Introduction to Advanced Placement U.S. History Lessons

(Direct Link to Listings)

The lessons included in this listing have been designed to teach the content and skills required of students who are enrolled in AP U.S. History and intend to take the AP examination. The lessons are challenging, yet engaging. They draw on a wide range of primary and secondary sources in all media including audio clips and images as well as interactive maps and timelines. They teach both the content and skills needed to complete AP U.S. History successfully.

A Note to Teachers: AP U.S. History units and lesson plans can be sorted out on the History & Social Studies landing page using the "AP U.S. History" option on the expandable sort table. The bulk of the AP U.S. History units and lesson plans can also be found under the EDSITEment We The People initiative landing page.

Scholar-reviewed Websites and Primary Sources

Virginia Indian Chief
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A weroan or great Lorde of Virginia

EDSITEment offers two important resources for AP teachers and students. The first is a list of websites that have been reviewed by scholars and recommended for use in the classroom. These sites have been evaluated on the basis of their content, or, to be more specific, the quality and accuracy of the resources that are contained on the main site and the links to websites that can be reached easily from the entry site. The goal is to assure teachers and students that the materials they are reading, evaluating, and analyzing are either reliable reproductions of primary sources or responsible interpretations of a subject. These websites provide a valuable resource for teachers and students to use in their own research; however, they also serve as the starting point for all EDSITEment lessons. Equally important many of these sites are treasure troves of primary sources documents such as letters, diaries, audio clips, photographs and political cartoons which are the raw materials of history.

Teacher Tested Lesson Plans

Thomas Paine's Common Sense was instrumental in shifting the argument from accommodation with Britain to outright independence for the American colonies.
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Thomas Paine's Common Sense was instrumental in shifting the argument from accommodation with Britain to outright independence for the American colonies.

EDSITEment lesson plans are developed either by individual scholars or by teams of teachers and scholars. Authors mine the websites for primary as well as secondary sources that are essential to an understanding of the subject. Once they have identified and located the key documents on the web, they build the lesson around a set of activities that engage the student in close examination, evaluation, and analysis of the sources. These activities are designed to teach students—especially those preparing for Document Based Questions in the AP exam—how to read a document, compare and contrast historical accounts, and develop generalizations from their study of the sources.

Active Learning

Robert E. Lee
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Portrait of Robert E. Lee.

Active learning is fundamental to all EDSITEment lesson plans. Each lesson begins with a brief introduction to the lesson, one or two guiding questions, and a set of learning objectives that focus on both content and skills. The background essay provides information that a teacher needs in order to teach the lesson thoughtfully and effectively. Teachers new to the subject matter are strongly encouraged to read the essay before teaching the lesson. Additional background is offered in the section "Preparation Instructions," with links to online resources that are chosen by the author(s) to broaden and deepen the teacher's knowledge of the subject. They often take the teacher to more detailed discussions of the historical issue, biographical materials on the leading actors, and debates about long-term consequences. Occasionally, they introduce conflicting interpretations that can be used to enliven and/or deepen class discussions.

Mastery of Content

Senator William E. Borah, (R-Idaho), was a prominent American isolationist who gave a speech on "outlawing war" in 1924.
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Senator William E. Borah, (R-Idaho), was a prominent American isolationist who gave a speech on "outlawing war" in 1924.

Using both primary and secondary sources, EDSITEment's AP lessons emphasize mastery of content. Lessons deal with significant themes, major events, and/or important changes. As a result, students draw information from the sources that enable them to understand how the facts relate to "the big picture." Students learn to identify what facts are important, evaluate and understand the implications of various kinds of evidence, and draw conclusions that are both valid and insightful.

Engaging the Students

America on the Sidelines: The United States and World Affairs, 1931–1941
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A comprehensive student interactive giving the user a full scope of America's political and diplomatic responses to world events between the two world wars.

Recognizing that students also need to learn skills, EDSITEment's AP lessons require students to engage in close reading and careful analysis of documents, maps, photographs, recordings, and other primary source materials. They learn the questions that should be asked of all primary sources as well as the specific requirements associated with different kinds of sources. They also learn how to weigh evidence, resolve conflicting accounts, organize their findings, develop generalizations, draw conclusions, and/or determine the significance of the lesson's subject. In short, they learn the discipline of history.

Reference Links to Listing