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Using Teaching Ideas in Advanced Placement®

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This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.

I always imagined that the audience for Teaching Ideas would be exclusively Advanced Placement® English teachers. So when I was asked to share information about AP® English to two audiences who were not AP® teachers, I was surprised at how easy it was to incorporate the DVD into the presentations.

Session #1:
Audience: Building and District Administrators
Time: 40 minutes
Purpose: To Introduce AP® English

The first session I did with Teaching Ideas was last year in response to one of those last-minute requests: Can you talk about AP® for thirty minutes to a group of administrators, and can you do it today? Struggling for ideas and with the copier in my building broken again, I was fortunate to have had some clips from the then-unreleased film loaded on my laptop. Here’s what I did:

1. Because building administrators are notoriously late for meetings, I had copies of sections from a recent College Board study comparing the experiences of AP® and non-AP® students in college available to those who arrived on time.

2. I started the session by having them write a response to these opening questions: What do you know about AP® English? What questions do you have? And why would you want your students to take AP® English?

3. Then, I played the Introductions to each of the four chapters of Teaching Ideas, and in between each one, I stopped the DVD and asked them to discuss with a partner what they learned and what further questions they have. For your planning purposes, the running times for each Introduction are:

    • Introduction to AP®: 4 minutes
    • Introduction to AP® Language: 3 minutes
    • Introduction to AP® Literature: 3 minutes
    • Introduction to AP Exams: 6 minutes

4. After we finished with the introductions and discussions, I asked them to respond and share their thoughts on these questions:

    • What do your teachers and students need in order to have a successful AP® English program?
    • What are some of the difficulties that you and your school might face as you implement an AP® English program?
    • Describe the teaching and learning environment that you hope to see in the AP® English classrooms in your building.

The session was successful, I think, because the administrators had a chance to hear directly from the AP® teachers in the film about the excitement and the challenges that the courses create. They still had a number of questions that the video did not answer, but we had a good discussion, and I directed them to explore the administrative resources available on AP® Central.

Session #2:
Audience: Ninth and tenth grade English teachers
Time: 60 minutes
Purpose: To Introduce and Practice AP® English Strategies

Luckily, for the second session, I had a lot more advance notice, so I was able to plan more ahead of time. Whenever I have time to plan a workshop, I try to consider the National Staff Development Council’s standards and think about how this opportunity:

  • Uses learning strategies appropriate to the intended goal.
  • Applies knowledge about human learning and change.
  • Provides educators with the knowledge and skills to collaborate.

Having sat through fifteen years of staff meetings and untold workshops unrelated to my practice, I know that a professional development experience for teachers has to be practical and immediate, so I asked teachers to bring copies of their textbooks or an upcoming novel or two.

Since the main idea of this workshop was to have Pre-AP® teachers learn and practice strategies that are commonly found in the AP® English classes, I decided to use the Browse by Activity feature of the DVD that is accessed through the Additional Resources menu. I displayed the Browse by Activity menu and asked the participants to rate their knowledge and use of the various key AP® strategies listed on the menu:


It didn’t take us long to identify the 4-5 strategies with which the participants were least familiar. The format of the workshop was the following:

1. Play the clip of the strategy or activity (most are only about 1-2 minutes)

2. Allow 5-10 minutes for teachers to look through their materials and describe how they would use this strategy with a text they are planning on teaching. Ideally, teachers would be able to use this time to plan the activity with a colleague.

3. Share the application of the strategy with the large group.

In the hour that we had together, our group was able to go through this process with: Cloze Technique, Graff Templates, Levels of Questions, and SOAPS with about 15 minutes per strategy. Each participant left the session with four applications of these common AP® strategies for their own classrooms, as well as an opportunity to hear how their colleagues will use the strategies as well.

Some of the teachers stuck around for a little while after and wanted to look at the other menus on the DVD, so I showed them the Video Glossary and we talked about what terms they teach or do not yet teach their 9th and 10th grade students:


We didn’t take a lot of time with this, but we did look at the Rhetorical Triangle and Ethos, Logos, Pathos sections, which was new information for most of the teachers there. I imagine, though, that this Video Glossary page could be the basis of an entire workshop modeled on the approach I took with the Browse by Activity page. Hmmm. That will be a good thing, I think, for when I get that call asking if I can do a workshop ….this afternoon!


Teaching Ideas is a powerful new professional development tool only from Bedford/St. Martin’s. This easy-to-use DVD offers a full four hours of strategies, lesson plans, advice, and anecdotes from the most trusted names in AP® English Literature and AP® English Language.

To find out more visit our online catalog.

®AP is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.