National Council for Geographic Education

Ninth graders and AP® Human Geography Top Ten List

Back to School Tips
By Sharon Shelerud

 Summer is over; the summer reading assignment is done.  Now comes the time to set the tone and the course for this year’s AP Human Geography class with ninth graders.  It is important to remember that this is the first college class these freshmen have taken.  It is equally important to remember that ninth grade students need to have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in AP Human Geography.  These ten suggestions are designed to help you to do that.  This list is in no  particular  order, as what is most important to one set of students may not be the same for another.

  1.  Check to see how much basic knowledge students have on historical events.  You cannot assume they know this information. Develop a list of dates and events they should know that students could use as a checklist for themselves.  If you give a test, you can use those scores to determine what you will need to teach through out the course. 
  2. Stress the need to be familiar with current events.  Do weekly/bi weekly readings or have students be responsible for reporting on current events each week.  Train students to look at these stories through a geographer’s eyes, looking at the spatial aspects of what is going on where, why and why there? 
  3. Make sure students know the location of countries and major cities. (To underscore the importance of this, see the 2012 FRQs) 
  4. Remind students this is a college course and you are preparing them for the AP Exam.  You will want to remind parents of this, too.  This helps reinforce that this class will take time and a lot of effort. 
  5. Break up chapters into short “due dates”. Telling students they have a test on a chapter in two or three weeks and then not checking to make sure they are reading the chapter will lead to failure and frustration for students.  Most freshmen have problems with time management and need guidance in this area. 
  6. Develop a consistent method to check student progress and understanding of chapter vocabulary and concepts.  I use ON (open note) Quizzes.  I set a calendar for each chapter and tell students if the calendar says on this date you need to have these notes done then it is fair for me to give an ON quiz on that and or previous notes.  I give frequent ON quizzes dong the first chapters to help them with their time management. 
  7. Clearly articulate your expectations to students and parents and be consistent with them. As mentioned above, I give ON quizzes.  I do not check students’ chapter notes. I also require each student create student made flashcards for vocabulary terms and will only allow flashcards to be used on some ON quizzes.  Other teachers check notes.  Develop a system that works for you and your students, and stick to it! 
  8. Help students organize themselves into study groups. Remind them they are not competing with each other, and that by helping each other they are helping themselves. To help facilitate this collaborative spirit do group assignments early on in the year. 
  9. Be alert to the emotional state and stress level of your students.  Parents can be your best allies here.  Many students will look fine in the classroom, but are going home and crying every night.  You are their coach, and as their coach you need to do all you can to help each student do their best and not become overwhelmed and stressed out. Unfortunately, this may also mean you need to tell a student and their parents that this AP class is not for them. 
  10.  Be good to your students and yourself!!! Schedule assignments so that they are not only in the best interest of student learning, but also gives you the time to really analyze their work.  Pace this class in such a way that the schedule does give people “time off” now again.  It is good to give the brain a rest and give everyone time to reenergize.