Learn as You Go: How to Succeed in AP Lit

There’s a kitchen principle known as “clean as you go” that suggests that if you keep a sink full of hot, soapy water available as you’re cooking, then drop in your messy tools and bowls as you finish using them, the cleanup afterwards goes much faster. The same is true of learning. If you do a little as you go along, there’s much less effort right at the end, whether that means studying for test, writing a paper, or preparing for a seminar. Here are some “learn as you go” principles that will help you be a successful student in AP Lit.

Plan Your Reading – Senior year can become great practice for college. A heavy class load, lots of responsibilities, extra activities like college and scholarship applications, and the usual demands at home and work can really eat up your time. Plan your reading so you don’t get behind. Divide the number of pages you need to read by the number of days available, and read a little every day. It’s okay to schedule in breaks as long as you maintain your pace.

Take Note – In college, you’ll be able to mark up your books, since you’ll probably be buying your own copies. With plays and novels, you have two primary options: sticky notes or directly on your Six Pack Sheet. When you come across something in a book that makes you go “Hmm…” or “Aha!” or “I wonder…”, that’s something to note. Poetry notations will go directly into your journal.

Once Is Not Enough – You always notice new details when you watch a movie for a second time. Why should reading be any different? Rereading is okay. In fact, it’s encouraged! If you’ve read one of our class selections before, don’t decide you can skip it this time. You’ll gain more from the rereading and probably make some insights you missed the first time.

Connect – Read everything with a question mark in your head. How does this sound familiar? Why does this image keep recurring, and what could it mean? Where have I seen characters like these before, and what happened to them? What were people like during this period of history, or how did this event change people’s lives? Connection is the way human brains make ideas stick. The more you connect what you read with something you already know, the more you’ll be able to recall and analyze later. 

Check the Website – When in doubt, check this website. Background information on the author or the context of the book can sometimes be a key that unlocks an idea in a play or novel.

Keep thoughts thoughts bubbling. Happy reading!


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