6 Essentials of Personalized Learning in APUSH

The time has come.

Personalized learning and history are being joined together in holy matrimony for the first time at our school. Last school year, we decided that AP history courses would be studied over a period of two years instead of just one. The purpose was to slow down the pace so that more deep learning could take place. From March through May, I rolled out personalized learning in AP U.S. History (APUSH), AP U.S. Government & Politics, and seventh grade Ancient History (more information about that experience and why I switched to personalized learning can be found here), but now the courses can be taught using personalized learning from day one. Below are the six new key components of my AP U.S. History course.

1. Learning Journey

I haven’t found a lot of information about both personalized learning and history on the internet, so I thought it might be beneficial to share my ideas about the course for others to see. Here is what the learning journeys (as opposed to syllabi) for AP U.S. History looks like by trimester. Keep in mind that the course will continue next year with a little over two trimesters worth of new learning followed up by an extended review before the AP exam. These learning journeys will help students create a visual of what they will be learning and doing in APUSH.

Photo_APUSH Trimester One Learning Journey

Photo_APUSH Trimester Two Learning Journey

Photo_APUSH Trimester Three Learning Journey

2. Focus Areas

To clarify a bit, students will learn the historical focus areas at their own pace using the Summit Learning online platform (IT’S FREE!), which has units already built out with objectives, key terms, and resource links included. I added on historical thinking questions to each focus area playlist that students need to investigate, contemplate, and answer. The skills/content based assessments at the end of each trimester are all open-ended and completely based on these questions and the focus areas studied. The type of learning resource used is completely left up to each student. The Summit playlists contain linked articles, videos, recorded lectures, and websites full of fascinating historical information and stories pertaining to the focus area being studied. In addition to this, I provide a Google anchor document for each focus area full of textbook chapters, podcasts, historical books, and documentaries that students can choose from to dive into history as I do on a weekly basis. Here is a copy of the additional learning resource list from the Road to Revolution focus area.

Each focus area has a multiple choice content assessment that generates 10 questions randomly from a bank of questions tied to each learning objective. I am not a huge fan of multiple choice questions, but this serves as a constant to so many variables going on in a personalized learning course. The content assessment is requested digitally by the student, but the student is not granted access until I approve. This ensures that students only take assessments in the classroom where academic honesty can be monitored. Before the student is allowed to take the assessment, they must show me evidence of learning. This could be traditional Cornell notes, sketchnotes, annotated art, annotated poems, or many other types of learning strategy. After completing the online assessment, the student is instantly given feedback on which learning objectives were mastered and which were not. They can then dig back into learning about that objective and retake the assessment as many times as needed. When a student completes a focus area, they will write a reflection about their learning experience. This will help both the students and me to be intentional about learning how to learn and what works best for them.

3. Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning will take place intermittently. Much of the class will be personalized learning time where the students are learning at their own pace, but there will be many opportunities for students to interact with each other and me. Daily warm ups will consist of crazy/shocking stories from history, deep thinking prompts, discussions, and links to current events all designed to switch on students to learning about history and to help students make connections between their own experiences and historical experiences.

Students will also engage in longer discussions, historical simulations, collaborative document analysis, and peer editing of essays. Extroverted students will have the opportunity to plan out their pace together, complete personalized learning at home, take online content assessments in class, and use part of class time to learn and share ideas collaboratively. After most collaborative learning experiences in class, students will reflect upon what did or did not work for them and how they can grow as collaborative learners.

4. Passion-Based Learning Project

This is what I am most excited about. Every trimester students will be given the opportunity to learn deeply about something that interests them, gets them fired up, or fuels their passion. They will then link that to a theme, event, or idea in history and share their passion with their peers through a medium of their choosing (art portfolio, collection of original songs, 3D model, or one of these options). The idea is that students should have a chance to learn about what interests them instead of me simply telling them what to learn all of the time. Being an AP course, and a history course at that, content will still be required, but students will now have more time to learn about the things that are more meaningful to them personally.

5. Essays

Students will also practice thesis writing, argumentation, acknowledgement and reconciliation of counter-claims, and other historical writing skills. There will be at least one AP style document-based question (DBQ) or long essay question (LEQ) essay written in every trimester. I will provide feedback, and the students will provide feedback to each other so they can grow as writers and thinkers.

6. Reflection

At the end of every trimester, students will write reflections on their learning experience. This is a culminating reflection based off of many other reflections throughout the trimester. The goal is to continually redirect the focus of the student away from grades, scores, and stress and towards learning, curiosity, creativity, and growth.

Final Thoughts

I have always loved teaching history, and I have experienced a lot of fulfillment and success as a history teacher, but I also always felt that there was a better way for students to engage in learning in their own way, at their own pace, and using resources that best help them to learn. I have never been more energized and excited to start the school year. I cannot wait to celebrate the new learning experiences with my students and learn from my mistakes on the fly. It is a great time to be a teacher!

If you have any ideas about how to make this course better, or if you have any questions, please let me know. I will attempt to add posts regularly to update the progress of the course throughout the school year, so stay tuned.

You can follow me on Twitter @historyhunter22.



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Daily Prompt: Educate


4 thoughts on “6 Essentials of Personalized Learning in APUSH

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