot be discounted when weighing the value furthering ones education.
What do you all notice about the information in this passage and how it is organized?
Paul, can you come up and highlight what you saw?
(The students should recognize that the paragraph begins with a topic sentence. Then
there is some sort of framing or introduction of the reason that previews the evidence, we
get the evidence, and finally there is some commentary from the writer in response to the
evidence. I will try to move them toward this understanding by taking a volunteer as a
model.)
Good observations. You noticed how the writer uses a logical, well-organized approach
to introduce ideas, provide supporting evidence, and then add their own commentary.
The writer doesnt just let the evidence speak for itself. Part of the essay, and where you
show your skills, is how well you incorporate the information from different sources and
interpret them in a way that is accurate and supports your argument. This essay scored
an 8.
For a quick point of reference, Im now going to read another students response:
Primarily, a college education is worth the cost because you will never find yourself
working in a fast food restaurant such as McDonalds or Burger King. However, many
people dont have a choice to work at fast food restaurants because they cant afford
college because their parents cant afford it. There are plethora ways, one can pay for
college! First of foremost, theres financial aid. ...once financial aid is taken into
account. Average net tuition and fees of public four-year colleges this past year were only

about $2,000. Many people are torturing themselves by coming retal salespeople, home
estate, plumbers, etc. because they cant afford college. Sure, they might look happy, but
are they really? Education helps people do higher-skilled work, get jobs with better
paying companies or open their own businesses (Source D). In the end, Education
provides happiness and successful.
Here we notice that there are several errors in mechanics, the evidence seems to be used
clumsily compared to the other passage, and the ideas do not seem as developed. While
me may be quick to criticize, it is important to note that when your time is limited on test
day, if we are not careful and dont proofread, it is reasonable that our essays can look a
lot like this one. This essay scored a 4.
4.

[17 mins.] Step 3: Peer Workshop

Okay, make sure your Peer Workshop sheet is in front of you. Im going to pair you
up for the most part with the person sitting next to you for this exercise. You will
revisit just the introduction and first body paragraph of your essay on your own
before the peer work begins.
A. Re-read (5 mins.)
With all of this in mind, youre going to take a look at your own essay, and you
should use least three different colored highlighters or colored pencils. I have
provided some for each table for you to share. (Change slide)
Self Reflection: Read your own essay and highlight/underline the following elements Color#1: Thesis statement in introduction
o Topic sentence of each body paragraph
Color #2: Reasons & evidence in first body paragraph
Color #3: Commentary in first body paragraph
As you read, you will use the three colors to highlight these pieces of information that
you should include. If you do not have them, it will become clear that you should include
them in your revision. Please shade the space next to each element on your worksheet so
you know which color corresponds to each piece. You have five minutes to do this.
(Set the timer.)
B. Trade / Peer Workshop Sheet (8 mins.)
Now youll trade your essay with your partner and also give them your sheet. Put your
name at the top of your partners sheet, and well talk about each section of the sheet.
Youll have 8 minutes to read your partners writing and respond to all of the elements
that are applicable. With some youll just check yes or no and others youll provide some
explanation. Remember, were just thinking about the intro and the first body paragraph
with this exercise.

(Quickly explain each part) (Change slide)


1. Does your partner have a thesis?
2. In the first body paragraph, is there a topic sentence, framing, support/evidence, and
commentary?
3. How would you evaluate the strength of the paragraph in support of their argument?
Explain.
4. Evaluate the complexity of their argument so far? Is it over-simplified or does it do a
good job of acknowledging potential disagreements with the claim?
5. Lastly, what is a strength you see in their writing and what is an area you see for
improvement?
If you finish all of the pieces of the Workshop sheet, go back and provide more depth to
your responses. I will give you a 2-minute warning on reading.
(Notify students when 2 minutes remain for them to read and fill out partners sheet.)
C. Review and Discuss (5 mins.)
Hand your partners paper and the Workshop sheet back to him or her, and you have
two minutes to look over your essay again and the feedback your partner gave you.
Pay particularly close attention to the part at the end in which your partner gave you
specific comments on a strength of your writing and an area to improve. Look at the
comments thoroughly, because after the time to re-read is up, you will briefly review
the feedback with your partner.
(Students read independently, and I encourage them to get the most out of the
discussion with their partner by being prepared to ask questions or seek clarification.)
Now decide who will go first, but youll spend four minutes together on both of your
essays and specifically discuss the overall critique at the end.
D. Action Plan (2 mins.)
Since you have had the chance to review your essay with your partner, I want you to
think about how you may edit and revise it with their feedback in mind. Take two minutes
to jot down a couple of ideas you have and want to put into action. Well share some of
these ideas as a class so you may hear what your classmates struggled with or succeeded
in and see if you may learn from them.
5. [2 mins.] Step 4: Class Discussion
Okay, what were areas of strength you noticed in your or your partners essay?
(Take about a minute to talk about strengths and see if students had some things in
common.)
Excellent, you all are demonstrating effective skills in observing each others work! What
about areas for improvement. What did you feel you could have done more effectively?

(Spend another minute discussing areas for growth so students may reflect on the process
and a goal they have for their revisions.)
6. [25 mins.] Revision Writing and Publishing
You all had some great ideas for improving your own writing, and I hope it was also
helpful to hear how other people are thinking about ways they can make their essay
stronger or more organized.
I am going to collect your first typed draft of this essay at the beginning of class
tomorrow, but because I know your time outside of school is valuable, I want to give you
the rest of time in class today to start typing. You should already have a computer from
the cart, and while I would encourage you to type in Google Docs, make sure you can
access your essay outside of school so you may finish it tonight. Ill stop us with about 5
minutes left for your Exit Slip. If you have headphones you may listen to music, but this
time is yours to be productive.
(Students should already have a computer on their desk to minimize the time they would
lose in having to get up again and get a laptop from the cart. They should have a good
start on revisions by the time they leave the class.)
7. Closure: Exit Slip [5 mins.]
I could tell some of you made a lot of progress by using this time wisely, but now were
going to wrap things up. On the back of the half sheet of paper you used for your Do
Now, respond to this question (Slide): Was this activity helpful in developing your
knowledge of ways you can make your writing stronger? Why or why not?

(Slide)
Due Friday:
Turn in typed, revised copy of your essay to be graded - do not spend more than 45
minutes at home!
Submit Peer Workshop sheet with your essay (so dont lose it!)
Please make sure youve logged out of your computers and put them back in the cart. On
your way out leave your Exit Slips on the laptop cart. Bring your typed revisions in
tomorrow, and have a great afternoon!
Methods of Assessment:
[How will you know if the intended learning occurred?] List all methods of assessment
used in this lesson or which are related to this lesson and come in a future lesson. After
each assessment, indicate in brackets the number(s) and letter(s) of the unit objective and
the related lesson objectives that the assessment is evaluating.

Diagnostic:
Do Now: Recognizing personal challenge with synthesis/essay writing or an area
in which they may improve
o KUD F, AP Obj. B
Formative:
Highlighting key components of their own essay organization
o KUDs A, B; SOL 11.5h; CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.A]

Evaluating peers use of organizational components and offering constructive


criticism
o KUDs B, C, D, E, F; AP Obj. B
Designing individual action plan as the first step in the revision process
o KUDs D, F, H; AP Obj. B

Summative:
Self-Reflection with activity on Exit Slip
o KUDs F, H; AP Obj. B
Revisions to synthesis essay (submitted during the following class period)
o KUDs A, B, H; SOL 11.5h; AP Obj. A; CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.1112.1.A

Differentiated Instruction to accommodate one or more of my students:


We do not have any students with IEPs, specific language needs, or learning disorders.
However, the emphasis on students opportunities to interpret scoring guidelines and to
offer and receive valuable, evidence-based feedback to each other empowers them to
reflect on their own writing and recognize areas for improvement and strategies they may
use in revisions. Mr. Eliason and I will also be available to lend additional support
independence and should they have any questions or concerns.

Materials Needed:

PowerPoint slides for reference throughout lesson (submitted to Chalk & Wire)
Smart Board to project and highlight synthesis passage
Peer Workshop Handout (x25)
Egg Timer
3 colored pencils or highlighters per student
Laptop cart (x30 computers)

Materials Appendix: (e.g., supplementary texts, Ppts, overheads, graphic


organizers, handouts, etc.)

A. Slides (submitted on Chalk & Wire)


B. Peer Workshop Handout and Reflection

Your Name:________________
Reviewer:______________
Synthesis Essay Peer Workshop
Self Reflection: Read your own essay and highlight/underline the following elements Color#1: Thesis statement in introduction
o Topic sentence in first body paragraph
Color #2: Reasons & evidence in first body paragraph
Color #3: Commentary in first body paragraph
Pass your paper to reviewer to read and complete checklist
____ Thesis: Evaluates whether college is worth its cost
1. Body Paragraph
____ Topic Sentence
____ Framing
____ Support
____ Commentary
Paragraph Strength: 1
2
3
(circle one)
Explanation (Do you get a sense of their argument? Use of convincing evidence?
Consistent control of language?)

4. Recognition of issues complexity:


1
2
3
Explain: (Does it acknowledge counterarguments in what you have read so far?)

Overall Critique (You will discuss with partner)


Area of Strength:

Potential for Improvement:

(Pass back to partner)

Authors Notes and Action Plan:

Scoring Guidelines:
All essays, even those scored 8 or 9, may contain occasional lapses in analysis, prose
style, or mechanics. Such features should enter into a holistic evaluation of an essays
overall quality. In no case should an essay with many distracting errors in grammar and
mechanics score higher than a 2.
________________________________________________________________________
_______________
8 Effective
Essays earning a score of 8 effectively evaluate whether college is worth its cost. They
develop their argument by effectively synthesizing* at least three of the sources. The
evidence and explanations used are appropriate and convincing, and the link between the
sources and the writers argument is strong. The prose demonstrates a consistent ability to
control a wide range of the elements of effective writing but is not necessarily flawless.
9 Essays earning a score of 9 meet the criteria for the score of 8 and, in addition, are
especially sophisticated in their argument, thorough in development, or impressive in
their control of language.