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Free AP Open Essay Materials

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

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This blog contains materials that I used to use to teach the open/persuasive essay for AP Lang & Comp. Although my students were usually able to mete together some sort of response to the open prompt diagnostic I would give them at the beginning of the year, they still had a lot of work to do. Often, though, I had a hard time convincing them that their early-in-the-year essays were shite, as the kids had been raised on a persuasive essays and were pretty sure they could write them in their sleep. And, yes, they COULD write basic persuasive essays at the start of the year, but they could not write great ones; that's where AP Lang & Comp teachers come in.

Getting kids to a point where they could write interesting, organized, and developed responses to the open prompts was hard, but I always thought it was worth it because once kids got good, the essays were really fun to grade. Plus, I always felt the skills transferred to everything else we were doing in class AND in life. The entire year, I would push kids to state an opinion, and then in a detailed manner, explain WHY they had that opinion. This is hard to do...for everyone.

But, yes, it is quite the process. I would start by giving the kids a diagnostic and then having them self-grade using the AP rubric. Inevitably kid would give themselves 7's or 8's, thinking that their tiny 5-paragraph hamburger essays would cut it. Then I would collect the essays, give them their real AP grade (usually a 4 or 5), and we would be off.

Most of our efforts were dedicated to learning how to support an opinion in a nuanced, interesting, clear, and fully developed way. To start, we would talk about what a more advanced argument looked like by reading some chapters from Everything's An Argument. Then I would model these skills and use graphic organizers and visuals until students understood just how much I needed them to say to fully develop their point...and I keep saying fully developed because most times kids would start their example, see that they wrote a few lines that looked liked enough to make a paragraph, and then they would stop before they completely connected their idea back to the thesis. All year I would repeat: The paragraph is not done until you finish your point and connected it back to your thesis, not once you have used up 3 lines of looseleaf.

Once I got kids actually writing, the next battle was usually to help them come up with interesting examples instead of boring ones. This, again, took some modeling on the whiteboard about how to brainstorm, and inevitably, kids would realize that they need to Know Some Things About The World in order to write a more sophisticated essay. This usually prompted kids to starting drawing on their knowledge in other subjects or to read a few minutes of news every day.

Lastly, once kids were writing organized, developed, and interesting pieces, we would work on being concise (see the "wordiness" handouts below) and getting fancy with our sentence structure (sentence combining). It took all year, but I always felt really proud of the kids once they had made it to this point in their writing and were getting into the nitty-gritty.

Please enjoy the free AP open essay materials below. There are diagnostics, practice prompts, graphic organizers, PowerPoints, and other stuff that is hopefully helpful.

Introduction to Persuasive Techniques & Argumentation

Open Essay Materials

Sentence Combining & Wordiness Materials

I hope some of these materials are helpful to you.


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