Advanced Placement United States History

Advanced Placement United States History 2018-2019

Teacher - Mr. Vangsness, Room #202


Course Design:

Advanced Placement United States History is a challenging course meant to emulate the rigor of an entry-level college course. An AP Examination is offered in May and provides students with an opportunity to earn college credit. The course is a two-semester survey of American history from the age of exploration to present. Having a strong work ethic coupled with solid reading and writing skills are essential to succeeding. An emphasis in critical thinking and evaluating skills, timed essay writing, and interpretation of primary and secondary documents will be evident throughout the year.


Course Objectives:

            — Master a broad body of historical knowledge

            — Use historical data to support a thesis

            — Interpret and apply data from original documents, cartoons, graphs, letters, etc.

            — Effectively use analytical skills of evaluation, cause and effect, compare and contrast, etc.

            — Understanding of interpretations of historical events and people through supplemental readings by historians

            — Prepare for and successfully pass the AP examination on May 8th


Course Themes: These themes will be evident throughout class discussion, reading assignments, primary source analysis, secondary source analysis,  and assessments. The goal will be to understand American History along a continuum of historical developments.

            — Identity (ID)

            — Work, Exchange, and Technology (WXT)

            —Peopling (PEO)

            — Politics and Power (POL)

            — America in the World (WOR)

            — Environment and Geography- Physical and Human (ENV)

            — Ideas, Beliefs, and Culture (CUL)


Historical Thinking Skills: The following skills will be emphasized and incorporated into instructional practices throughout the school year. Students will explore these skills in order to develop a more thorough understanding of the material as well as develop skills of an historian. 

Skill I: Chronological Reasoning

      — Historical Causation

      — Patterns of Continuity and Change over Time

      — Periodization

Skill II: Comparison and Contextualization

      — Comparison

      — Contextualization

Skill III: Crafting Historical Arguments from Historical Evidence

      — Historical Argumentation

      — Appropriate Use of Relevant Historical Evidence

Skill IV: Historical Interpretation and Synthesis

      — Interpretation

      — Synthesis


Required Textbook:

            — Divine, Robert A., T.H. Breen, George M. Fredrickson, R. Hal Williams, Ariela J. Gross           and H.W. Brands.  America: Past and Present (7th Edition), edited into an ibook by Mr.                     Vangsness

Suggested Textbook:
— Newman, John J. and John M. Schmalbach. United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination (AMSCO)

Primary Source Books:


American Issues: A Documentary Reader, Charles M. Dollar and Gary W. Reichard, 1st ed., Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2002.


A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America, William H. Chafe and Harvard Sitkoff, 5th ed., Oxford University Press, 1999.


The American Spirit: Vol. I and II, Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, 12th ed., Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.



Secondary Source Books:


A Peoples History of the United States, Howard Zinn.


Historical Moments: Changing Interpretations of Americas Past, Vol. I and II, Jim R. McClellan, 2nd ed., Dushkin McGraw-Hill, 2000.


Historical Viewpoints, Vol I and II, edited by John A. Garraty, 9th ed., Longman Publishers, 2003.


History in the Making, Kyle Ward, New Press, 2006.


Portrait of America, Vol. I and II, Stephen B. Oates, 6th ed., 1995.


Red, White and Black: The Peoples of Early North America, Gary B. Nash, 3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 1992.


The American Political Tradition and The Men Who Made It, Richard Hofstadter, Vintage Books, Random House, 1989.


Course Organization

Provided in the syllabus is a course outline that breaks the class down into units that will cover two-three chapters from the textbook. At the beginning of each unit, you will be given a specific daily reading schedule that covers approximately two-three weeks. This schedule will also provide you with the Big Idea questions of the day. The intent is to avoid the notion that history is just….. “ODTAA”(One Dang Thing After Another). Each unit will last approximately two-three weeks with a summative assessment at the end of the unit. During the course of each unit students will be responsible for textbook readings. In class, students will be guided through various readings, discussions, essays, thesis statements and DBQ’s.


Seminar Format:

This class will function best if it is done in a seminar format. You and I would be best served if we are discussing the history vs. me repeating what you have read in your textbook. We need to explore the subject together; therefore, I am planning on you having your reading done for each day. The classroom discussions will revolve around the unit objectives and primary sources that we interpret/discuss each day. The important thing is to make connections that go beyond chronological associations; the themes of the course will help you make the necessary links that allow you to deepen your understanding of US history. Moreover, when we can discuss what has happened as well as what is happening in US history we further our ownership of the society we live in. Engage yourselves daily.


Supplemental Reading:

Students will be given 1-2 outside readings each week that will correlate with the topic being studied. These will be essays from various historians that will help stimulate discussions in class.


Writing in AP US History:

There will be a considerable amount of time devoted to learning how to write essays that critically analyze various historical questions.


Assessments: Your assessments will consist of the following: formative reading quizzes, summative objective tests, short-answer questions, document-based questions, long essay questions, and a variety of assessments intended to evaluate your development as an “apprentice historian”.