HELPING AP LANGUAGE STUDENTS GAIN CONFIDENCE WRITING THE ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY

I have radically changed the way I prepare my students for the persuasive (now argumentative) essay section of the AP world language exam.
In the past I used to simply give them this section of a practice exam, follow the exact directions (as far as time) given by College Board and wait 40 minutes till they completed it. I was more focused on the “AP practice” and make it as realistic as I could, than scaffolding the whole process and helping them. I used to assume that just because they were enrolled in my AP class, they had the skill and confidence to perform well in this section of the exam.

The more I align my AP class with the Comprehensible Input filosophy, the more I realize that not because they are in a high level class that means that I should stop demonstrating and sharing language in a comprehensible way.

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So this is what I do now to help my students gain confidence when completing their persuasive (argumentative) essay:

1- I do not start officially working on persuasive essay until the beginning of second semester. Why? Because I use first semester to keep the excitement alive. Yes, we work hard but is not as focused in the AP format. I have noticed that since I started doing this, they are more willing to focus on AP format during the last months of the year.

2- Yes, we go over what a persuasive essay is, it´s parts and all the technical stuff.

3- I ask my students that once they read the essay’s topic (the prop) they need to write everything related to that topic that comes to their mind. I ask them to do this before starting reading the text or analyzing the graphic. This first brainstorm will become the basis to support their opinion. Sometimes our students struggle including their own voice in their essay.

4- The exam directions allow 6 minutes to read text and graphic. I allow my students 10 minutes and allow them to use dictionaries as well. This for the first 3 times we practice this section. What is class if an opportunity to practice and gain confidence? It is also proven that when you look up for words with a clear objective, you are more prone to remember them.

5- According to the exam directions, students are able to listen to the audio portion only twice. I allow three times and during the first one I stop (like in movie talk) and point at or discuss some parts. This allow them to listen with more confidence during the second and third time.

6- After listening to the audio I ask them to write the 3 main/big ideas that were presented. These big ideas become then the angular piece for them to identify the important aspects of this source. I give them THIS form.

7- During the first time we practice Persuasive Essay writing I only give them 20 minutes. I explain that there´s no need to rush, that I want to see how much they can accomplish in 20 minutes, and I clarify that this won’t be graded. This is helpful because then we can slowly start analyzing their intro and probably one or two body paragraphs, instead of asking them to complete and trying to analyze everything at once. It’s a slow process but worth the time investment.

8- I encourage you to slow down, yes even in the AP class. You will see that our students will be more motivated to continue the road of learning the second language after their AP exam, instead of finishing their second language acquisition right after they leave high school.

Please feel free to comment or ask any questions. Mean comments will be deleted.

@Copyright 2020 Diego Ojeda,  this material is intended for educational purposes and it’s free.  It is prohibited to profit from it in any way or form. For questions contact Diego Ojeda @ diego@srojeda.com

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6 Comments

  1. Gracias por compartir tus ideas Diego! Me ha caído como anillo al dedo tu publicación; tienes mucha razón hay que empezar de a poco. Qué tengas un lindo día 🇨🇴

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      1. Hola Monica. Ve a la página de inicio y en la parte de abajo dice : Sigue este blog por email. Saludos. Voy a poner un enlace en keel último post ensayo persuasivo. Mil gracias y un abrazo .

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  2. Hi! Thanks for sharing your strategies. In that same spirit, I’ll share 2 of my own. Instead of a dictionary I let my students ask me how to say anything. At the start it’s a ton (usually connectors like ‘however’ or ‘according to’) but after the 3rd essay they have very few questions. It takes away the fear of writing a big essay and builds useful vocabulary. Secondly when they do finally get to write a conclusion, ending with an ‘if/then’ sentence helps immensely.

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