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Research Presentation Unit for AP Lang and Comp

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

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When I taught AP Language & Composition, I was always looking for ways to break up the writing. AP Lang & Comp is a writing-heavy class and the grading can be a bear, so mixing in a presentation or two always helped: I could cover writing skills such as organization and synthesis, but I wouldn't have to grade 30 papers. The unit below is one I would use when I was tired of grading papers but still needed to help kids prepare for the synthesis essay.


  • Students will be able to present a convincing and organized 7-minute argument on a debatable topic of their choice.

  • Students will be able to use and cite credible sources in their presentation.

  • Students will be able to present their argument in a clean and clutter-free PowerPoint presentation.

  • Students will be able to develop a rebuttal.

  • Students will be able to develop a counterargument.

  • Students will be able to use a combination of ethos, pathos, and logos in their own arguments.

Day 1

I always spend a fair amount of time going over the assignment sheet for any big task that I assign to students. It's not sexy, but it keeps everyone on the same page and prevents problems down the road. I give kids 5-10 minutes to read over the assignment sheet and annotate it. I tell them to mark important pieces of information anything they have questions about. Once time is up, I answer every single question.

Once kids get over the fact that, yes, I am indeed making them do this assignment, I go through a "Types of Argument" presentation to get the kids to stop whining and start thinking about what they might want to argue. I have them take notes so that they process the information, and then I give them time to look up ideas and brainstorm.

After the brainstorm, I have kids share out so that they can potentially provide ideas for others who were stuck. I do not mind if kids do the same general topic but they had to have different takes on the argument.

I found the Language of Composition, 2ed., to be helpful to me when I was teaching AP Lang and Comp, so after I lectured on a topic, I always made kids read pertinent chapters and take notes. Their homework for this night was to read pages 81-94, which was mainly about the difference between a topic and a claim. This was supposed to help kids start to think about how they could turn their topic into something arguable. They also had to fill in a notetaking guide because I am a hard-nosed bitch.

Day 2

The next day, I ask the kids to set their own deadlines for themselves, the justification being that they are grown and need to start doing some of these thing on their own.

At this point, I usually give the kids a little more time to brainstorm, but not too long. I find kids can get stuck on this first step indefinitely if I don't kick them out of the nest, so to speak. After a few more minutes, I post a class Google doc and ask them to post their tentative topic.

The next lesson focuses on what a credible source is. For the next couple of class periods, students are going to be wading through a lot of information, and they need to be paying attention to material that might be worth using in their presentation AND whether that information comes from a credible source.

Every time I try and teach about credible sources, I do it a bit differently, and I've never quite settled on series of steps that I love, but for this unit I worked from this post from Education World that gave me a few ideas on how to tackle this topic in a far more interesting way than I had been doing (ie: boring lecture; wave arms).

If you have amazing librarians like I do, it's worth reaching out to them to ask if they will show the kids how to discern credible information and/or how to use databases. Most librarians are media nerds and love nothing more than teaching this particular lesson.

My credible sources lesson takes somewhere around 40-60 minutes depending on the quality of the conversation AND because I stop and make kids take notes in the notetaking guide at every turn. They are welcome.

Towards the end of the presentation, the PowerPoint directs kids to "organize the bias chart" (slide 22). For this portion of the lesson, I give kids a blank version of the bias chart and all of the media outlets on another sheet of paper. (The "blank" bias chart is just the real chart with a white text box covering the answers. This will allow you to print a copy of just the axes.) I then ask the kids to cut out the media outlets and place them on the chart based on their background knowledge. When they are done, I do a Big Reveal and of the actual chart and we discuss the similarities and differences between their charts and the chart on the Powerpoint.

Day 3

Day 3 may consist of finishing up the credible sources lesson. After it's all said and done, I take the kids on a field trip to the library to learn about databases.

Whatever time is left on this day, I leave for preliminary research and student conferences. I call this preliminary research "noodling," because there is no way around the fact that all research starts with some time where you are just digging around, reading things, and figuring out where to go. I try and focus this time but having kids fill in a graphic organizer about any source they come across that might be useful. I call this the "noodling" sheet.

While they are working on their preliminary research, I start the long and laborious process of checking in with each kid. I make myself a chart with student names and blank rows, and keep track of where each kid is in the process. We talk about how they are doing with the deadlines they set for themselves, as well as anything they are having trouble with. The conferences, in general, are a Sisyphean task that I never have time to do well. But I still try.

Day 4

Today's lesson is about the different ways in which the students can structure their argument. I start by having them complete a journal about what it would take for them to listen to someone who has a totally different opinion from them.

Next, I drag them through a PowerPoint about the various ways in which they can structure an argument. They are to consider who they are arguing to and how they can best get their audience to get on board.

Once we get through all of this, I give the kids time to noodle or work on their outline. At this point, the kids start to spread out in terms of where they are with their presentation. Some kids have a topic and are ready to outline and some kids are still brainstorming. For kids who are ready, I ask them to create an outline of their presentation. For this particular project, I do not give them a very specific graphic organizer, as I usually do this presentation late in the year and feel it's time for the kids to take a stab at creating their own outlines.

Day 5

At this point, students are writing their outlines and need to start thinking about their rebuttal, so I do a brief lecture explaining what a rebuttal is and how they can format one. They then fill in a graphic organizer that helps them to include all of the parts of the rebuttal.

Once the rebuttal lesson is complete, we move into workshop/conference time for the rest of class.

Day 6

At this point, students start to panic because I've been telling them to work on their presentation for homework for the last week and they haven't done diddly. Too bad for them, though. I keep trucking on with the rest of my lessons and they usually catch up once I pick a due date for their "rough draft."

Today's lesson is about how "Yes-even in a presentation you need to cite your sources." And "yes-you need a works cited slide." And "Yes-to probably every other question you are going to ask." Step Up To Writing has a nice concise handout here about MLA formatting and presentations.

Because handouts are only useful if you go over them, I go through this PowerPoint about MLA formatting. It's not by cleanest PowerPoint so you'll have to edit it a bit. (No notetaking guide with this one. I know, everyone is sad now.) After the lesson we workshop & conference. Their homework for tonight is to finish the rough draft of their presentation so that they can do peer editing next class.

Day 7

My favorite part of this whole assignment is making each kid develop a counterargument to someone's argument. I think it just makes the presentations more interesting and helps kids kick off a discussion when they can see other points of view. To do this, I have each kid pick a date for their presentation by putting their name on a Google Doc next to a date. Then I have them use the next column to explain their argument. Lastly, I have them read everyone else's argument and put their name next to one that they would like to counter-argue.

Once kids have chosen a topic that they may want to counter-argue, I give them some time to prepare while warning them that they've only seen a tiny shred of their partner's argument, so their preparation may be worth it-or not. They need at least 20 minutes.

I had a student teacher the last time I did this unit and she used the rest of this period to take the kids through a peer-editing activity. She basically turned the mini lessons into a reminder checklist for the kids.

Another thing to do at this point is to go over the rubric. Sometimes I connect the rubric to the assignment sheet; it just depends on if I need to make changes to the rubric or if it is ready to go at the start of the unit.

Day 8

This is the last day that students get to work on their presentations in class. They work while I yell out last minute directives as I glimpse their work:





  • "Yes! It is TOO LATE to change your idea!"

Their homework is to finish the presentation and submit to Google. I make everyone submit at the same time before presentations start.

Days 9 through Infinity

Presentations start and take forever. I want to stab my eyeballs out sometimes but mostly learn a lot. We would do a few presentations per class period because a kid would present, another kid would counter-argue, and then the class was allowed to ask questions. Audience members also needed to analyze the use of ethos, pathos, logos for ten classmates over the course of the presentations and fill in a graphic organizer.

For homework over the next few weeks, I had kids read and annotate articles that I thought were interesting or had interesting structure.

That is the overview of the research presentation unit that I do with my AP Lang & Comp kids. If you have any questions or comments or materials you would like to share, please use the comments section below.

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