Day #39: Hamlet-The Literary Safety Net for AP Test Takers Everywhere

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 9.13.09 PMThe Advanced Placement English Literature exam is next week (5/8/14) and I have been absolutely, blatantly, and forcibly teaching to the test.

The students have written timed essays all last week using poetry and prose prompts released by the College Board.

Today we worked on Question #3: The Free Response Question. Students chose three works to prepare to answer ANY question. They took copious notes to prepare. Then, they tested the use of each text by considering several questions from years past:

2012: Choose a novel or play in which cultural, physical, or geographical surroundings shape psychological or moral traits in a character. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how surroundings affect this character and illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole.

2007: In many works of literature, past events can affect, positively or negatively, the present activities, attitudes, or values of a character. Choose a novel or play in which a character must contend with some aspect of the past, either personal or societal. Then write an essay in which you show how the character’s relationship to the past contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

1982: In great literature, no scene of violence exists for its own sake. Choose a work of literary merit that confronts the reader or audience with a scene or scenes of violence. In a well—organized essay, explain how the scene or scenes contribute to the meaning of the complete work.

What literature that the students read this year worked best for at least one of the questions? Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Bel Canto by Ann Pachett, Little Bee by Chris Cleve, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

What piece of literature worked for every question…as it does every year? Hamlet. William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet  is always the best option for the free response when a student does not know what piece of literature to use.

Hamlet...the safety net for AP test takers everywhere!




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