Discussions: A Necessary Evil & Amazing Resource

Classroom discussions are a staple of AP Lit. Socratic seminars, small group discussions, teacher-led talks, any way to talk about your ideas with your peers you can imagine. It may sound pretty pointless, since there is no oral portion of the AP test you have to prepare for. But, it can really help you bring your analysis to the next level. Trust me – you will need to master the classroom discussion to master AP Lit.

The first thing you need to do to in order to master class discussions is to speak at least once in every single discussion. This can be as simple as saying, “Hey I don’t really understand what happened on page X, can someone explain that to me?” but your teacher will start expecting more as the year goes on. To meet your teacher’s standards, you could start changing from asking comprehension questions, to answering others’ comprehension questions, to asking interpretive questions (“I feel like this is a symbol, but I’m not sure what it means? Can anyone tell me?”), and finishing by analyzing the novel in response to another’s interpretive question.

It may sound simpler to just sit back and let your classmates throw their ideas around for you to take notes on, but that will not help your grade or your mastery of analysis. If you can learn to analyze on the spot, forming very creative Abstracts comes much easier to you and you can do so more quickly. And the faster you can come up with Abstracts, the more time you have to figure out how to write them down.

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. This is a staple of literary analysis – it’s never, never, NEVER “too much” analysis. This is so important I’ve created a whole other post on this.

Take notes. Always have a blank sheet of paper out and keep notes on anything interesting anyone says. The notes don’t have to be some enormous, tiny-print-filling-the-entire-page thing. Just jot down the key points. It can really help you in your essay if you look over your notes right before an in-class essay, or just as notes to refer back to for take-home ones. You could be totally stuck and then think, “Hey! So-and-so had a really cool point about this” and overcome your writer’s block by borrowing that idea (but finding a different Abstract or F/Acts to link to the Abstract).

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Summer reading, while annoying and generally the bane of all students-enjoying-their-well-deserved-vacation’s existence, is still important. Not because the book will change your life, but because the first couple weeks of school (not counting the arbitrary getting-to-know-you first day) center around it. Make sure you know what your summer reading is, read it, and remember enough of it to get by.