The way I hear it, the first three weeks are the most important. Behaviorwise, the first three weeks set the tone of the class. Instructionwise, the first three weeks set the tone of the course.

For American history and American government, I have a plan.

The first three weeks set the foundation: students will, in order, memorize the map of the United States, a simple timeline and the presidents of the United States. Said timeline includes a few key dates in American history — JFK’s assassination, Pearl Harbor, Armistice Day, et. al. — plus when all those wars go.

This sort of rote memorization grinding fits in best at the beginning of the year, when discipline is still a nebulous issue. It’s easy to establish a routine with this short unit.

Once that’s over with, we’ll actually start hitting the whole thing thematically.

Don’t worry about the first three weeks sounding boring. I have my plans for that, too.

I’m more worried about the workload than anything. Is this too much to expect from my students in the first three weeks? Should I tone it down? Or should I chalk this up to healthy overplanning?


  1. Howabominable (aka Lindsey ^_^)

    I think if it’s just a map and the dates, it should be fine. It’s a bit more than I had to do in high school, but then again I found the courses hardly challenging. I was in an AP class which mainly consisted of listening to the teacher lecture and hoping it’s relevant for the AP test.

    Anyway, at least in my area the kids in junior high are supposed to learn the map of the United States, so if it’s the same where you are it will just be brushing up for them.

  2. Do it. Not only does it make routine-establishing easy, but if you can get them to actually memorize it? Great success to start your year off with.

    Also, can I steal your maps, timeline and plans if you come up with them? 🙂

  3. Lindsey: Respect to the middle school teachers, but in part because our kids don’t have freshman social studies, anything they’ve ever learned about maps or history has already been forgotten. For enough of the class, we’re starting from scratch.

    I had an AP teacher like that. His call on it was that if he’s really teaching college prep, he’ll teach like a college teacher.

    He had a point.

    penelope: My plan is to get them a copy of the answer key in advance so that there are no surprises on the format or anything. It’s strictly memorization, so this way minimizes the distractors.

    Google found me some blank maps if you need ’em.

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