My APEL teacher calls APEL a one of a kind experience. While most teachers would say the same for their classes, in most cases, success in the class always boils down to two very important things: doing the homework and studying for the tests. I went into AP English Language with the aforementioned mindset, expecting just another AP class, filled with terms to memorize and homework on a daily basis. However, APEL quickly turned into a class that I would actually enjoy attending, a class filled with insight into why we write the way we write.
Writing is something that most people dread. It requires three things: a writing utensil–whether it be a pencil or a keyboard–a sheet of paper, and an idea. Putting pencil to paper isn’t hard. You can draw, doodle, sketch, randomly color parts of the paper grey. But coming up with the idea? Now that is what makes writing the bane of many people’s existence. How do you write about something you have no interest in? In Honors American Literature, each student was told to write an essay assessing the validity of a literary criticism of The Great Gatsby, whether he or she enjoyed the book or despised it. For those who hated Gatsby and his American Dream, producing a quality essay suddenly became borderline impossible. As a result of such assignments, writing seems like a talent many just do not possess.
However, APEL changes all preconceptions about writing by providing insight into the writing process. By turning the concept of writing into a bunch of individual techniques, it is not unlike learning how to cook. The techniques are your ingredients. Just try to make something you are proud of. The assignments in APEL are far different from the assignments given in other subjects, for example Calculus. There isn’t a right and wrong answer, but instead a variety of interpretations. While an author’s purpose may be relatively straightforward, his or her use of rhetorical devices as a means to support the purpose can be interpreted in a various ways. In order to foster a greater proficiency at analyzing these rhetorical devices, the likes of which include asyndeton, synecdoche, anaphora, repetition,and others, the teacher at my school had us write an on demand essay based on a past year’s AP test’s essay portion prompt every week.
While an on demand a week may seem like much more than what you bargained for, keep in mind that the on demands not about the analysis of a themes in a novel, but instead a look at the effectiveness of rhetorical devices in a short article. If one essay doesn’t turn out well, there will always be another one the following week. And like most things, the essays will get better with practice. After the first few on demands, finding rhetorical devices and elucidating their purpose will become almost second nature, and what was once a blank page will become an essay (hopefully) full of insight.
A big part of APEL is learning about the different modes of writing, which include argument, classification and division, definition, process analysis, cause and effect, and compare and contrast. In order to fully grasp each of the different modes, we were tasked with writing a set of essays, one essay for each mode, about a topic that of our choice. With no boundaries, the assignment wasn’t as much work as much as a medium of expression. Being able to apply learned techniques in our own writing made writing less of a random assemblage of words and more of a dignified way to convey an idea. While in the end, we were writing seven essays (in itself a pretty big undertaking), they weren’t on topics forced upon us, so it allowed for us to take liberties and write about things we were passionate about, which, you will realize, makes a huge difference.
In conclusion, APEL is, what some would say, life changing. It reveals a world of language that is far more nuanced than a mess of words on a page. It is a class that is truly one of a kind, one that you will walk away from actually feeling smarter, unlike a class a like physics, which leaves you more confused than when you started. APEL taught me gave me a new perspective on and respect for writers and writing in general. It will do the same for you, and it’s a class that just might make you enjoy the craft.