Providing Student Choice in the AP Classroom

BY: Carlos Barrera

Years ago, I remember watching a Malcolm Gladwell TED TALK: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce. Howard Moskowitz did the research for Prego and later Ragu and narrowed down their many choices of spaghetti sauce in the supermarket aisle down to plain, spicy, and extra chunky. When I bring choice to the classroom, too much choice paralyzes the students and no choice is limiting.

So, in the past few weeks in units on Star Wars, Hip Hop, and the Marvel Universe, I provided choice for students. I will use the Hip Hop unit below for an example. I had students watch an analysis video on an aspect of Hip Hop, but I provided four choices for participation in a Socratic discussion. Then I had the students create a visual rhetorical analysis of their choice of one of four hip hop profile/analysis texts. After the video, there would be a rhetorical analysis on message and rhetorical choices. Below are the links to the videos and texts I used in the classroom. 

For the Socratic discussion, the students will select one of the four Hip Hop Analysis Videos. They will bring to the discussion bullet points about the purpose of the video, the overarching argument and three minor arguments (claims) that support the overarching argument. (15 bullet points=A, 10=B, 5=C). Beware that some of the videos may have an expletive or two. I don’t show videos in class. 

Cardi B Didn’t Always Look Like This

Lemonade: Film Allusion (Beyoncé)

Understanding Kendrick Lamar: The Crown Prince of Compton

Frank Ocean: How An Accomplished Writer Became A Reclusive Superstar

In each Socratic circle, you will discuss the purpose of the video, the overarching argument and three minor arguments (claims) that support the overarching argument

Project Based Learning- Flip Grid Video: Rhetorical Analysis for Hip Hop essays.

Video Rhetorical Analysis- Flipgrid Video

  1. The Assignment A 2-4-minute video essay analyzing your nonfiction article. The video will cut off at 5 minutes.
    1. The purpose of the oral presentation is to present a rhetorical analysis to the class. The tone should be academic, confident, but student friendly.
  2. The Presentation There are several ways you can complete the presentation. To earn a grade, we must hear your voice.
    1. Way #1 is to prepare some notes, access the grid through the link (this link has been disabled for privacy – you will create your own for your classes) or the QR code on your phone. You will need the Flipgrid video app on phone or use computer. Aim your cell phone camera at yourself (you can have someone film you) and start talking. If you are shy, you can put an emoji over your face. Do not read off a paper. Sound natural!
    2. Way #2 is to make a short video presentation and upload it to Flipgrid. The formats supported are .MOV, .MP4, or .WEBM. 
    3. Log on using the class Fligrid code- (this link has been disabled for privacy – you will create your own for your classes)and your student ID
  3. The Format You might want to practice and time yourself before you record.

Introduce yourself and state the name and author of the nonfiction article you will be analyzing. Using a camera projection of yourself, or appropriate images or video clips to your nonfiction article, you will be:

  1. Stating the primary purpose or message for your nonfiction article
  2. State important information about the speaker/audience
  3. Explore minor arguments or claims that support the primary purpose or message for your nonfiction article
  4. A conclusion that states the broader context or connects to issues outside the scope of the nonfiction article.
  5. Due Dates.  The video must be posted by Thursday night November 21, 2019 by 11:55 pm. It will be posted on Flipgrid. Annotations for reading the nonfiction articles will be checked on Friday November 22, 2019. A= 15 highlight/annotations   B= 10 highlight/annotations 

C= 5 highlight/ annotations. On Friday, each student will comment and assess five different student video rhetorical analysis essays.

  1. The nonfiction articles:

I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Moving Beyond Pain (Beyoncé’s Lemonade)  by bell hooks

The Return of West Coast Hip-Hop

Buck the System (J. Cole)


1 thought on “Providing Student Choice in the AP Classroom”

  1. Hi Kristy! Thank you for this valuable resource. I found you on our AP Lang. Facebook page. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to add more choice into my AP Language course and found your insights helpful. However, I cannot access the bell hooks article linked above because hooks’ website is no longer active. Is there any chance that you have a pdf of the article you can share? Thank you!


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