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OLD - AP English Research Guide: Assignment


Welcome to the Research Guide for Mr. Kaplan & Mr. Lee's AP English Language course. 

Summer Reading Assignment

Summer Reading Essay


Assignment – Write an exploratory essay that develops an original idea about the subject of your three summer reading texts that in some way relates to the overall question: What does it mean to be an American? 

It should engage in some way with all your summer reading texts (not necessarily including Eleanor & Park) as well as bring in ideas from other sources. This might mean personal anecdotes, stories currently or recently in the news, history, psychology, academic studies, or something else. This essay is not an analysis of your summer reading. It’s the exploration of an idea.

Length – 6-8 pages 

Due Dates – Rough draft: Thursday, Sept. 18; Final: Thursday, Oct. 2

(There will be other intermediate due dates.)

Organization – I’d like you to try one of the organizational models I’ll teach you during the unit – i.e., no 5-paragraph essays. (Don’t worry – you’ll understand this better as the unit goes on.)

Tone – The overall aim of this essay is serious, but I’d like to see some evidence of personal voice here. Some colloquial language is acceptable. Imagine the audience as newspaper or magazine readers – they expect you to make a point, but they don’t expect you to sound like you’re writing a formal thesis. They don’t necessarily have any specific knowledge about the topic, but they will stay interested as long as you can hold onto them. Write like YOU, not like you think your English teacher wants you to write.  (In this case, they’re one and the same).

Grading – See grading rubric for specifics


A – Essay uses lively language to develop a logical argument for an interesting, original idea.


B – Essay uses clear language to develop a logical argument for an original idea; either the use of language, the development of the argument, or the idea itself are not at an A level.


C – A serious flaw with the idea, its development, or the use of language. Essay has real potential but its flaw(s) prevent it from being completely successful.


D – The use of language, the logic of the argument, or the central idea is flawed enough to largely obscure the essay’s goals.

Student Name:                                                                      Reading Category:                             

Summer Reading Essay Rubric                                     Essay Title:                                         








Main idea


Essay focuses on a complex main idea and supports it with specific, detailed evidence; shows the writer understands nuances/subtext of question asked or passage asked to write about


Essay has a clear main idea that is supported with adequate evidence; shows writer understands main idea of question or passage

Main idea may be overly broad; evidence may be lacking; or focus on main idea inconsistent. Writer may not totally understand question or passage

Idea difficult to ascertain or woeful lack of evidence; writer misunderstands question or passage





Essay is organized in a way that adds to the content; intro establishes main idea and grabs attention; points in body build on each other; conclusion extends argument or explains its importance


Clear, logical organization

Organization gets in the way of content in some places

Organizational problems make essay hard to read

Word Choice



Word choices are precise, vivid, and clear




Word choices generally clear, could be more precise or vivid

Some vague word choices; writing needs to be more precise, vivid

Word choices often make meaning difficult to discern





Personality of writer is appropriate and evident from the essay

Personality of writers shows up occasionally; mostly appropriate


No personality shows up or is inappropriate

Writing problems make voice impossible to ascertain

Sentence Structure



Sentence choices are clear, varied, and complex




Sentences are clear, with room for either more variety or complexity

Sentences are in need of more complexity or variety

Sentences need both much more variety and much more complexity





Textual citations formatted correctly; few if any basic usage errors


A few errors in textual citation or basic usage

Errors in textual citation or usage get in reader’s way

Errors in textual citation or usage make meaning hard to discern



Summer Reading: Checklist for Rough Draft due 9.30.13




Uploaded to




At least one driving question, implicit or explicit. I should be able to tell soon after the opening (if not before) what you are trying to explore


Some discussion of each of you three Summer Reading books



At least one additional source – counterargument, current event, or complicating story - sourced, clearly articulated


A clear thesis, implicit or explicit. This doesn’t have to be a bold assertion, but I should know by the end what you are trying to say.


Some attempt to answer overarching question: What does it mean to be an American?



Contains no obvious unanswered questions




Contains an opening few paragraphs in which you lead into the topic in some way – where do you enter the conversation?


Paragraphs are arranged in a logical manner – I understand why each paragraph follows its antecedent


Contains mostly adequate transitions between ideas and paragraphs




Personality of the writer is appropriate to the assignment throughout

(“I” shows up when it should, essay is never too formal or informal)


Personality always adds to my engagement as a reader (never gets in the way or annoys me)



Quotations formatted, punctuated correctly



Contains no glaring grammatical errors



Draft is at least 80% of an acceptable final length



For the final essay, you will need to use MLA parenthetical citation and a Works Cited page. You don’t have to have that for this draft, but it wouldn’t hurt. 

You will also need more than your three Summer Reading books and one additional source. You don’t have to have that for this draft, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Next step: The first 750 words on your Summer Reading topic, sources, and how everything might fit with the question. Write this up for                          , put it in a separate Google doc in your shared Google folder, and give it the title “09.09.14.SR.First750Words” so I can see it when I open your folder.

This is a free-write, not even what any respectable writer would call a first draft. This assignment is called “the first 750 words…” not because it will be roughly the first few paragraphs of the essay. It has this title because this might be for some of you the first words you’ve ever tried to write on the subject matter.

This isn’t necessarily stream-of-consciousness, but it is more important that you get a lot of your ideas out there; don’t worry about it being pretty or terribly well-organized. In fact, at this point, I’m a little skeptical of well-organized thought because it might imply that you’ve made up your mind too early in the process. It should be designed for me to understand, but you shouldn’t worry about being artful. You are welcome to use first person (in fact, you should when relating a personal experience or what it is you think).

You should mention something about each of the three Summer Reading books you’ve read, some idea that’s stuck with you for better or worse. There’s no need to summarize the entire book: this isn’t a book report, and you aren’t trying to prove to me that you did the reading. Summary and context might play a part in your final draft, but this assignment is mostly for ideas.

A good place to begin writing is at the point you enter the issue. When you think of the ideas in your category, what’s the first thing that comes to mind: a story in the news? a personal experience? a statistic from one of your books? some detail you learned last year in History? What specifically do you think of, and why? Once you’ve set that out, then try to connect that to one of the books, and then the second book to something in the first book, and then the third to the second. Do not state a thesis in the opening paragraph to which you continue to refer back at the end of each subsequent paragraph.

If you’ve read anything else that applies to this topic – another book on the list, an additional shorter piece by one of these authors, a website or author you turn to often concerning this topic, something from another class, etc. – mention those here, and see if any have connections to ideas in other sources.


Other elements you will need to have in your final essay you might consider addressing here:


Counterargument  – If you have a belief or philosophy, what’s the counter to that? Don’t pick some whacky opinion. Choose one that is difficult for you to refute. If it isn’t hard, then why would it be worth your time?


Disagreement – If your sources clearly disagree about something, what is it? Try to set out the disagreement before weighing in. Fully consider each side. Then, if you feel so inclined, give your view with some support.


Complicating idea – Is there some situation that makes a theory tricky? It could come from the news or your experience, but it should be an actual event in which assumptions implicit in the theory seem to not be so.


Current event – Have you read of something in the last few months that raises questions about your topic? This could be world events, celebrity gossip, local procedures, etc. Supply several key details and explain.


Personal anecdote – What interaction have you had with this topic? If you are female, and you are close with at least one adult female, you and she must have common and different experiences. What are they? How does one inform the other. If you’ve never been around the kind of poverty described in one of your sources, that’s worth noting. If you are an immigrant or the child of immigrants, tell your family story.


It’s possible that your personal anecdote contains elements of the counterargument/complicating idea


The final draft will need to address the question: What does it mean to be an American? What do you make of that question? American citizenship is easy to define. To be American – in this place, at this time, with all these others who call themselves Americans, with our history – does that have any meaning at all? Do we have anything in common? What must we all come to terms with? What, in the context of your Summer Reading topic, is our shared reality?

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