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Speed Dating in AP English

It’s getting close to AP exam time, and it’s also a time when my students are worn out. They come to class with glazed looks, and the bags under their eyes are often bigger than the sagging of their pants. I try to put on the neon hat and shock them into waking up and staying with me for another month, so any new strategy that tweets my way, I am willing to try.

Flashback to why this strategy matters:

One of the questions on the AP English Language and Composition exam requires students to respond to a prompt and compose an argument in which they use evidence from their own knowledge and experiences to build their credibility and prove their assertion. I tell my kids: You need a big knowledge cloud that you can pluck from during the test. What do you know about _________? Because the more you build your credibility and show that you are thinking on paper, the better argument you will write.

To help build that knowledge cloud, I have to push knowledge, specifically knowledge of a student’s world. If students read or listened to the news, this would be easy—but, most don’t.

My burning question? How do I create a topic dump with current events?

First, I came up with the idea to give students a topic, i.e., freedom, conformity, sustainability. As homework they have to research the topic enough so they can bring a news article to class that reflects that topic in some way. We got this far, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to have my students do with the articles once they found them. Then, I listened in to @dontworryteach, @dlaufenberg, and @mssandersths discussing “speed dating” on Twitter, and I took their ideas and made them my own. Thanks PLN!

Speed Talking with Current Events

Inner Circle faces outward. Each student has read and knows his/ her news article.

Outer Circle faces inward, across from a person in the inner circle.

The students in the inner circle explain their news article to the person facing them. What happened? Why does this matter? How does it relate to the topic of the week? They speak for 2-3 minutes—only about the news article—while the outer circle person listens.

When time is called, the outer circle students think of topics that might be in the prompts given on the AP exam, and they try to figure out how they might use that news article to support an argument that relates to that topic. They speak for 1-2 minutes.

When time is called, students on the outer circle move one seat to the right.

Repeat the process of talking, listening, talking, listening.

Switch places from inner to outer circle about midway into the class period, and repeat the process.

Students repeat their news article several times, which will help them remember it. And, all students are flooded with ideas that they may find helpful in building their arguments for the AP English Language exam.


I asked my students at the end of class today to rate this strategy on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being “It’s horrible. Never make us do this again.” And 10 being “Please let us learn like this more often.” The average rating was a nine. I’ll take that.

Variations: reviews of concepts, terms, pretty much anything you want students to talk about and remember.

I’d love to hear your ideas.

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