The Planning Season
Adventures in Summer Relaxation and Course Preparation
Each school year brings the promise of starting fresh, and for me, that promise begins in the summer. I think F. Scott Fitzgerald said it right: “I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” As I relax with my favorite summer activities like reading-for-fun and catching the latest blockbusters, I also find the relaxation inspires me to imagine the promises the upcoming school year will offer. For me, summer is quite often about the possibilities and frustrations of revising lessons, revisiting them to determine what worked, what didn’t, and what I can improve. In summer, I can look at the big picture of how each lesson fits into the unit, trimester, or course.
I’m a careful pre-planner: I start by mapping out the schedule for the upcoming year in a Google doc with a three-column table noting class date, class title/goals, and homework. Knowing that I’ll meet with my students 36 or 37 times between August and November really helps me plan the term in greater depth. My summer goal is to draft my AP US history lesson plans for those classes, which means revisiting four units that take the students from a review of Atlantic World History content they learned last spring (in a prerequisite class), all the way into the middle of the nineteenth century.
One of my favorite things about reworking lesson plans is that I’m not starting from scratch like I did as a new teacher. This year’s course will look very similar in structure and content to what we’ve done in the past. The historical content hasn’t changed, but the way I teach has evolved in the past few years (or at least I’d like to think that). On top of that, the College Board redesigned the APUSH course framework beginning this past year, which means my colleague and I, as our school’s APUSH teachers, have the new guidelines to keep in mind, too.
I dive into lesson revisions at the unit level, first by referencing last year’s homework, outlines, and goals to remind myself what we’re trying to do in each class. I don’t look at the old lesson plan until I’ve evaluated those elements. Starting with the existing framework helps me brainstorm ways I might want to approach a particular lesson, before I’ve looked in a detailed way to see what I’ve done for that lesson in the past. I consult the existing lesson only after I’ve brainstormed: this way, I can combine new ideas with some of the things that I think might have worked best in the past.
Next, I scour for resources, revisiting old favorites such as Edsitement or Stanford’s Reading like a Historian. It’s fun to see what’s out there that I can make use of, such as materials and ideas from the College Board Teacher Community, Twitter, and things I bookmarked but haven’t yet explored. I’m also off to an NEH seminar in July, which I think will get me thinking about the Gilded Age in new ways for lessons later this year.
By early July, I hope to have a good foundation for the fall, although my lessons are never truly finalized. Once the school year starts, I’ll inevitably tweak these lessons at the last minute, responding to specific class dynamics and student needs. The summer work, though, makes those tweaks easy.
I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m optimistic and excited about how it will all come together – assuming I don’t get too mesmerized by other summer activities. Especially the ones involving trips to the theater.
Tanya Roth teaches sophomore 20th-century world history and junior AP US history at Maryland Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, an independent college preparatory school in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned her PhD from Washington University in St. Louis in 2011 with research on women’s integration into the US military. Find her on Twitter @DoctorTonks.
When first proposed, the new AP US history framework promoted considerable controversy. The AHA joined teachers, students, and parents, to support the new framework in national media, state legislatures, and local communities. You can read about this advocacy in the articles below. The AHA emphasizes the professionalism of teachers, like Dr. Roth, in the implementation of the new framework.
History Is a Process, Not a Pile of Flashcards, The Conversation
American Historical Association Sends Support Letter to Colorado Students, Education World
Changes in AP History Trigger a Culture Clash in Colorado, Washington Post
Controversy over History Curriculum Goes National, MSNBC
The New History Wars, New York Times (Op-ed by AHA executive director James Grossman)
Isn’t History Meant to be a Lightning Rod? by AHA member Bob Kelly, Minarets High School, CA
History Is a Process, Not a Pile of Flashcards by AHA member Ben Keppel, University of Oklahoma
This post first appeared on AHA Today.
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