National Council for Geographic Education

Top Ten Ideas for Teaching APHG to Ninth graders

Top Ten Ideas on How to "Check in" on 9th graders taking AP Human Geography                                    
By Sharon Shelerud                                                                                                                       

It is extremely important to be informed about how your 9th grade students are doing in your AP class at the beginning of the school year. This will help you to identify students who will need extra help or attention or perhaps need counseling to re-evaluate whether or not this is the best class for them at this time. It will also help you to identify your stronger students and use them to mentor some of their classmates.  The following are ten ways that I have used to check in on my students.

1. Set up a Remind 101 account at This is an easy way for you to send out reminders to students when tests, projects, etc are coming up. It only takes a minute or so to send out the message and for some students it is a safety line they really need. 

2. Email all parents, via a form letter, to ask how their child is doing. I usually do this around the third week of class. When I send this email, I am checking to see if students are doing work at home, how much time they are spending on it and also checking on their emotional status. Some parents are very shy to write to you so by reaching out first, those with concerns are more likely to contact you. By doing this, I am setting the tone for a partnership with the parents, which will lower my chances of having confrontational meetings later.

3. Have each student write 1 - 3 test questions for a section of a chapter. This will tell you what level of note- taking students are doing. I have had some students who only focus on the big ideas, thus missing some important details, and others who are writing way too much. I will usually do this for at least two sections in the first chapter and then occasionally through the next 2 - 3 chapters.

4. Look at each student's notes. Comment on format and content. I set up a conference time during class with each student that lasts about 5 minutes. This usually takes me a couple of weeks to do. I do not grade their notes. I don't want to get into that discussion with students or parents.

5.Have students relate a concept to a current event. Give them a quick synopses of an event and then have them use a concept (s) to explain/understand it. "The Week" magazine is an excellent source for this exercise.

6. Give weekly ON (open note) quizzes. I write about this in just about every article, as they have been an excellent tool for me to evaluate student understanding so I can adjust my teaching to meet their needs.

Have students teach a concept to another student. I use the vocabulary terms at the end of each chapter for this.

7. Give each student a term and then have them develop a 3 - 5 minute lesson to teach it to another student. This also makes them dig deeper than just knowing a definition, which helps develop their understanding of the terms and concepts.

8. Set up after school help time. Pick one day a week that will work for you to stay after school just in case someone has a question. Remember, many of these students are used to earning A's with little effort. This class will have an impact on many of your students’ self-esteem, and they may not be willing to risk being vulnerable in class. So, you should have opportunities for them to talk to you outside of the class hour.

9. Answer their emails promptly. Tell them if you won't be checking emails after a certain time at night - I tell them 8 p.m. - or on a certain day. If you don't respond to an email, students may assume you don't care or that they asked a stupid question. 

10. In the population unit, after teaching the Demographic Transition Model (DTM), have students watch the Hans Rosling TED Talk where he uses IKEA boxes to teach about population growth. After they have watched this Talk, have them explain how it relates to the DTM. I have really seen light bulbs go on after doing this, and my students really have an excellent understanding of the DTM.  

I hope you find these ideas helpful. If you have any comments, questions or ideas for future columns, please email me at