AP Summer Homework 2014

The AP English Language Summer Homework Assignment 2014

Academic writing, reading, and inquiry are inseparably linked; and all three are learned by not doing any one alone, but by doing them all at the same time.  —James Reither


Quick Homework Summary

Read 3 Books

  • Core Texts:
    • Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
    • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  • Only One:
    • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain, Nicholas Carr (A-M)
    • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better, Clive Thompson (N-Z)

Create a notebook, and write a bunch in the notebook; write on the blog:

Traditional Notebooks:

  • Chapter Analysis for Postman
  • Prereading/Reading/Postreading Chapter Tasks for Carr/Thompson
  • Seven analytical essays for Huxley


  • Pursue themes and questions raised by summer homework
  • Respond to Fletcher’s posts when requested to do so (SUBJECT LINE will clearly indicate which these are, no more than four)

Welcome to the Class of 2016 (aka Class of 2020),  born in 1998 or 1999 — Among the Last of the 20th Century Kids

Your ticket to a seat in AP English Language and Composition is the successful and timely completion of the following summer homework assignment:

  1. Create a writer’s notebook.
  2. Read three books; write in response
  3. Contribute to the summer homework blog:  at minimum, start four threads, comment on eight
  4. Respond to articles and questions posted on the blog by your teacher (4 or fewer)

That’s it!  Your notebooks are due in to me by 3:00 p.m. on August 21, and your blog participation is ongoing until midnight of the same day.  I will not accept notebooks after 3:00 p.m. on August 21 unless you have a legitimate reason and you have cleared a new deadline with me in advance.

Students who do not complete the summer homework are transferred to College Prep Junior English during the week of August 25.  If, during the summer, you realize that you would prefer to be in College Prep English, simply send me an email and I will see to it that you are transferred.

IMPORTANT!  PLEASE READ AND UNDERSTAND:  If your summer homework does not demonstrate the appropriate level of thought, care, or effort for successful completion of an AP class, or if it is incomplete, I reserve the right to transfer you out of the AP class, depending on available seats.

Explanation of Assignments

Part I:  Create Writer’s Notebook

  • The writer’s notebook is an important part of our year together; it is created during the summer.
  • The requirements for the notebook are specific:
  • Three subject,college ruled, spiral bound, and sturdy; buy a high quality notebook, as it must withstand a year of heavy use.  Don’t buy a gigantic five-subject one, since you’ll be carrying it to class every day next year, or I will be carrying it home in a big bag to read/grade.  Make sure the pages don’t fall out easily. Make sure the wire spiral won’t smash flat and stab me.  If your notebook makes me bleed, we will have words.
  • If decorating notebooks to personalize them makes you happy, please feel free to decorate your notebook.  It is not required; however, if you do decorate, I must insist that you avoid feathers and glitter and those cushy 3D stickers.  
  • What is required:  write your full name in bold letters using dark Sharpie on the outside back cover.  (I have never had 100% of incoming students follow this simple requirement.  Let’s go for 100% this year.)
  • Please write in dark ink (blue or black), and write on both sides of the page.  Do not use an ink pen that “bleeds through.”  Sharpies, bad.  Ballpoint ink, good.
  • Word-processed work will not be accepted.
  • ALL SUMMER HOMEWORK goes into Section 1.

Part II:  Read three books.  Write.

The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading…is indistinguishable from deep thinking.  ~excerpted from “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr

For AP English this summer, you’ll read two nonfiction texts, and one novel — (a total of three books, for those of you who are challenged by narrative math).  I recommend that you read the two nonfiction texts first, and save Brave New World for dessert.   It’s the weirdest.

[INSERT FLETCHER LECTURE HERE]:  Nonfiction texts require a different style of reading than what you may be used to when reading narrative fiction.  In nonfiction, you must slow down, annotate, and attend to HOW ideas and arguments develop over time, and build upon one another.  You must read these books — actually, all texts that you hope to understand well — actively.  That is, you should sit up in a chair, and turn off your phone and your MP3 player, and avoid your computer or any device that dings, beeps, buzzes, trills, or sings when an incoming message arrives.  And read with a pencil in your hand.  Make notes.  Track your thinking.  Notice where you get lost.  Notice where you lose focus.  It happens to everyone.  The difference between successful readers and unsuccessful readers is simple:  successful readers track their own comprehension and thinking, go back when they get lost, and stick with it.  They are actively thinking as they read, not merely passing their eyes over words.  If you cannot think and engage your own mind as you read, your intellectual growth will be severely hampered.

TEXT #1:

Postman, Neil.  Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.  New York: Penguin (USA), 1985. Print.

This book has legs.  (That means it continues to be of interest.)  Published in 1985 (10 years before the internet browser was widely available), it surveys and analyzes the effects of television on various forms of public discourse: news, religion, political discussion and campaigning, and education. Postman notes that television’s contribution to educational philosophy is the idea that teaching and entertainment are inseparable — an idea he finds lethal to students’ ability to develop critical thinking.

When reading this book, I want you to slow down, and develop the patience it requires to read, absorb, and assimilate a new idea.  Postman writes very clearly; however, his ideas are dense and may be unfamiliar.  You cannot whip through this book.  You are going to have to read slowly, stop, reflect, go back, re-read.  This kind of close, reflective reading is essential for success in AP Language and in college.

In your notebooks, I want you to write three sentences for each chapter (there are eleven) that encapsulate Postman’s main point for that chapter.   What is his thesis? What kind of evidence does he use to support his claim? In other words, you need to practice writing ACADEMIC SUMMARY.  Writing academic summary is a skill to develop and practice — focus on big ideas, main points, important cause and effect relationships; write in clean, clear, well-constructed sentences. No fluffy stuff.  No “Basically, what Postman is trying to say,” introductions.  Just get to it.

TEXT #2:

If your last name begins with the letters A-M, you will read

Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print

If your last name begins with the letters N-Z, you will read

Thompson, Clive. Smarter than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better. New York: Penguin (USA), 2013. Print.

If you are burning up to read the other book — the one not assigned to you — email me and convince me to let you switch.  My suggestion to you will probably be to just read both.  Why not?  Go nuts.

In your notebook, please go through the following procedure, outlining each part so I can follow your reading process.  Put together this section of your notebook carefully; following this process will assist you in navigating and following a lengthy complex text, and will enable me to evaluate your work.


1)     Look at the cover, title, author’s notes, blurbs and reviews – anything you can learn about the book before reading.  Look up the author online.  There are interviews and reviews of both books; and plenty of resources online to help you get a feel for these books.

2)     Is there a Foreward, a Prelude, an Introduction?  Is there an Epilogue?  An Afterword?  Notes?  Glossaries?  Should you read these?  If so, when?

3)     Study the structure of the book.  How is it organized?  How long are the chapters?

You can only do Prereading 1-3 once.  It doesn’t make sense to repeatedly go through 1-3, whereas I want you to do 4 & 5 for every chapter.

4)     Before reading a chapter, flip through the chapter and skim the content.  Look for key words that jump out at you.  What is the typography like?  Examine the surface features of the text, including subheads, graphs, illustrations.

5)     Set up a system for keeping track of unfamiliar vocabulary.  I like to use a post-it note when I’m reading a paper copy; I highlight unfamiliar words when I’m using my Nook.


1)     As you read each chapter, write down 2-3 questions that you’d like an answer to, or questions that you’d like to discuss with someone else later.

2)     Write down 2-3 unfamiliar vocabulary words.

3)     Write down 1-2 sentences from the chapter that strikes you in some way.  Here are some reasons a sentence may be worth copying down:

a)      It is beautiful, or true, or false, or confusing, or depressing.

b)     The sentence structure is remarkable (worth talking about).

c)      The word choices are surprising or fresh.

(I like students to copy down great sentences because I want you to start noticing what makes a sentence great.)


1)     Write a brief summary of the chapter; pretend you are describing the main idea of the chapter to someone who has never read this text before.  Your summary can be no more than five clean, clear American sentences.

2)     Write a Tweet (140 characters) response to the chapter; say something short to a vast invisible audience that captures the gist of the chapter.

3)     Look back at your questions from pre-reading.  Answer or revise one of your own questions.


Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1998, ©1932.

Consistently listed as one of the top ten novels of the 20th century, Brave New World is a science fiction classic; like most science fiction, it creates a world that challenges us to reconsider our own world anew.

When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1932, he lived in a world where there was no pervasive culture of advertising, no widespread use of antidepressants, not a hint of cloning, or a whisper of genetic manipulation. Somehow Aldous Huxley foresaw that the future of humanity would lie down the path of technology and media. His guesses proved to be chillingly accurate. What was the most outrageous science fiction in 1934 remains a compelling examination of issues that fill the pages of our news magazines…The questions of government control, media manipulation, and status remain unresolved. Do we have Alphas and Epsilons in our society? Have we found a drug like soma to help us avoid negative thinking? Have our governments figured out ways to keep us passive? Brave New World takes a bold, disturbing look at what it means to be human in a world gripped by technological change and the manipulation of the media. It is one of the most potent combinations of a good read and a disturbing, thought provoking statement that I know.       —Robert Berring, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley



You must write, in your notebook and in longhand (cursive or print), seven responses of no fewer than 400 words each.  Please use the numbered prompts below.

NOTE:  An effective critical response generally has a few key features: rigorous attention to the text, an interpretation of the work, and a convincing argument for that interpretation.  Writers argue for their interpretation not so much to convince readers to adopt it, but rather to convince them that the idea is reasonable and based on imaginative, thoughtful analysis of the work. They must demonstrate to reader how they “read” the work, pointing out specific details and explaining what they think these details mean.  Feel free to apply the ideas of Huxley’s invented world to the one you know today.

Part 1 – Chapters 1-6 – The World State

  1. Discuss the World State’s conditioning of Delta babies to be afraid of books and roses.  What do you make of this?
  2. What is the role of consumption in the World State?
  3. What is taught in Elementary Class Consciousness?  Do we have a similar course in our education system?
  4. What is the role of women in the World State?

Part 2 – Chapters 7-9 — the Reservation

  1. In your notebook, write up a description comparing life in the World State to life on the Reservation.  Then analyze what Huxley doing here.  What is he up to? Why create these two environments?  (*You may want to heed my earlier advice and wait and write this part after you have a sense of the entire book.)

Part 3 — Chapters 10-18 – The Savage in Civilization

After 9 chapters of careful set up, this is the section where Huxley explores some of his biggest themes.

The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning has decided to get rid of Bernard, and says,

“The greater a man’s talents, the greater his power to lead astray.  It is better that one should suffer than that many should be corrupted.  Consider the matter dispassionately, Mr. Foster, and you will see that no offense is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behavior.  Murder kills only one individual — and after all, what is an individual?” With a sweeping gesture he indicated the rows of microscopes, the test tubes, the incubators.  “We can make a new one with the greatest of ease — as many as we like.  Unorthodoxy threatens more that life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself” (148).

  1. Consider what the Director means by “unorthodoxy.”  Is this true? Do you agree?  Is Bernard guilty of unorthodox behavior?  Is Bernard an enemy of the World State? Is society more important than the individual?  As you explain your position, be sure to cite evidence for your reasoning from the text, or from your observations of contemporary life.
  2. Mond says that sacrificing real feelings and emotional attachments is the price the society has to pay for stability.  Considering our volatile and violent world, do you agree that this may be a price worth paying?  As you explain your position, be sure to cite evidence for your reasoning from the text, or from your observations of contemporary life.


Part IV:  Blog

This is our blog.

You will become a blogger this summer. Writing for an authentic audience with expectations is excellent practice for writers and thinkers.  You must be clear; you must discuss things that merit discussion; you must make sense. If you cannot write clearly, no one will really be able to respond to you.  When you cannot make yourself understood, you are effectively silenced, no longer a part of the ongoing conversation and exchange in the world of ideas.

“If thought corrupts language, then language can also corrupt thought.”  — George Orwell

(Think about that.)

The basic ground rules:

  1. You must email me first so that I can clear your participation on this semi-closed blog:  afletcher[at]busd.k12.ca.us.  Remember to use academic register, your best grammar, and good manners when emailing me.  (Use the “@” sign in the email address as you would normally.  I use the word “at” in place of the “at sign” to try and fool the scanning spam-bots.)
  2. You will need to create a Google account.  It’s easy and free.  I suggest that you create an email address that is simple and professional; standard on most college campuses and in corporate settings is your first initial, followed by your last name: You must sign each post with your real name.  I cannot grade or respond to crzysrferchick88, flatworlder3876 or any such moniker.
  3. Absolutely, positively no flaming.  You may question one another, ask for clarification, admit that you don’t understand what somebody is talking about, add a point that you believe somebody has missed, but you mustNOT attack people.  Challenge ideas, ask for clarity, but do not bash one another.  If I have to censor you for this, expect one warning; the second time, your access to the blog will be blocked and I’ll simply enter a zero for this part of the assignment.
  4. Please do not waste our time or bandwidth with “Me too!” and “I agree with you!” responses.  Such posts are ANNOYING.  If you agree or disagree, EXPLAIN yourself.

Start Four Conversations

You must write four posts — that is, you have to originate four conversations. When you post, refer directly to what you are reading and the question you want to raise.  Because our book paginations may be different, cite the chapter and whether the passage you are looking at is at the beginning, middle or end of the chapter.  Give us enough information so we can orient ourselves and figure out what you are looking at.  Use your questions from Postman, or use a passage in Huxley.  (Believe me, once you start paying attention, modern media provides you with plenty to critique and think about.  After you have written your thread, but before you post, write a terse, descriptive subject line.

These conversation starters should be at minimum 150 words long.  Anything shorter will not be effective.  For example, these two paragraphs explaining that you must start four threads are 199 words long.

Respond to Eight Conversations

You must respond to other writers at least eight times.  You may also respond to a response.  I expect some conversations will become quite lengthy.  Your responses should also be complete thoughts, fully explained.  I don’t want to get all nit-picky on word counts; just don’t go overboard (rambling is never a good idea), and make sure you say enough to make a point.

These recommendations are on the low side.  You can definitely participate more than this.  I’d like to see you involved over a course of several weeks; all twelve responses posted in any one week subverts the spirit of open discussion, so will receive half credit – the grade earned x 50%.  I’ve had people post everything in one day.  That is not blogging; that is procrastinating and cramming.  Anything posted after midnight on Thursday, August 21 will not be considered for summer homework credit.

So, take some well-deserved time off, but try and get into it by July, and use all the time we have. We have 10 weeks; don’t jam the work into one week. Good writing comes from a thoughtful place; poor writing is almost always superficial because it is rushed.

Let’s see a lively exchange of ideas!  If you are confused, go to your classmates for help.  If you see something on television or in the newspaper that relates to what we are working on, share it.  And watch for my posts — when I see something that I want to share with you, I go to the blog with it.

The only way to post is to email me first so that I can add you to the list of participants.  This is a “semi-closed” blog; anyone can read (invite your grandma!), but only invited guests can post.


That’s it! 🙂

Fun Facts

  • I’m going to teach you to be a mature and disciplined reader.
  • I only accept notebooks written in longhand, and in black or blue ink only.
  • Word processed work is never accepted for summer homework.
  • If you finish the blog requirements early, be sure to check in from time to time, because I write to the blog all summer long and will explain, introduce, and discuss ideas with you.
  • I answer all email quickly, and you can keep track of me by reading the blog; if I leave the blog for a brief vacation, I will let you know when I will be back.
  • I expect all of your email to me to feature correctly-written English sentences and excellent etiquette.  Email is no joke.  People lose their jobs because their emails are tone deaf or rude.

Feel free to email me with questions or problems; that’s what I’m here for.  I honestly don’t mind; however, I may redirect many of your questions back to the blog.  Meanwhile, have a thought provoking summer full of family, friends and extra sleep, and I’ll see you in September, ready to go.


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