National Council for Geographic Education

Top Ten Ideas for Teaching APHG to Ninth graders

 Top Ten Ways to Begin your AP School Year
By Sharon Shelerud       

Summer vacation is quickly coming to an end.  Hopefully, your AP students did, or are now doing, your summer assignment.   Giving them a summer assignment can give you many clues abut each student.  Using those clues to help you to design the day to day planning of your AP course can be very helpful.

1.  In the first few days, make sure you have students do something to show you that they did the summer assignment.  This can be anything form having them turn work in, giving an ON (open note quiz) or doing some type of classroom activity that will assess each students completion of that assignment.

 2.  Knowing who did or did not do the assignment is important information for you to have.  You will need to ask every student who did not do the assignment why it wasn’t done.  Do not be confrontational or judgmental.  Some students may have attempted it, but didn’t understand it.  If this is the case, find out why they didn’t contact you for help.  Remind students how important it is to ask for help right away when they are confused about an assignment or concepts.

 3.  The next step is to find out the quality of their work or how much they really understood.  I usually give them a short 10 – 15 multiple choice quiz on the content.  Since I have them read and take notes on the first chapter, I create questions from the chapter that cover general ideas and specifics.  This helps me to see the quality of their note taking skills.  I do have students who do the work, but have no clue what they text was saying.  These are my students who will work very hard, but will need help in developing note taking skills and study habits.

4.  Once you have an idea of who your students are; which ones are ready for this college course, which ones will work, but need helps with skill development and which ones appear not have the work ethic, you are now ready to begin your class.

5.    Set the tone for this class right away.  Remind students this is a college course.  Put the date of the AP Exam, May 13, 2013, in a prominent place in your room.   Remind them they need to know the material by that date, and that your job is to make sure they are ready for the Exam.    Therefore, they will be expected to do readings and assignments outside of school.  There will be homework.

6.  Show students the calendar for the first unit.  Tell them when the first test will be, when notes will be checked and when all assignments will be due.

7.  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.   This strategy has proven to be very helpful for students and parents.

 8.  Parents and students will want to know about how much homework to expect each night.  I always tell them more time than I think it will take.  I usually tell them 1 – 1 ½ hours per night for reading and note taking and additional time if there are extra assignments.

9.  When I give larger additional assignments, or ones that require research, I give students at least two school nights to complete it.  If possible I try to give an assignment on Thursday/Friday and then due on Tuesday.  I do this because of schedules and I do have some students who do not have Internet at home.

10.  Keep checking in with students.  For many, if not all, this will be a stressful time for them.  Most have never had to study before and are used to being involved in many activities and still earning A’s in classes.  You will also have to “counsel” parents, as they are used to their child being a ‘super star” and now they are a regular kid who has to struggle and study.  Be prepared to listen to students and parents venting and then be ready to give them specific strategies so their child can succeed in your class.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future columns, please contact Sharon Shelerud at