11th Grade AP US History


Cody Shilling | cshilling@chinquapin.org

Course Syllabus:
The primary purpose of this class is to improve your thinking skills and ability to express those improved thoughts. The test is aimed at preparing you for the AP US History test in May, but my focus (and that of the AP test) is more on the skills we will practice than on specific content (but don’t think for a minute you don’t need content).

The specific skills are:
  1. Analyzing historical causation
  2. Analyzing continuities and changes over time
  3. Comparison and contrasting of different events
  4. Contextualization (explaining how an event fits in the larger context of the history around it)
  5. Periodization (analyzing how events and time periods are grouped together)
  6. Argumentation (the skill of making an argument about history that someone can disagree with)
  7. Use of relevant evidence to support your arguments
  8. Interoperating documents and sources for their meaning, audience, and purpose
  9. Synthesis (connecting seemingly unrelated events together)

My other ultimate aim for the class is for you to gain a sense of how this country came to be and the forces that influenced how the US is today. What happened in the past still impacts our lives today; it is not just a bunch of dead people (although, lots of the people we study are, in fact, dead).

History is a Sport?
Learning history and learning to read and write about history is not something that you are either good at or not; it is like any other skill. You have to practice at it, just like LeBron or Ronaldo had to and have to continue to practice, reading history and writing about it requires practice. This class will teach you how to practice and “be skilled at” history. I will not tolerate complaining that “I’m not good at history or reading or writing or presentations or cooking or mowing grass or …”. You may not be good at it now, but you will be.

Notes about the Class
My expectations for you in the class are very high. Not only will I expect you to learn and improve at your history skills very quickly, I will also expect you to learn a great deal of information in a limited time. You will have regular readings and lectures from me in addition to individual research, all of which will teach you new material. It is up to you to make sure that information goes in your long-term memory and not the cramming department.

This class will focus on the political history of the US, which tends to be very European, white, male, upper class centric. Knowing how much of the story that leaves out, I will do my best to make sure we learn the stories of other groups who have and continue to live here.

We will write in this class. A lot. You will improve your ability to both be specific and not too specific, bringing in evidence that you know to support whatever you are writing about. There is a specific AP rubric we will be using that is easy to understand but quite unforgiving. Be prepared to bring your A game. Go big; there is no going home.

My key word is “respect”. Everyone in here (myself included) will treat everyone with respect: their classmates, their teacher (Ese soy!), themselves, and their property (personal and school). You all are 16-17. I don’t need to spell out what this looks like in specifics. If we have an issue, it will be dealt with.

This includes plagiarism. Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as your own. It is lying. It is dishonest. It is disrespectful, and as such it will not be tolerated. Studying with each other, helping each other edit their long essays, working on group stuff together, all of these are helpful and commendable. Passing off someone else’s paper as your own or trying to copy essays/answers from online is not only unacceptable it is also cheating you. It doesn’t help you become any better at your history skills.

I expect everyone to be ready in class by the time the bell rings. This means turning stuff in, getting situated, having read and thought about the reading or the homework before the passing period. Again, this is an issue of respect. If you show up unprepared, you will be doing a disservice to your classmates, showing me you don’t respect my efforts, and disrespecting yourselves. Let’s not have that be an issue.

Homework and assignments will be posted on the homework calendar and the Google Classroom page.

Grades in my class will be based on a point system (point amounts may change depending on the specific assignment):
  • Each daily writing/homework assignment or participation grade will be out of 5 pts.
  • Each weekly writing assignment/quiz/larger homework will be out of 10 pts.
  • Each major writing assignment (such as research projects or original work with multiple revisions and days devoted to it) and test will be out of 50 pts.

Tests are worth far more here than normal in my classes. You all are juniors in high school, and my goal for this is to help you get used to college where your entire grade is based on 2 or 3 tests.

Some work I will be grading on effort. Some I will be grading on skill. I will always let you know ahead of time how I will be grading an assignment. If I forget to, remind me. Ask me.

Timeline for Returning Graded Work:
Daily writing, homework
3 days
Weekly writing, vocab quizzes
1 week
Major writing, projects, tests
2 week

If, for some reason, you do need to turn something in late, there is a penalty to keep it from becoming a habit. Every day late is 20% off. After one school week, it will be a zero. I do not accept missing work at the end of the semester.

Class Routines:
Expect daily homework: reading, preparing for an in class essay or discussion, etc. Every time you come to class, I expect you to be ready in every sense of the word.

You will be taking notes and creating a full notebook with all your information. This is both because writing things out helps you remember and because you’ll have a good study guide when you study for the AP test. We’ll go over specifics in class.

We will have practice essays every week. We will start off looking at examples from old AP tests and doing them in a very structured way, but by the end of the year, my goal is for you to be writing them without preparation on your own just like you will in the AP test.

All our tests and quizzes will involve old AP test or practice AP test questions and essays. They are tough. We’ll get through it.

Schedule for the Year
Semester 1
1491-1607 Contact between Native Americans and Europeans
1607-1754 Distinctive European colonies formed as NA and Europeans traded, fought, and interacted.
1754-1800 British colonies’ independence and the baby US
1800-1848 The US growth pre Civil War
1844-1877 Slavery and the US after the Civil War
Semester 2
1865-1898 US changing from an agricultural to an industrial nation
1890-1945 US becoming a world power
1945-1980 US as World Power
1980-present Current and continuing changes within the US and without
Review and final prep

Past Years:
Semesters 1 and 2

Course Theme:

The growth and development of the idea of freedom throughout the course of American history.


1) By the end of the course, students will have developed a good sense of the chronology of American history. They will not have memorized large numbers of exact dates, but they will have an ability to place important events and eras in time. They will know, for example, that the Great Depression was during the 1930s, that Joe McCarthy had his heyday during the 1950s, that the Soviet Union disintegrated around the beginning of the 1990s.
2) Students will also know and be able to articulate the major causes of significant events in American history. Tot put it another way, they will be able to answer important "why" questions, such as: Why did Reconstruction fail? Why did the U.S. get involved in World War I? Why was Prohibition repealed only a decade after it began?

Personal goal:

In teaching this course, I want more than anything to inspire in students an interest in history, one that will lead them to continue to be students of history, even when they are no longer in school.


Independence/Revolution/Constitution (reviewed quickly and with emphasis on course theme)
Religious Freedom
Freedom and the Frontier
Freedom and the Industrial Revolution
Andrew Jackson and Freedom (a mixed legacy)
Reform (women's rights and abolition)
A Fatal Contradiction (slavery and tensions leading to Civil War)
Civil War (brief history with emphasis on growing awareness of the centrality of slavery to the war)
Betrayal of Freedom (failure of Reconstruction and the destruction of Native American life)
Immigration and Freedom
Freedom and the Age of Extremes
Freedom and Labor
The Populist Movement
Freedom and Empire
Freedom and the Preservation of Wilderness
Safe for Democracy? (World War I and its aftermath)
The Twenties (Prohibition as cautionary tale, growth of freedom for women, jazz as expression of freedom)
Freedom Under Fire (Depression and World War II)
Freedom and the Fifties (Cold War, McCarthyism, civil rights movement, rock n' roll)
The Sixties (freedom flowers, but violence erupts at home and abroad; music as force for social change--overrated?)
The Seventies (Watergate, the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Carter and the Iranian hostage crisis--Islamic terror rears its head)
The Reagan Years (challenge to the welfare state; tax cuts and deregulation; collapse of Soviet Union and rejection of communism)
Bush I (Gulf War, Somalia)
The Clinton years (Clinton as business-friendly Democrat, social liberal, policy wonk, peacemaker, and deeply flawed human being; prosperity and technological change; pre-9/11 terrorist attacks)
Bush II (9/11 and Bush's response; wars in Iraq and Afghanistan)
Freedom and the Future (what challenges to freedom lie ahead?)


1. Students will improve their ability to recall, organize, and articulate historical information, both in speech and writing.
2. Students will learn how to evaluate and make use of both primary and secondary sources of historical information.
3. Students will develop an understanding that historical events, processes, and situations can be interpreted in various ways, and they will begin to develop their ability to do such interpretation.
4. Students will develop their ability to empathize with different kinds of people who lived in different times and places.


During the first semester, students are required to give an oral presentation based on research they have done on a chosen topic. During the second semester, students write a four-to-six page research paper on a chosen topic. These activities provide opportunities for students to develop the skills and abilities described above. The tests given at the end of each unit, as well as occasional writing assignments, provide such opportunities as well.


Student performance is evaluated almost entirely through testing. Tests are given at the end of each unit. The emphasis on the tests is on getting students to articulate what they know in a comprehensible fashion. For that reason, the tests consist almost entirely of essay questions. While multiple choice and true-false tests can indeed tell a teacher something about how well a student understands the course material, they do not give the student the opportunity to articulate what she knows. By relentlessly providing such opportunities on every test, I hope to help the students to become better writers and thinkers.

Books and other resources

Hakim, Joy. Freedom: A History of US. Oxford University Press, 2003.
Truman. American Experience, PBS Home Video, 1997.