2016-17 marks my 4th year of teaching Advanced Placement English Language and Composition, AP Lang for short. I’ve been able to accumulate and streamline materials that I find to be the most effective for introducing, applying, and mastering the skills required of the test in the spring. This, as any teacher will tell you, is one of the biggest advantages of teaching the same content area multiple times. Boredom only exists in the minds of those who let themselves become stale.
In an effort to avoid becoming monotonous in my approach to teaching the analytical skills of AP Lang, as well as working on my August goal of remaining present and reflecting on my content area, I have pushed myself to create a Bootcamp Binder Packet for my two AP courses (Language and Literature).
What is a classroom Bootcamp?
Everyone in education knows that there are a few things that must be addressed at the beginning of a new school year. The firsts are classroom rules and procedures, then typically some sort of get-to-know-you activity that helps to develop classroom culture and atmosphere. Next comes a review of prior knowledge and baseline assessments. A bootcamp is a timely and efficiently planned course of either review or introductory materials. It should be a balance of information, guided practice, and independent work. This is not for mastery but a unit focused on the most important skills that will be addressed in greater detail throughout the school year.
This may seem like an overwhelming task, and I will not lie and say that it’s easy to create. Some things you will want to keep in mind:
- The age and content area you’re teaching. Bootcamp may be more appropriate for secondary students.
- Bootcamps aren’t supposed to cover EVERYTHING, just the most basic and fundamental skills that you will be covering throughout the year. For example, I would include a section on utilizing textual evidence and how to format it.
- Four weeks is the sweet spot for pacing a bootcamp
- Choose practice materials that are going to allow the students to apply the skills, not challenge their comprehension. Remember the purpose is to introduce a skill, not master it.
- Be sure that you are comfortable with the material. This is not the time to add in something that you’ve never taught before.
How I Created My Bootcamp Binder
The prospect of developing my first bootcamp binder was overwhelming at first. I wanted to make sure that I covered all the content, and considering that this would be for an AP class, that meant a lot of specific material. To ensure that I wouldn’t forget anything, I took out last year’s pacing guide and then created a list on my whiteboard.
Truly, this was the biggest task for me to accomplish, and once it was done, I was able to pull the materials that I love the most. For me, I ordered it chronologically to match the format of the AP test: multiple choice, synthesis essay, rhetorical analysis essay, and then open-ended essay.
Also, something that separated this packet from the one that I created for my Advanced Placement English Literature class was that I had given my AP Lang students their packet of vocabulary terms to learn as part of their summer reading assignment. So many of the terms that are new to students in AP Lang are also used in AP Lit, so I didn’t feel the need to do the same with that course. Vocabulary would also be something I would include in a bootcamp, but again, only for those terms that are fundamental.
So what if I want to add something after the school year starts?
It’s your classroom and you can do anything you want! I’ve anticipated this exact issue, so I added an Appendix category to my Table of Contents so that I can add anything that I find to be helpful as the bootcamp progresses. For AP Lang, my appendix is where I placed the texts that we are going to be using for practice throughout the bootcamp.
I also have my own copy of the bootcamp binder, so I can annotate my materials and write notes about anything I would change for next year, which helps me to achieve my August goal of reflection.
I definitely plan on updating everyone as to how well the bootcamp is progressing.