Here are my thoughts on summer work. I want it to be meaningful, enjoyable, and reasonable and don’t want to overload you with tedious assignments just to “set the tone” for the class. The goals for summer work in AP lit are to continue to move forward in reading and writing, introduce you to contemporary texts, learn how to ask questions, and get to know you. I think this is the right balance of those goals and work.
NOTE: An online copy of the summer work can be found at https://susangbarber.com/ap-lit-summer-work-2019/. This copy has live links to book recommendations, activities for the journal, and the teacher letter.
Here’s what you should do before the first day of school:
Part 1: Reading
Read and develop questions for ONE of these books which I consider to be the Top 25 Contemporary Novels for AP Literature: (the links take you to my GoodReads account for a personal review).
All the Light We Cannot See – Doerr
Behold the Dreamers – Mbue
Exit West – Hamid
The Goldfinch – Tartt
Homegoing – Gyasi
The Kite Runner – Hosseini
The Leavers – Ko
Little Bee – Cleeve
Mudbound – Jordan
The Namesake – Lahiri
The Nix – Hill
The Poet X – Acevedo
The Poisonwood Bible – Kingsolver
A Prayer for Owen Meany – Irving
Purple Hibiscus – Adichie
The Road – McCarthy
Salvage the Bones – Ward
The Secret History – Tartt
Sing, Unburied, Sing – Ward
Station Eleven – St. John Mandel
Southernmost – House
The Things They Carried – O’Brien
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Hosseini
You do not have to annotate the book because I just want you to enjoy reading and not be slowed down by marking (they’ll be plenty of time for that during class). I would, however, like for you to write ten questions that you would like to further explore. With each question, reference a specific scene or quote that prompts your question and cite the page number. These questions should not be about plot but rather show deep thought into the themes, characterization, or craft of the writer. You should have the book finished and questions written by the second day of class.
Or you can choose to focus on how and why any of the following literary elements are used:
- Portrayal of characters
- Identify and reflect on the significance of character foils
- Symbols and motifs/ recurring details
- Tone/ attitude of the narrators
- Diction/ syntax and how both are used to create distinctive voices for the characters
- Theme/ thematic ideas
- Structure of the novel
Part II: Writing
Having a broad range of experiences upon which one can draw is important to understanding the resonance of many of the works we read. In preparation, I would like for you to broaden your experiences this summer. As part of your summer activities, keep a journal. The following items should be in journal when you turn it in anytime between now and August 30th (but if you turn it in on your first day of class, you will be rewarded).
- Entries for at least two days per week beginning with the week of June 2nd, 2019. Write about the experiences you have, the things you are reading both for summer reading and in addition to it, your thoughts on important philosophical ideas, current events, and life in general etc. The last entry will be made on August 12th or 12th during our first class; you should have nineteen entries (this allows for one missed day because it’s summer after all) before our first class, and the in-class entry will make for twenty total.
- You must also choose at least five of the following activities to complete. Document your experience in your journal by writing a reflection of not less than one page for each activity. You may include pictures or drawings. Each journal entry about the five activities you select should include an item number and the date you completed the activity. These can count for as part of the twenty entries.
- In addition, you should also find two poems that you find particularly enjoyable and/or meaningful and write about them in your journal. These entries will be included in your twenty entries.
- Attend a summer festival. Try the Atlanta Jazz Festival (free) during Memorial Day weekend, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Summer Film Festival at the Fox, or any others you can find.
- Go to a museum or a historic attraction. Try the High Museum, Carter Presidential Library, or the Stone Mountain Laser Show if you’ve never been.
- Spend a day without electronics (no cell phones, ipods, TVs, etc). I would love for everyone to try this. You can survive without electronics.
- Explore a neighborhood in Atlanta. Eat at the Krog Street Market. Walk the Belt Line. Explore the Westside Provisions or Ponce City Market.
- Do some gardening.
- Hike at least 5 miles in a national or state park such as Sweetwater Creek, Providence Canyon, Amicalola Falls, or the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
- Talk with a grandparent or older adult (40 + years older) about life in their younger years. Count this as two entries if you record it on StoryCorps.
- Go tent camping at least 10 miles from home (or anyone’s home).
- Go to the theatre (not the movie theater) to see a live production. Try the Shakespeare Tavern, plays in Piedmont Park, or the Center for Puppetry Arts. Buy half-price tickets at AtlanTIX.
- Work on a farm (at least a couple of hours).
- Eat a different meals from a foreign culture.
- Work a shelter, food pantry, or other organization preparing or delivering food for the elderly or disadvantaged.
- Visit with the patients at a nursing home.
- Go fishing or horseback riding. (Nature = Thoreau)
- Prepare a meal for your family and then enjoy it with them.
- Pick berries and make a cobbler or pie.
- Attend a service of a different religion or interview a person of a different religion.
- Repair or build something or do some kind of maintenance (changing oil, rotating tires).
- Plan a trip – map out the route, find places to stay, and located points of interest to visit.
- Spend an evening playing board games or cards with your family and friends.
- Visit a cemetery and read the headstones. Consider the history of family, community, state, and nation embodied in these headstones. Reflect on your experiences. Creepy but fun. Try Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta then go to Six Feet Under or Tin Lizzies for dinner.
- Visit a quiet spot on a beach, by a stream, or by a lake. Spend an hour in thought and record your thoughts in a journal or notebook.
- Something you don’t normally do; the point is to try new things in order to experience the world through a different lens.
Why keep a journal?
Writing is born out of experience. A large part of this class is about helping you find your writing voice. Finding your voice takes time. Writing throughout the summer will give you time to begin to figure out your voice. Be yourself when you write. Don’t try to be too serious or academic. Be funny. Be sarcastic. Be vulnerable. Be real.
What is a journal?
A journal is what you make of it — the more you put into it, the more benefit you will see. It is your journal and, as long as you are serious about it (and yourself), you will receive full credit for it (see specific instructions below for what I expect of your journal). Hopefully your journal will be much more (and a little less) than a diary. I am not interested in your daily routine or what you had for lunch. If, on the other hand, you wish to record your dreams last night or a rough draft of a poem or an interesting quote from a friend, please utilize your journal.
I hope that you will consider buying a bound journal — something costing between $5 and $20, a cheap spiral notebook is often another way of saying, “My thoughts aren’t really valuable.” If you wish, you might even try constructing your own journal, but you should remember that what you put in the interior of your journal is most important.
Will I read your journal?
I will only read with your permission. I will, of course, want to read a page or so about each of your summer activities and readings, but you are free to photocopy or transcribe these or designate sections of your journals as personal.
Writing more in your journal will benefit YOU. There will be a reward later for being diligent in your journaling efforts. Writing improves your skill at writing.Remember to write at least three days per week. Waiting until the end of the summer and then trying to go back and “recapture” the days you missed may fill up the pages and give you a certain number of entries. It does not fulfill the intent of the assignment, however, nor does it provide you with the kind of writing practice that will be beneficial to you during the school year. Additionally, academic integrity is important. As you approach the end of your high school experience, think about what is right and ethical. Therefore, keep up with your work rather than trying to recreate it in a hurried manner at the end of the summer.
Will I know if you wait and then write all at one time? Maybe I will, and maybe I will not. You, however, will know, and that it what is most important. Happy journaling!
Part III: Write a Letter to Me
Read this letter from me to you then write a letter to me that you will hand in on the first day of school. The directions for this letter are in my letter.
If you need to get in touch with me over the summer, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions. Have a great summer, and I’ll see you the first day of your SENIOR year!
All the best!