Tackling Four Preps with One Prep Period (Part II)

Today’s post continues to address a common problem, namely how to manage multiple preps with only one prep period.

(Day 10 of my 30-Day Writing Challenge)

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Recap of Part I

In part one of this two-part post, I wrote about streamlining the planning process. There were two sections to the article: Find Commonalities and Create Common Units.

Expanding on Section One: Find Commonalities

AP Literature and Composition supports the following “Big Ideas”: Character, Setting, Structure, Narration, Figurative Language, and Literary Analysis. The previous post provided ideas related to Character and Figurative Language, along with Theme and Main Idea, which is taught in the lower grades, but warrants review. Despite instruction on theme and main idea throughout their schooling, my students still struggle with them.

That leaves us with Setting, Structure, Narration, and Literary Analysis. Oh my!


Setting is more than place. It incorporates time, culture, and values, too. Once in a setting, characters expose the setting through their actions and speech. Writers support the characters with explicit description and other characters’ reactions to them.

All my students will benefit from a discussion of setting, because my students seem to focus on setting as place.

The only course in which a setting discussion seems (at first glance) questionable is journalism class. Let me explain. I plan to couch the discussion of setting in journalism class within a discussion of being an objective observer.

In other words, how does the setting in which the story takes place influence the progression of the story to its conclusion?


Structure includes organization, plot, and poetic structure. Essentially, students in AP Lit need to understand how an author, playwright, or poet conveys meaning and strives to elicit a response from the reader. Writers accomplish this through sequencing, organization, and poetic devices like the volta, or turn, in a sonnet, for example.

Structural influences are important concepts in the other classes, too. Whether fiction or nonfiction, students need to grasp how writers convey meaning by the text’s bones — its structure.

The questions for English 11 can be the same as those in AP Lit, with additional discussions of structure in nonfiction. In Creative Writing, the questions concern how the writers I’m working with can create meaning and response in their texts. In Journalism, discussion topics could include the inverted pyramid, paragraph format, column inches, and how headings and graphics support the text. These concepts can be applied to their texts as they become student journalists.


Discussions of narration must include perspective and point of view. In literary analysis, questions about how perspective is revealed through the narrator’s point of view are commonplace. The same discussions should take place in English 11 and include narration’s role in nonfiction.

In Creative Writing and Journalism, the discussion focuses on how to use perspective and point of view in their writing. How does your choice affect the text’s themes, tone, and mood, creative writers? What is the best way to remain objective, journalists?

Literary Analysis

Writing an analysis of a text involves critical thinking, mastery of organization, and mastery of argument and persuasion. It also demands a defensible thesis statement.

Every student can benefit from mastering these skills. Communication is a critical 21st century skill. To effectively communicate, your reader or listener has to follow and understand your position.

In AP Lit, students demonstrate mastery of all the other “Big Ideas” through literary analysis. Students answer a prompt with rich insights that refer to their thesis statement, which is a defensible claim about the text. The same idea can be applied to each course I teach.

In English 11 students can practice the same skills as AP Lit. In Creative Writing and Journalism, students can write about a story from a peer they have analyzed.

One Other Streamlining Idea

Treat the Elective Courses as Supplemental English Classes

My Creative Writing classes often include reading comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar instruction. Journalism class can work the same way. To become better writers, students should read, acquire a rich vocabulary, and practice writing.

I plan to include more traditional ELA activities into my elective courses this year. This way, I am best supporting my students’ academic progress, I believe. These elective courses include students in grades 9–12, but the skills I reinforce in these classes are not outside any student’s current capabilities. With scaffolding, all my students will learn concepts and skills they can immediately apply to assignments in their other classes.

I think this idea is an amazing opportunity. I hope you do, too.

Thank you for reading my tenth post of my 30-Day Writing Challenge. If you have questions, comments, or ideas, please leave a reply to this post. I look forward to reading and responding to your thoughts.

Thank you, Tim Cavey and Teachers On Fire, for hosting so many of these posts!

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