Spring in AP English Language is always a little tricky. Stress levels rise among the students as the test looms, and they’re all desperately searching for the magical formula that will make it all click. It’s tough to keep them engaged in the hard work of revising and slowly improving their craft as writers when they want me to just tell them how to get a 5 already.
When I’m not working with those AP students in the afternoons, I’m working with struggling readers and writers as a literacy support coach. I experienced some similar frustrations–and the same desire for a magical formula– when working with some ninth graders on a recent argumentative essay.
In both cases, the students were frustrated with building arguments logically. They knew they had to address a counterargument, but they weren’t really sure what that entailed. They knew they had to support their claims with evidence, but they didn’t know how to order their different claims in a way that made sense. They knew some of the evidence was stronger than other pieces, but they couldn’t wrap their brains around how to weigh one piece of evidence against another.
As I worked with all of them, I realized I did have a magic formula.