In-depth US History Course for High Schoolers

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American History Course


Four years ago I was faced with the question of what to use for a US History Course for my 11th grade son, who wanted to write the AP exam at the end of the year. I never ‘teach to the test’, so although I wanted to be sure he would be prepared for  the exam, I was more interested in providing him with an interesting and challenging course he would enjoy.

I couldn’t find anything that quite met those specifications, so decided to pull together my own course. My older daughter had already written the AP US History exam and so I had some idea what would be tested, and I did keep that in mind when deciding on the homework exercises and essays.

For the spine I chose the Teaching Company’s college level course. We have used many of their courses as electives and have been very happy with all of them. I added Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People which my husband and I enjoyed about 25 years ago.

To help with the Document Based Question on the exam, I added in the Critical Thinking Through US History books which get students to work with primary documents.

And to add to the fun element, I included lots of DVDs – documentaries plus feature films. I have found that movies can really help students understand what a time period was like. We usually watched those on the weekends.

After my older son worked through the course, enjoyed it, and scored well on the exam, my younger son used it as well and so have 2 other students. I decided I would share what I came up with in the hopes that it will help others looking for a rigorous history course, whether or not your students plan to take the AP exam.

You can download it here for free. What you will get is just my schedule – obviously you will still need to buy / borrow from the library the actual resources you need. Please feel free to share it with friends.

Many of the resources I have used will be helpful to any high school students preparing for the AP exam, so I hope some of them will be able to make use of it too.

Any other subjects you are struggling to find courses for? Let me know in the comments


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  1. allie says:

    Hello Meryl-
    I love your AP Us History syllabus and the resources you’ve chosen. I’m wondering if you or anyone has done an updated version with recent AP test changes. Thank you so very much.

    • I haven’t changed it much as it really is just broader in scope than the new AP. The main thing will be to get a current AP test prep book to use for the final 2 weeks. I am not a big fan of teaching to the test and would rather cover more US History than necessary.

  2. Kathy Feusse says:

    I am looking for a world history course for high school that is similar to your US history course. Do you know of any?

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