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AP US History Course Guidelines

Page history last edited by jdonnelly 11 years, 11 months ago

AP US History is a yearlong course that is designed to provide a college-level academic experience and preparation for the Advanced Placement Exam in May 2011. Students are expected to demonstrate mastery of a significant body of factual information, as well as further develop skills in writing sophisticated critical essays and interpreting documents. Course content will cover the 500-year scope of United States history, beginning with the pre-Columbian period, and extending through the present. Topics include, but are not limited to, life and thought in Colonial America, Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy, thirteenth century reform movements, and Manifest Destiny. Other topics include the Civil War and Reconstruction, immigration, industrialism, Populism, Progressivism, World War I, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, the post-Cold War era, and the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


The course prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses by making demands upon them equivalent to those made by full-year introductory college courses. Students should emerge from this course with not only a considerable factual understanding of US History, but also with the ability to critically interpret the data. Students learn to assess historical materials in order to determine reliability, importance, and relevance to a given problem, and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. Through class discussion, projects, and essays, students will craft historically and logically sound conclusions about the problems and issues encountered during the country’s development.


An AP course expects students to analyze and interpret primary documents (noted later as PD), including documentary materials, maps, statistical tables, and political and graphic evidence of historical events. Students develop an awareness of the multiple interpretations of historical issues in secondary sources.



In addition to the topics listed above, the course will emphasize a series of key themes throughout the year. These themes have been determined by the College Board as essential to a comprehensive study of United States history. Over the course of the year, we will examine these themes individually to understand how each helps to influence changes over time, as well as how themes are interconnected. These themes include, but are not limited to:


  1. American Diversity
  2. The Development of the American Identity
  3. The Evolution of American Culture
  4. Demographic Changes in American History
  5. Economic Trends and Transformations
  6. Environmental Issues
  7. The Development of Political Institutions and Citizenship
  8. Social Reform Movements
  9. Role of Religion in making of the US and its Impact in a Multicultural Society
  10. The History of Slavery and its Legacies in this Hemisphere



Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas Bailey. The American Pageant. 14th ed. Boston, MA.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.

Kennedy, David M., Thomas A. Bailey, The American Spirit, Volumes 1 & 2, 11th ed. Boston, MA.: Houghton Mifflin Co.,      2006.

Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. New York, NY: Vintage, 2004

Loewen, James W. Lies my Teacher Told Me. New York: Simon &  Schuster, 2007.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2006.

Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. New York, NY:. HarperPerennial, 2003.


TEXTS (continued)

Students will also be responsible for primary document readings from Paul Halsall’s “Internet History Sourcebook Project” at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/


The following novels from 11/12th grade English will serve as a connection between the two subjects and the basis for integration:

Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

Bless Me Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya

The Piano Lesson, August Wilson

Beloved, Toni Morrison

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad



Students will gain knowledge and critical thinking skills through a variety of different formats. 

  1. Students will work on note-taking skills from oral presentations and written work.
  2. Discussion will be an important part of understanding class materials as well as participation in Socratic seminars.
  3. In preparation for discussion, students will often be required to make entries into a journal based on readings, artwork, current events, and questions posed by the teacher.
  4. Projects will help students gain a variety of skills including the creation of audio-visual presentations, analytical essay writing, museum display creation, film analysis, library research, debate preparation, and historiographic analysis.  Students will work on projects individually and in groups, depending on the project.  The purpose of the projects is to allow students to analyze and make connections between diverse ideas. Some projects will require students to synthesize and evaluate large amounts of material, others will require students to compare varying historical views of one event.



Each student’s grade will be based on the following items:

  1. In-class Activities:  With each unit, students will complete various projects and content related work, in and out of class, that connect the material with another discipline and/or serve to elaborate upon texts and discussions. Projects, including AP style essays, will be graded using a rubric. These projects will range in value from 50-200 points based on the extent of the activity.
  2. Tests:  There will be 2-4 tests per trimester and each will be worth 100 points.  Students will be given approximately a week’s notice before all tests.  Students who miss a test due to an unexcused absence should be prepared to take the test upon their return to school. Students who miss a test due to an excused absence have two days to schedule a make-up time.
  3. Reading Quizzes:  There will be several quizzes per trimester and each will be worth 5-25 points.  Quizzes will typically be announced at least one day before they are given, however there is a possibility of unannounced quizzes from time to time. Quizzes will follow the same make-up policy as tests.
  4. Journal:  The student will keep a journal in which daily writing assignments and some homework activities will be kept. Ideas from the journals will be a major source of classroom discussion.  The teacher will periodically collect journals to read and assess.  The journal will be worth approximately 100 points at the end of each trimester. 
  5. Participation:  All students are expected to participate class discussions on a daily basis. A participation grade of approximately 100 points per trimester can be maintain by contributing regularly, come to class prepared with all materials and work completed, and by maintaining a level of respect and behavior consistent with the Woodlawn Honor Code.
  6. Exam:  At the end of each trimester, students will take a 150 point test on the larger themes and topics covered to that point.  Each trimester we will focus on writing one style of AP essay.  Students will then be required to write one essay in this style on the trimester exam.


Trimester grades will be determined by adding all the points the student has earned and dividing by the total points possible.  Students can keep track of their own progress with a grade record sheet.  This sheet should be kept in the student’s portfolio or notebook, and parents are welcome to check this sheet and other work any day before or after school. 

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