Analytical Arguments: AP Language and Composition teaches students to persuade

AP Language and Composition students are learning how words are used to persuade and shape arguments - and how to form their own. 

The course covers nonfiction - memoirs, speeches, advertising - anything that tries to persuade, starting with a unit on rhetoric, rhetorical situations, claims, audience appeals, as well as nonfiction classics like Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”. Students learn how to analyze how such language is used, and make their own arguments. 

"Along with an intriguing reading list, AP Language and Composition offers students a chance to hone our skills in rhetoric and concise expression. I appreciate the opportunity to delve into current events and form my own informed opinions through discussion, while also using the current events as touchpoints to making connections to literature." - Meleyna (G11)

Learning to build an argument, students start by reading a passage and do timed rhetorical analysis. From there, students craft an argumentative essay of their own - choosing a topic, like capital punishment, teen crime, mental illness - making a claim, evaluating up to seven researched sources, synthesizing arguments from three to four of these and adding their own voice. 

The articles we’ve been reading are interesting because they talk about how the internet affects people nowadays, and every time I step out of the class I can see it happening in the real world,” said An (G11).

In class students also learn to debate each other in teams. Forming a literary circle, each student plays a role: moderator, archivist, lit critic, word and symbol watcher (lexicographers), psychologist. 

"I've always gone into an argument trying to prove the other person wrong and win. AP Language and Composition has taught me that arguing should be about compromising and reaching the best conclusion for everyone," said Vicky (G12).
"The essence of AP Language and Composition, as Dr. Nelson has often mentioned, is to argue without getting angry. So far, we have learned how to construct our own argument, using different pieces of evidence and appeals. More importantly, we learned the value of first listening and understanding the perspectives of others who might disagree. Through this technique, known as the Rogerian argument, we were able to reach common ground on certain issues and become more open-minded," said Davin (G12). 

Advanced Placement (AP) is a United States program created by the College Board which offers university-level curricula and examinations to high school students. The program is widely recognized by US universities as well as universities throughout the world. Most US universities grant placement and course credit to students who score a three to five on the examinations.

  • HS