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Unveiling AP Seminar

Posted 05/24/2024 by Magnolia McLain

Mr. Silvers is enthusiastic about teaching AP Seminar for the first time. photo by Ravi Apte

The first year of TJ’s newest English class went differently than most sophomores were expecting.

This year I was one of the first TJ students to take AP Seminar. AP Seminar is an English class that was first released by College Board in 2014, but the 2023-2024 school year is its first year at TJ. The sophomore level class was taught by Sean Silvers and Amber Wilson. We weren’t quite sure what we were signing ourselves up for, but now that the year is coming to an end I have compiled the pros and cons.

Before I can share my opinion on the class itself, it is important to describe the objective of the class. The entire year of AP Seminar leading up to the AP exam is dedicated to two projects, each with two components. Both of these projects contribute to the student’s AP College Board grade. The first project is a group project. Group members decide on a topic and each write an individual informative paper known as the “Individual Research Report (IRR)” with a word count of 1,200 and a minimum of 10 sources. Each group member writes their paper about a different lens of the group topic. Once all group members complete their papers, there is a 8-10 group presentation about the topic, combining each lens. Following the presentation, each member answers an oral defense question about the group’s process. The second project is individual. Each person begins by choosing a topic and writing an argumentative paper known as the “Individual Written Argument (IWA)” with a word count of 2,000 and a minimum of 12 sources. Two of the sources must be from the yearly College Board Stimulus packet which must be made an integral part of your argument. The second part of this project is a 6-8 minute individual presentation about the topic and then three oral defense questions about the process. To prepare for the presentations, the year begins with a group mock presentation. For every project including the mock presentation, individuals or groups choose their own topic.

When it comes to the pros of the class, I can say without a doubt that I learned how to conduct reliable and efficient research which was not a skill I could say I had been taught before. I am confident that this knowledge will prepare me for future classes of all subjects. The pace of the class also fluctuated a lot throughout the year, so while some weeks were busy, others allowed for several days off where I could catch up on other work or relax. Because students were allowed to choose their topic for each project, it made room for a lot of creativity and grew my interest in the research and writing process.

The biggest con of the class was the immense amount of stress I experienced throughout the year to meet deadlines, memorize presentations, and find viable sources. Time management and discipline are necessary skills for completing each project, and without them, there is a lot of room for procrastination. Another one of my least favorite things about the class is that I went into it thinking that with only two big projects I would not have many assignments, but each week had its own share of busy work.

Even though we spent all year working on projects which contributed to our AP College Board exam grade, we also had an exam at the end of the year. The exam was broken into two End Of Course questions or EOCs and we had two hours to complete both. For EOC A we read a short text and answered three questions about the author’s argument, how their line of reasoning develops, and the effectiveness of their evidence for their claims. For EOC B we were given four sources with a similar theme and we had to develop a topic for an argumentative essay using at least two of the sources. We also prepared for EOC A in class at the very beginning of the year before the mock presentation and both EOCs once a week for a few weeks leading up to the exam.

Overall, as the year comes to an end, I am proud of the hard work I put into AP Seminar and I don’t regret taking the class. I learned a lot and enjoyed the freedom of choosing the topics for my research and projects.