Advanced Placement US History

Cow's Skull by Georgia O'Keefe

Course Assignments


Course Information

Georgia O'Keeffe's Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931). O'Keeffe represented the beauty and harshness of the American West in the 1930s. She also attempted to create a distinctly American art, explaining that she knew "America was very rich and very lush." Image borrowed from University of Virginia.


The following a list of your assignments for this year. A total of 200 points is possible for the year. 100 points per semester.

Attendance and Participation: 20 points/semester

Attendance will be recorded at EVERY meeting.  Please come to class prepared to participate in class activities.  A major part of that preparation will be daily assigned readings from the required books and other reading and writing activities as assigned.   We will rely extensively on student-led discussion so the success of each class will depend on the level of each participant’s preparation and willingness to engage.  Should you be curious at any point about what your participation/attendance grade is, feel free to ask!


Map and Narrative: 10 points/semester 1st semester only

We will begin the year by drawing conceptual maps of the United States and the location of important events. As each semester progresses, you should be filling in your maps as you learn more about United States history. At the end of each semester, you will submit your map along with a 2-3 page narrative about the significance of place in United States.


Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Paper: 10 points/2nd semester

World War II Paper: 10 points/2nd semester

End-of-Semester Exam: 25 points/semester

This exam will mirror the AP exam with 30 multiple choice questions and 1 document based essay question.

Final Exam: 25 points/semester

The final exam, like the mid-term, will mirror the AP exam with 20 multiple choice questions and 1 document based essay question. The final, however, will be cumulative.


Terms and Quizzes: 20 points/1st semester 10 points/2nd semester

Several times throughout each semester, we will have mini-assessments. The "quizzes" will comprise 10 points of this portion of your grade. The other 10 points will come from your defining key terms and identifying their significance in United States history. We will share our terms lists with one another in order to aid in review for the AP exam.


Abolitionism/Civil War paper and debate participation: 15 points for paper and 10 points for debate (first semester only)

This 3-5 page paper will be due on November 20th/21st. Utilizing primary documents, each student will argue for or against slavery and the need for the Civil War more generally. You will each represent the perspective of a person living in the United States in the late 1850s and will use the paper as the foundation for the all-class debate to be held November 20th/21st.

The expectations for the two assignments are as follows:

Grading Expectations for Participation in Debate:
A = Student presents her/his position in a well-informed manner at least once during the debate; student takes the opportunity to rebut another person’s stance on the issue at least once during the debate; student treats all others in the debate with respect
B = Student discusses in the small group, but is quiet during the larger group debate; student is well-informed about her/his position but does not assert it in order to rebut another’s position; student treats all others in the debate with respect
C =  Student does not verbally represent her/his position; student does not participate in either the small group or large group discussion verbally but attentively listens to the activity; student treats all others in the debate with respect

The Liberator
A picture of The Liberator -- one of the most influential abolitionist publications in America. Borrowed from:

D/F = Student does not attend debate; or student is disruptive or disrespectful during the debate proceedings without offering anything of value

The Paper:    In addition to role-playing the position you’ve been assigned during the debate, you will also take on the role of a historian who is trying to figure out the primary arguments of those who are contrary to your debate position (so if you are pro-slavery for the debate, you will read abolitionist sources for your paper).  Basing your argument in the primary sources as well as on what you know about the historical context of the time, you’ll write a short (3-5 page) scholarly article about the intellectual positions of the pro-slavery or anti-slavery proponents.  Remember, this should be from the perspective of a historian in the year 2006 writing about this long-ago event, but since it is a scholarly article, you can assume your audience has some knowledge about the abolitionist debate.  And thus you needn’t spend a great deal of time setting the stage.  Additionally, this should be somewhat interpretive.  You don’t need to offer judgment on whether or not you agree with the positions taken by these historical actors, but you’ll want to analyze their ideas.

GRADING EXPECTATIONS for Paper (each section will be weighted equally):

A = Strong Thesis with sophisticated Argument
B =Strong Thesis with some argument
C =Attempted Thesis but unclear argument
D/F =  No thesis evident

Evidence from the Readings and Lecture:
A =  Excellent use of direct quotes and critical analysis of each quote used as well as linkages to broader context (evidence from lecture)
B = Use of direct quotes, less strong critical analysis; some lecture context
C = Evidence of evidence, but no direct quotes or analysis; lack of coherent lecture context
D/F = No evidence used; no lecture context evident

Grammar and Writing:
A =  Solid spelling, punctuation and sentence structure (perhaps 1 or 2 mistakes) and correct paper format
B = A few spelling and punctuation mistakes; some unclear sentences, correct paper format
C = Several spelling and punctuation mistakes which interfere slightly with comprehensibility, some format inconsistencies
D/F = So many spelling, punctuation and structural mistakes that the writing is unreadable, incorrect paper format

Organization and comprehension:
A = Clear topic sentences for each paragraph, logical progression of paragraphs (including transitions), illustration of excellent comprehension of the material, strong introduction and conclusion, no factual errors
B = Most topic sentences are clear, paragraphs have logical progression, above average comprehension of material strong introduction and conclusion, few if any factual errors
C =  Some topic sentences unclear, paragraphs are weakly connected (limited transitions), average comprehension of material, weak introduction or conclusion, some factual errors
D/F = No topic sentences, no logical progression of paragraphs, incomprehensible or absent introduction or conclusion, no evident comprehension of material, enormous factual errors


20th-Century Famous Trial paper and presentation: 10 points for paper and 5 points for presentation (second semester only).

Imagine you are a reporter assigned to cover a Famous Trial and interpret its historical significance to your audience. You have been told by your editor that you must cover the trial and that your story must offer both an analysis of the merits of the case as well as its importance to American History. You will then be asked to present (with a fellow reporter) the entire story to the editorial board of your paper (the rest of the class) and each of you will cover one side of the story. In order to complete your assignment, you will utilize the Famous Trials Website (see links below). The paper should be 5-6 pages and should cover the facts of the trial, the historical context of the trial, and the overall significance of the trial. The paper should have a thesis, but you do not need to do in-depth document analysis. You will work closely with your co-reporter on your presentation to the Editorial Board. Happy Sleuthing!

Last Moments of John Brown

The Last Moments of John Brown, by Thomas Hovenden, 1884. From the de Young Museum

Possible Trials:

Amistad Trial (1839)

John Brown Trial (1859)

Dakota Conflict Trial (1862)

Susan B Anthony Trial (1873)

Haymarket Trial (1886)

Lizzy Borden Trial (1893)

Sacco and Vanzetti Trial (1921)

Scopes Monkey Trial (1925)

Scottsboro Boys Trial (1930s)

Alger Hiss Trial (1949)

Mississippi Burning Trial (1967)

My Lai Courts Martial (1970)

LAPD Trial --Rodney King (1992)

Oklahoma City Bombing Trial (1997)