I have been teaching AP US History for almost two decades, but am always on the lookout for new techniques and ideas for getting my students prepared for the national exam. Since it is coming up on May 7th, anyone out there teaching the class and have ideas for comprehensive review?
I don't teach AP US History, but I teach AP English Language which includes a synthesis essay (very similar to DBQs), and my school's AP US teacher and I work closely together. I assign nonfiction assignments that are related to US History (such as A Stillness at Appomattox), and the AP US teacher helps prepare our students with visual analysis by working on political cartoons with them (the AP English Lang. students have to analyze visuals too). I know that it is a little late for this year's exam to begin collaborating, but perhaps you could meet with your AP English Lang. teacher over the summer and coordinate summer reading, etc.
One method that other AP teachers and I have found works well is to administer a full-length practice test to our students--I'm doing so this week. I ask them to complete the multiple choice questions one day, two of our essays the next day, and the third essay on the third day. After I have graded all parts of the exam and determined a composite score, I meet with the students individually to discuss what they need the most help on and to encourage them on their strengths.
We do practice tests in class. I am a huge advocate of the review books and encourage the kids to take the practice examsin them. I also direct them to online practice tests.
We have done a lot of essay practice - from writing to outlining, but at this point I make a point to have them grade released essays - in groups they brainstorm what details they would expect to see in the essay, then look for those details along with the thesis, road map, etc.
I use a lot of worksheets that help them to recall facts about different time periods. Starting the week of the exam, we have review sessions and run (literally) through the history they were supposed to learn along the way.
I would add that you need to give your students an opportunity to practice taking tests of similar format to the AP exam itself. It has been my experience that if students are familiar with the testing format that will put them a little more at ease taking the "real" test.
My comprehensive reviews for the AP exam as well as the NYS Regents exam in history are broken down into what I refer to as 'managed segements' of history. These 'segements' highlight the distinct political and socico-economic dynamics of each period in order to foster a multi-demensional perspective for the student. The AP and Regents exams require the student to harness both specific knowledge of the subject matter as well as its greater meaning within the scope of historical analysis. When students understand the 'what' of history, they will most definitely understand it better with the 'how' and 'why' added to the equation. Build capacity and the student will have both the external and internal understanding of the history.
Opportunities that allow them to choose active hands on approaches to learning the necessary materials increase interest, build positive attitudes, and develops their ability to think logically and creatively. Good luckJ
Heck, if you've been teaching it that long, you surely know more about it than me... I taught it twice, trying to get it started at my little 1A (now down to 2B with the new classifications) school with our 70% free lunch population...
I had people do essay outlines galore because they were bad at essays and because it was meant to make them figure out what facts went with what time periods, ideas, etc. I used the projector to show all sorts of maps, cartoons, etc and asked them to tell me what was going on with those (as a way of getting them to think about how you use documents and to get them to remember facts). And lots of practice tests...
I think this might be too late, but it is always a good idea to focus on writing since writing plays such an important part in the exam, and it is worth so much that multiple choice questions can be mitigated to such an extent that focusing on writing seems to be the best way to go. I suggest you form an AP History group on here. That way you can make a little money while talking about the best way to improve your class at the same time.