Felix Varela offers honors English courses in grades 9–12, AP English Language and Composition in
grade 11, and AP English Literature and Composition in grade 12. There are currently four sections of
AP English Language and seven sections of AP English Literature. The school’s mission is to provide each
student with the opportunity to participate in the benefits and rigors associated with AP classes.
AP English Literature and Composition is a one-year course in which students’ reading, writing, and oral
skills are strengthened through the study of novels, plays, poems, and short stories from the sixteenth
century to the present. Certain films are also used throughout the year in order to further the student’s
understanding of the texts. Most of the authors represented are canonical, but Latin American and
Caribbean writers also play an integral role in my curriculum because of the student population at the
school. Students purchase their own novels and read poems and short stories from The Norton Introduction
to Literature. I sometimes incorporate poems into my curriculum to complement major texts, but I usually
teach poetry through isolated units between novels. I use short stories, on the other hand, to introduce
students to the idiosyncrasies of certain authors. Paired texts from various genres and time periods having
similar themes or characters are used to further the students’ abilities to compare, discuss, interpret, and
write about imaginative literature. Felix Varela has a summer reading program for AP English Literature
and Composition, which serves as the basis for instruction at the beginning of the school year.
The writing component of the course is developed through a myriad of timed essays, which are often
rewritten several times, and longer essays that usually consist of comparing two novels or poems. Students
generally write one essay each week. My curriculum also encourages the development of oral skills. Aside
from classroom discussions, each student therefore delivers formal and informal timed presentations
throughout the year.
In addition to the reading and writing instruction crucial to an AP course, students become
familiar with the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and literary research volumes such
as Contemporary Literary Criticism. These two elements allow students to conduct research and then
incorporate it into their essays in a conventional manner.
Course Planner/Student Activities
Fall Semester—First Grading Period
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (three weeks)
I allot only three weeks for the study of these two novels because I assign them as summer reading.
Among other factors, they are chosen and paired in order to discuss the effects of setting on the psyche
of characters. Their rigor establishes the tone of scholarship inherent in the AP English Literature and
Composition course. It is important, however, to guide students through their reading of these novels.
I therefore meet with them prior to the beginning of the summer to introduce them to topics such as
Christianity and nihilism for Crime and Punishment and imperialism for Heart of Darkness. Front-
loading is crucial at this stage in order for students to then successfully delve into the layers of philosophy,
psychology, and symbolism inherent in Dostoevsky’s novel and the historical context of Conrad’s novella.
During this session, I provide students with my e-mail address so they may contact me during the summer
as questions regarding the texts inevitably arise.
For the first texts of the school year, I use an “assessment question” to determine how carefully
students read the novels and to gauge the depth of their comprehension. After students write the