National Council for Geographic Education

Ninth graders and AP® Human Geography Top Ten List

Top Ten Ideas for Mid-Year
Sharon Shelerud
It is that time of year when freshmen hit the doldrums. Those who had the light bulb go on earlier in the school year are cruising along, sometimes too easily, while those that are still waiting for the light bulb to go on are getting discouraged. It is also the time of year teachers ask themselves if their students are ready for the AP Exam (which is only five months away). Here are some of the things I do to help encourage my students and keep them engaged. I have also included a couple of things I do to check to see how well they may do on the exam. If you have any ideas for future column topics or you have any questions or comments please send them to Sharon Shelerud at
1. I have students still asking me if their notes are good enough. Instead of answering this, this is what I do. After you have graded a chapter or unit test, give it back to the students so they can look up the correct answers in their notes or the textbook. Have them write a brief reflection on why that fact/concept/definition wasn’t in their notes. If it was in their notes, have the student indicate why they didn’t remember it. Sometimes I give students half of a point for each question they correct and add that to their test score. Other times I have them do this exercise and have a parent sign it for 5 extra credit points. Taking time to reflect on how well their notes are preparing them for each test is the best way for them to determine if their notes are suitable or not. 
2. Review concepts from earlier chapters/units. Work them into the topic you are currently studying. Model this for the students and then have them do it on their own. 
3. Give students pop FRQs. I use these as formative assessments to check for their understanding of the material. The more practice they have writing FRQs the better. 
4. Some of my students are busy trying to memorize everything. They feel they need to know it all. I tell them that is an impossible task. Remind your students that they need to memorize only enough to determine the answer by being able to apply what they know. I have them practice this by giving them readings from the New York Times/Washington Post/BBC and placing them into chat groups in class. I get most of my readings from the AP Reader face book site. Thanks to the folks who take the time to find these wonderful resources and post them!!!! 
5. A variation to these chat groups is to give students multiple readings to read as homework, and then host a “cocktail” party the next day at school. Have sparkling water or apple cider and appetizers. The teacher is the server, and as students mingle and munch, you listen in on their conversations. This can be a fun and useful formative assessment for the teacher. It also is a fun format for the kids to learn in a different setting! 
6. This time of year I also will give students examples of actual student FRQs from the College Board site and have them score them. I then give them the scoring guidelines and see how their scoring compares to the actual score the student received. These examples help students to see what good and poor FRQ answers look like. Some students will use this information to improve their own work. 
7. Right now I have a few students who can get an A in the class, but aren't because they refuse to take good, detailed notes or take their time to do the homework. They are so used to doing little and still getting an A and seem to resent the teacher for making them do all of this work! Don’t take this personally or lower your rigor and expectations. Continue to be positive and encourage them. When they do what you ask, acknowledge it. 
8. If at all possible, require struggling students to come in and get help. I will ask former AP students to volunteer to pair with them as tutors. The beauty of our technological age is that these students don’t even have to meet face to face. They can Skype or create a circle of friends on Google+ in order to have a tutoring session. 
9. Unfortunately, it may be time for some students to drop the class. If they have completely refused your efforts by now, it is likely they won’t succeed. In those cases, I tell the student that I am proud of them for trying. I also tell them this doesn't mean they can’t take an AP class in the future. It simply means now wasn't the right time for them to take one. 
10. My Semester Final is a sample AP Exam. I take questions that I think would represent the type of question they will be asked on the Exam for the units we have covered and make it into a 50-question Final Exam. This has been an excellent tool for me to see if everyone is in a position to pass the Exam in May.