AP Lit & Composition with Rachel Erwin at MEK

AP Lit & Composition with Rachel Erwin at MEK

AP Lit & Composition with Rachel Erwin at MEK

MEK’s Advanced Placement Course & Exam Prep classes are opening in January 2023. We’re offering small group virtual classes and private tutoring designed to give students the strategies and skills to ace their challenging AP classes and earn a 5 on the AP exam in May.

This Spring, we are offering AP Literature and Composition taught by expert instructor Ms. Rachel Erwin.

Ms. Erwin is a graduate of the University of Texas A&M and is the Director of MEK’s Exam Prep English Department. Her wealth of test-taking strategies and content knowledge combined with her rigorous instructional practices means her students consistently see results and reach their goals.

We interviewed Ms. Erwin to get her insights as to what foundational skills students need going into AP Lit, actionable steps students can take to succeed in their AP Lit classes, and how students can build confidence in their reading, writing, and analysis skills.

Read on to see what she had to say to help students conquer this challenging AP course!

Course Objectives & Prerequisite Skills for AP Lit

What skills should students have going into their AP Lit class?

Erwin: AP Literature is a heavily skill based course and the AP Lit exam is a skill based test. Coming into the course, students should have strong reading comprehension, analysis, and writing skills. This way, we can practice and refine their skills to take them to the next level.

Which students take AP Lit?

Erwin: The course is comprised of mostly 12th grade students. So, these students who are not using the course as part of their college resume. Instead, they will use their AP exam score to test out of a specific college course.

Does having a strong understanding of AP Lit help students succeed in AP Lang or other AP humanities courses?

Erwin: In terms of skills, AP Lit prepares students for AP Language and Composition. The reading skills required to be successful in AP Lit overlap with the same reading skills students need to be successful in AP Lang.

In AP Lang, students focus on reading, analyzing, and writing about non-fiction texts and documents, like speeches and essays. Those same skills can be applied to AP Lit, even though the focus in AP Lit is on fiction texts, such as novels, short stories, and poetry. 

Building Confidence

Why do some students find AP Lit to be a difficult subject?

Erwin: Sometimes, students struggle with the ability to read and analyze a text, especially if students haven’t been exposed to the types of texts covered in the course. 

However, through practice tests, homework, and constant exposure to different text types, we’re able to help students build the skills that they may be lacking in.

How do you help students build confidence in their writing skills?

Erwin: The more students practice their writing skills, the more confident they become. MEK classes give students ample opportunities to practice their skills through tests, homework, and class assignments. In fact, students who take an MEK AP Lit course will get 16-18x more practice than students who prepare for the AP Lit test without MEK.

But it’s not just about practice. Students receive immediate, individualized feedback on their work, which helps students progress more quickly because the feedback is specific to them. Also, if the feedback is more difficult to digest for students, showing examples of that feedback in action helps students incorporate it into their own writing.

Progress & Skill Mastery

What are your specific teaching methods for student engagement? 

Erwin: AP Lit is less lecture based and more class discussion, which keeps students engaged. The focus of the discussion is on what students got from the text, how they can draw that conclusion from the text, and the skills and strategies used to draw the conclusions. 

The third prompt on the AP Lit exam is a free response essay. The students receive a prompt and a list of novels to write about. They can also write about a novel of their choice with comparable literary merit to the list provided by CollegeBoard. So, we can use those prompts and the texts provided as a base for our discussions about how to apply the skills they’ve learned.

How do you get kids to progress and master skills to succeed in AP Lit in both the course and on the exam?

Erwin: MEK’s AP Lit curriculum is strategically designed to focus on a new skill each week, so that students  have a comprehensive understanding and mastery of the course objectives.

In class, we don’t just focus on exam prep or homework review, but we help students form long-lasting habits at the beginning of the semester to do well on the AP exam that are transferable to the classroom and their future classes in general. These are skills like study habits and routines, annotating texts for class, and writing skills that they will use again and again no matter what class they’re in.

Actionable Steps to Success in AP Lit

What are actionable steps students can take to succeed in AP Lit? 

Erwin: Students need to read, read, read! This advice is twofold.

They need to read the kinds of texts they’ll see on the exam. For example, multiple choice passages and essay prompts use excerpts from novels, poetry, and short stories. I encourage students to read the whole text where the excerpt came from. Students should use the upcoming winter break to read some of the texts included on the exam. The more students read, the better they understand the ideas and themes of a text and how they are developed.

And second, students should read analyses written by other people. Reading analysis of a text teaches students how to write analysis and how to break down a text. Students can read analysis essays as a way to see things in a novel that they would have otherwise missed. I highly recommend websites like Sparknotes or Shmoop because these sites break down the analysis into student friendly language. 

Next Steps

AP courses are tough and may seem intimidating at first. But with a solid study plan and good study habits, students can get high grades and ace the exams.  

Many AP teachers focus on only the course material, leaving students underprepared for the actual 2-3 hour exam. At MEK, we take a two-pronged approach to AP Prep. Through lectures by experienced teachers and practice exams, students gain a solid understanding of the material and learn test-taking skills to maintain their performance under time pressure.

Click here to learn more about our AP Course offerings for Spring 2023!

Interested in registering for AP courses with MEK? Fill out our Registration Form to get started.

Or if you have questions, contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.

Robyn Neilsen

Robyn Neilsen is a Content Writer for MEK Review. She was a dedicated English teacher in the New Jersey public school system for 13 years and is passionate about sharing resources, content, and tips for students and parents.

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