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Energizing Lesson Plans

by Sharon Johnston, Ph.D.
Florida Virtual School

Using the Teachers' Resource Catalog
A rainy Saturday morning, what an opportune time to search for resources to freshen up my Wuthering Heights lesson plans for my AP Literature and Composition course. Where do I begin? In the past, I would conduct a search through Google or another search engine. Now, I have AP Central!

I'm already registered, so I just log on to AP Central. At the top of the AP Central home page, I click on the Teachers' Resources button. In the drop-down menu, I choose English Literature and Composition. I want to look at everything available, so I select All for the Type category, enter the words Wuthering Heights in the Keywords box, and then hit the Search button.

Up pop nine Wuthering Heights resources: one article, six online documents, and two books. The detailed abstracts provide me with ample information to make decisions and, at the same time, trigger my imagination as I think of ways to incorporate the resources in my course. For the six online documents, I click on the URLs, and they all work!

New Resources to Engage Students
In only 20 minutes at AP Central, I have located and read abstracts for nine possible resources to liven up my lesson plans on the novel. The abstracts are replete with information that narrows my search. In the abstract on one of the books, I am intrigued with the description of the critical approaches to the novel. Yes, I see that this book would be a terrific classroom resource, one that would engage students in detecting how differing perspectives unlock the meaning of the novel. From the succinct abstract on the other book, I discover that "the discussion is often explicitly sexual." Knowing the conservative nature of the community I serve, I decide against this resource.

In reviewing the online documents, I find several that might work. As noted in the abstract, the online document by Gisele Baxter, a British Columbia scholar, offers some good discussion questions, such as "Why isn't the novel called Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange?" I decide to visit this site and look for provocative discussion questions. An online document by Jeanne M. McGlinn of the University of North Carolina presents a "teacher's guide," but the candid abstract tells me that the guide "pitches questions at a level more appropriate to Pre-AP or a general literature course." This teacher's guide may be a good review for the AP teacher, but not one to evoke critical thinking at the level needed in my class.

As I continue my search, I discover the online document by Joyce Carol Oates, one of my favorite writers. From the abstract, I see that her essay will be a model for effective writing as well as a provocative discussion starter. As the abstract describes, Oates defends Emily Bronte's novel as "a mature work of astonishing magnitude." Oates's article will elicit a discussion about Bronte's style and purpose, very appropriate for AP. This is exactly the resource I need to revitalize my class's study of Bronte's masterpiece.

After an hour and 15 minutes at AP Central, I have a book and two online documents that offer exactly what I need to energize the study of Wuthering Heights. As I reflect on my research at AP Central, I realize that the descriptive, frank abstracts are gifts for the timeworn teacher!

Dr. Sharon Johnston is the director of curriculum and instruction for the Florida Virtual School. She is a National Board Certified teacher with over 20 years of experience, serves as a College Board consultant, and has facilitated the AP English Literature and Composition course for the AP Institute at the University of Central Florida for nine years.

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