11/12th Grade, Brookwood High School
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Amber M. Simmons teaches Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Composition and 11th grade language arts at Brookwood High School. She also facilitates the AP Capstone Program, teaching AP Seminar and AP Research. She has been honored as the 2017 Georgia Council of Teachers of English Teacher of the Year and as a 2017 National Council of Teachers of English Teacher of Excellence Award Winner. Her current research interests focus on family engagement, using adolescent literature to engage students, systemic functional linguistics, student writing for authentic audiences, and art-focused STEAM instruction.
Language study to literacy garden
There is much work to be done in making grammar and language instruction applicable to students’ actual writing practices. While Brookwood High School’s writing scores are above average (85% passing), students still struggle with persuasive writing. One way to foster these skills is to teach students more than just the rules of punctuation - to teach them how language and grammar are powerful tools that can be used, for good or for ill, to persuade and control audiences.
After an in-depth persuasive language study, student will conduct a letter writing campaign so that they employ persuasive writing characteristics in their own writing. To begin the project, students select an American author of interest, and they write a letter to the curator of the author’s historic home requesting seeds, bulbs, or a cutting of a plant to be re-planted on our school campus. When researching the author, students not only gather biographical information, but they also consider an author’s style, themes, and contributions to American culture and literary tradition. After researching, students begin the writing process. They then use rhetorical and persuasive devices such as rhetorical questions, parallelism, call to action, counter arguments, positive and negative affect (diction that directly or indirectly implies emotion), etc., in order to persuade the curators and gardeners to contribute to our school literary garden.
After the writing project, students will collaborate with the AP environmental class and agricultural-science class to germinate seeds, foster cuttings, and plant contributions sent from the curators. Students will design, build, create, and maintain the literary garden and create placards for each plant so as to share its literary relevance and environmental impact to the community.