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After you read the following information and advice, please feel free to go to my Dropbox, and specifically the folder “Most Useful Files.” Here is a summary of the available materials that could be of further help to you:
The files in the folder “AP US History Board Notes” are our Board Notes for each unit. I call them “Board Notes” because they contain all of the notes I would ordinarily write on the board during class; in other words, all students are provided a copy of my class notes for the entire year. Rather than focusing on trying to copy information off of the board, students can instead spend their time analyzing this information and taking their notes on top of my notes. These Board Notes are the students’ best friends for staying organized, preparing for exams and essays, and succeeding in class overall. They contain a complete list of our daily learning objectives and content lists, facts for which to listen during note-taking sessions during class and to prioritize in homework. Please refer to the information below on this website page for advice on how to maximize use of these Board Notes.
The Board Notes are available in the Dropbox in printable pdf format and also in editable Word format: I highly encourage students to take notes on laptops, iPads, or other technology, both during and outside of class. Not only will you save a lot of paper, but you’ll also make working with your notes, including making 2nd draft notes, far more efficient and effective.
The files in the folder “AP US History Guide Questions” are our Guide Questions for our textbook, helping students understand the reading and discern the important information from that which is less important. They are meant as pre- and post-reading guides to aid comprehension.
Please also see “Green Sheet AP US History,” our class policies and my best advice for success in class.
“AP US History Year Plan” is our course outline for the school year, giving an overview of each thematic unit, including the time periods covered in each. “AP US History Year Plan Questions” details the one, over-arching learning objective for each thematic unit around which I shape the entire unit. Please feel free to read them and ponder them. Together, they constitute the major questions students must answer to know their places in the American past and present, for this year and the rest of their lives. Thus, these questions will be very helpful as students collect and organize evidence in preparation for all of our exams this year.
Additionally, the complete structure of our thematic AP US History curriculum at Pioneer is available in the folder “US History Learning Objectives and Sources.” These files enable the reader to see how, whether a particular teacher uses a chronological or thematic course structure, every AP US History teacher at Pioneer uses the same learning objectives; every history teacher at Pioneer also is fully aligned to Common Core Standards. Additionally, the files in the folder “11th Grade US History Standards” detail the three sets of California and SJUSD standards that form, in addition of course to the College Board’s rigorous curriculum outline, the basis for our class at Pioneer.
If you are interested in my teaching philosophies, particularly why I choose to teach a thematic course structure and why I use extensive documents in addition to our textbook, please see “Course Philosophies AP US History.”
***Advice on Homework Success***
Each Monday, students are provided a syllabus detailing all homework assignments for at least the coming week, and frequently, more notice about major assignments and exams. With the exception of periodic binder quizzes (testing students’ note-taking and binder organization), there will never be a pop quiz or test. Students, I recommend using the syllabus to plan your week. Preview all of the assignments on Monday evening. Assess which are longer and shorter; assess which seem more difficult or less so. Estimate how much time is needed for each, and fit that time into your weekly schedule with your other commitments. Try to anticipate on which assignments you may need help, and then come in for help. A weekly schedule of lunchtime and after-school help times is posted each Monday morning in the classroom. I am available every day, either at lunch or after school or both. Please don’t hesitate to see me! Parents, in helping your student stay organized and current with homework assignments, my best advice is to review the weekly syllabus with him/her each Monday evening. You can talk over which assignments seem to be longer (and will therefore take more time and planning), more difficult (therefore enabling your student to get an early start or to come in for a help session with me), or more potentially frustrating (definitely not an assignment to save until the last night before it is due).
Students are responsible for keeping all weekly syllabi in a special section of their binders called “Syllabi.” At the end of the semester, students will have a running list of every assignment due for the entire semester. There are several purposes for keeping this running list; the most important two are to help the students prepare for exams and to allow students to make up missing homework assignments. Please note that if a student wants to make up missing homework, I can not give assignment information again. Students are held responsible for knowing the specific instructions for each assignment. Work that does not meet assignment criteria will not earn credit. Virtually all homework assignments can be made up until the end-of-the-semester deadline for 75% late credit. Please see the “Grade Viewer All Classes” tab on this website for more information and advice about make-up policies.
I also highly recommend that students and parents not wait until grade updates have been posted on line before addressing missing homework. Students’ syllabi list all assignments given in class; students, you can use the syllabus to plan proactively instead of reacting to grade reports that show zeros.
Please use this link to access all weekly syllabi (instructions for all homework assignments for the week that are given to students each Monday in class):
Please be aware that I occasionally make changes to homework assignments that will not be reflected on these syllabi. Students are notified of all changes during class and are responsible for making these changes on their copies of their syllabus.
My best advice of all is to refer to our class’s Green Sheet. In it is an entire section on the criteria for strong homework assignments. Homework assignments are graded holistically according to the reading, thinking and writing skills that we practice together to develop our college readiness. Here are some excerpts from that section of the Green Sheet. Please refer to the Green Sheet for the full text:
Strong grades are earned on homework by meeting the following criteria:
- Answering the required questions directly and thoughtfully, including critical analysis and creative thinking
- Supporting conclusions with evidence (quoted and paraphrased) from the readings; make it clear that you read the assignment and use the text as proof for your ideas
- Putting answers in your own words: simply copying large chunks of text is unproductive; rather, please use small passages from the readings as evidence and make the rest of the writing your own original words and thoughts
- Being reasonable in the length of your answers: please don’t be a minimalist—be sure to sufficiently develop many possible ideas—but be reasonable and don’t write two pages for a question that can be answered in one paragraph
Important notes about homework grading include the following:
- If you do not meet the requirements of a homework assignment, you will earn an “NC,” which stands for “not complete” and “no credit.” All NCs appear as zeros in the grade book until the assignments are completed. If you get an NC, you should finish the assignment and hand it back in to get credit. Make-up NCs can earn only late credit, not full credit. Please be aware that I am strict in my definition of “complete.”
- Please note that having the right answers is not part of your homework grade. It is important for you to understand your reading, and we will discuss the accurate answers in class, but please feel free to guess and take risks in your thinking in your homework. General Douglas MacArthur once said, “if everyone in the room is thinking the same thing, then someone isn’t thinking.” Please get out of the habit of feeling compelled to be “right” and into the habit of being curious and willing to experiment with ideas.
***Advice for Success on Exams—and in Class in General***
The following is my best advice for how to use the available resources to succeed on exams and in class more generally. The “Guide Questions” and “Board Notes” to which I refer are available in my Dropbox.
Here is a summary of our general process in class:
First, I assign textbook and/or review book reading to students; as we focus most of our class time on analyzing rather than comprehending the information contained in these chapters, it is (primarily, though certainly not exclusively) the students’ responsibility to read, understand, and take thorough notes on the reading on their own. In order to help in this endeavor, I provide “Guide Questions” for each chapter. These questions are meant for pre- and post-reading: students should read the questions before reading the chapter to get a sense of the information that should be prioritized as they read and take notes on the chapter. Then, after finishing the chapter and their notes, students should return to the Guide Questions. Here is a good self-test: if students can answer all of the guide questions with their notes, and if all of the facts (“SDs”) contained in the Guide Questions are also in the students’ chapter notes, they can be confident their notes are complete. If information from Guide Questions is missing from students’ notes, they should return to the chapter to find the missing information.
Each day when a chapter is due, I begin class with a 90-second quiz. These reading quizzes contain 3 fact-based questions, and 30 seconds are given for each response. The quizzes are always open notes and will never contain any information not included in the Guide Questions. Therefore, in addition to being the vital first step to improving overall performance in class (in order to be able to successfully analyze information in class and on exams, students must first understand that information well), effectively using Guide Questions is the best way to improve low scores on chapter reading quizzes.
Once students have reached a basic understanding of the history contained in the textbook, we spend our time in class analyzing the information and making connections, comparisons and judgments. Students’ major goal, with my extensive help in class, is to create second drafts of their chapter notes. These second drafts are students’ best possible tool for improving every skill needed to do better on exams, essays, and projects. Therefore, if students are having trouble in class, focusing on these second drafts should be the top priority. Second drafts of notes differ from the students’ first drafts in two major respects: they are organized and filtered. Together in class, we work toward a level of understanding at which students will be able to 1. organize their chapter notes—arrange the information not in the order in which it appeared in the textbook or in chronological order, but organized by themes (big ideas), and stories (major narratives, plot lines that develop throughout one or many chapters); and 2. filter out the information that is not relevant to the themes and stories defined, and therefore not as important to us. In other words, we work together to discern important information from trivia. Students’ best resource for help in this process of filtering and organizing is the chapter Board Notes. They are called “Board Notes” because I have typed out everything I would ordinarily write out on the board during our class lectures and discussions. By having them on paper, students can instead focus on working with them and adding to them rather than having to copy them from the board during class. In other words, all students are provided with copies of all of my notes for the entire year.
These Board Notes contain, among other things, my lists of information from the textbook that I find to be the most important to our analysis (thereby helping students add to and filter their own notes) and ideas for themes and stories (thereby helping students organize their own notes). The Board Notes also contain many of my hints as to what essay exam questions will be.
One mistake students make is to memorize for exams without creating excellent second-draft notes beforehand. Students, do not study for exams by using your first-draft notes! My recommended study process for exams is spending about 80% of one’s study time not memorizing, but creating high-quality second-draft notes. Then, for about two weeks before an exam, students should spend about 10-15 minutes a day, every day, no more but no less, memorizing information from the second-draft notes. In order to succeed in class, students must abandon that old habit of cramming for exams that has proven time and again to fail miserably. I can not stress enough that the secret to doing well in class is to have excellent second-draft notes, and the Board Notes are students’ best tool to get there.