There are many good online resources:Whether you’re a first-year AP teacher or a 23-year AP veteran, there are always new things to learn when it comes to teaching. We surveyed many AP teachers and compiled the tips teachers had to give to other AP teachers. Here are the 150+ responses of AP teacher teaching tips!
AP Biology Teacher Tips
“Provide your students with as many different tools as you can before their test. Different things work better for different students, but using all platforms will give your students confidence. My favorites are Albert.io, bozemanscience.com, and Pogil worksheets.”
-Samantha Sullivan from Paul VI High School
“It is essential that you know your content. It is also essential that you know the style and format of the AP test. I am a former volleyball and soccer coach, and I tried to simulate game conditions when we practiced. I think it is important to simulate the actual conditions of the AP test as much as possible by writing tests that mirror the format of the AP exam.”
-Laura D. from Mandeville High
“1. Watch Bozeman Biology videos
2. Borrow from teachers that have taught it before!
3. Have the students work out of the AP study guide book
4. Have the students complete the questions out of the textbook
5. Practice tests!
-Lorie X. from Riverdale High
“1. To increase student engagement, find online tutorials, animations, and activities for students to do at home before coming to class. Provide questions and goals so students know what they should be learning from each one, and use those as a launchpoint for class discussions.
2. Encourage students planning to take the College Board test to get an AP Biology review book early in the year. Set up a review schedule for units already covered to make studying for the College Board test less stressful in the spring.”
-Melissa B. from Albemarle High
“Don’t do it alone! Network and discuss with other AP teachers. They are the best resource! This is my first year and that has been invaluable!”
-Jamie S. from Woodbridge High
“Look through the Learning Objectives, decide what you can and do know. Review what you don’t know from the Learning Objectives. Remember the tests look at skills and practices, what you can do, not what obscure facts you can recall. AP Biology is about doing and applying science not learning unrelated facts.”
-Robin G. from San Ramon Valley High
“I attended a weeklong AP Biology conference. I learned a TON! I still am in contact with the teacher that taught the class and am not afraid to ask questions whenever I have them. Also, joining the AP Biology Teacher Community has helped a lot. You can post questions and get answers/advice from other AP Biology teachers. Sign up to become a member of that here.”
-Amy B. from Avondale High
“Don’t recreate the wheel that is already rolling along, just enhance it to fit your needs
1. Don’t be on the island alone!
The AP course is vast and can be somewhat overwhelming to first year AP teachers.
My best advice is to find a fellow content teacher that you can correspond with, share lessons, and best practices.
I share a Dropbox folder with 3 other AP Biology teachers, it helps me stay on track and when I feel overwhelmed and falling behind I have support. SUPPORT AND COURAGE TO ASK FOR HELP ARE KEY!
2. Use the AP Test Prep Series
It will help you review content, build test that fit your students, and keep you on track with content covered within each chapter that is vital and important.
3. The amount of resources are abundant
You don’t have to look very far for valuable and interesting activities, charts, labs, etc. Find the ones you like and then modify them to fit your classroom style. I always try to change the resources that I get, it allows me to work through them and be more prepared.”
-Joseph P. from James Bowie High School
“Be sure that the students understand the big picture concepts before you even attempt to get them to know the details.
Have the students talk to one another often in class and explain the concepts to each other. This peer teaching helps students to see where they stand with their knowledge and understanding as compared to their peers.”
-Karen I from Duxbury
“The first year of teaching AP Biology without anyone to bounce ideas off of has been extremely difficult. This has been a learning process for me. Students will not come how you want them to come. You will HAVE to set a solid foundation for AP students.”
-Keturah R. from Westside High School
“I have all my students email their work to me by midnight of the due date. This gives them a little extra leeway meeting the due date, reducing the number of late assignments. I grade their work on my computer and email it back to them. This eliminates carrying pounds of paperwork home and the possibility of losing student work.”
-Susan S from Enumclaw High
“1. Less than 6% receive a 5.
2. This test focuses on statistics. Chi Square & Standard Error of the Mean were worth many points. My students that took statistics did well in the AP Biology exam. You’d think standard deviation would be important too, perhaps it will in future tests.
3. In the free response questions make sure students look at the words in bold and then direct their responses to those words. For example, if the word justify is in bold then do just that.
4. Write free response in pen (pencil rubs off in palates going to graders).”
-Kathryn R from Highland High
“1. Study the curriculum. You should have enough training to know all the topics very well. You should also take the NMSI tests on your own and should score close to 85-90%. You should continuously getting training from NMSI.
2. Pace it so you can finish the entire curriculum before Spring Break; leave one month for review.
3. Daily quizzing to force students to do homework.
4. Unit tests: use NMSI tests.
5. Grading: Do not curve. You can adjust the final grade with other bonus assignments like projects, flashcards, retakes.
6. Your class grades should match the AP scores: 85 and higher on the test should be a 5, 70 and higher can be a 4, 58 and higher can be a 3. The other grades are not passing.
7. Projects should be aimed at the specific topics: eg. Signal transduction, gene expression, photosynthesis, respiration. Evolution/phylogeny should be used all year long. They should know how to draw a tree and use trees regularly.
We use this strategy for over 5 years. Our scores went up from 50% to 95% passing with many 4s and 5s. Our participation of the exam went up 1000%.”
-Paul L., Ph.D. from DeBakey HSHP
“1. It is expensive to run this course with all the lab requirements from College Board so it needs funding. Either get money from admin for supplies or request a lab donation/contribution from each AP Bio student of about $50. We are lucky because about 95% of the students/parents are willing to contribute.
2. Go to AP Conferences and also attend a summer workshop on how to do the AP Bio labs (through College Board)
3. Study hard and know your material because the students will test your understanding. Make the material relevant to the students either through personal stories, analogies, or bring in recent articles/headlines about your topic/unit.
4. I sometimes play rock songs during the passing period (break between classes). As the students come in before the bell, the song is relevant to the topic that day. For example, Sugar, Sugar by the Archies is played when I talk about glycolysis. After a while, the students are wondering why I am playing particular songs and gets them curious about what I am going to lecture about that day. Also, the music usually has a relaxing effect on students and me.
5. I assign videos for students to watch as homework to prepare them for the next day’s topic. I use YouTube videos and BozemanScience.com videos as a resource. The students take 10-15 video notes to turn in the next day at the beginning of class.
6. It is a lot of work teaching this class so ask others for help (fellow teachers and students to volunteer their time)
7. We are lucky because our district funds a lab technician who orders our supplies, sets up and tears down the labs, makes solutions, etc. She assists all of the science teachers also and she works full time. Our department does twice as many labs as before and our AP scores have jumped to some of the highest in the state.”
-Dan S from Mira Costa High
“I was a new teacher, Earth & Space major, asked to teach AP Biology. The first year was a disaster. My advice:
- Use the “new” format religiously until you get into the swing of things
- It’s OK to make mistakes (i.e. all labs will not go as planned!)
- Take the time to plan…you have X amount of material to cover in Y amount of time.
- Utilize out-of-class time…students can do research / watch videos (like Bozeman Science), etc. to supplement lessons
- Work with other science teachers…what gets covered in other biology / Life science classes?
- Employ technology…Google Hangouts / document submission / etc. is all there for the taking!
- If possible, try to incorporate real-life applications … guest speakers, garden / zoo projects, college visits, whatever.
- Last of all … enjoy the kids!”
-Michael M. from Sullivan County High School
“Do as many labs as you can. Have students get the Campbell Biology AP study guide. It is very helpful. Also have teachers create groups in Eduvee. It is an application in Google Chrome. It is free and they can have students study for different parts of the AP exam by subject. There are tests, notes, videos for the newly developed AP Biology course.”
-Monique N from East Career and Technical Academy
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AP Calculus Teacher Tips
“Provide your students with as many different tools as you can before their test. Different things work better for different students, but using all platforms will give your students confidence. My favorites are Albert.io, bozemanscience.com, and Pogil worksheets.”
-Shawn Godack from Gettysburg Area High School
“Don’t give up. Continue to share your passion for math even though it seems as if you’re not getting through to your students. Most times we never know what impact we have made on our students. When those rare moments occur, we realize that they actually are listening and learning!”
-Suzanne Provenzano from Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School
“Overall, teach them how to help themselves and be responsible for their own learning. Encourage them to seek out resources on the web so they are prepared to be independent learners once they enter college. Specific to AP Calculus, constantly ask students the ‘why’ of what they are doing and the ‘how do you know’ of what they are doing. Students are great at memorizing procedures. They struggle with recognizing ‘when’ to apply them.”
-Debra Mallinak from Dobyns-Bennett High School
“Take chances! Being a new AP teacher I soak in as much advice from fellow AP teachers along with our other AP calculus teacher. Listen to others with experience. There’s no room for pride when you hold children’s college in your hand. Don’t be afraid to think and do activities outside your comfort level. Incorporate as much technology, group work, and self discovery as possible.”
-John Eckhart from Sylvania Northview High School
“Rigor and Relationships! Use released AP exams and Albert questions as your question bank for exams and assignments. Cite the source (this is a 2014 Free Response) and kids will begin to feel prepared as they excel in your class. ”
“Learn very well how the test is scored.”
-Kathryn R. from Smithson Valley High
“I have a website I’ve developed for use in AP Calculus AB & BC that includes a schedule of topics for each unit, links to helpful videos, and all worked-out homework solutions so that students may check work and get help when it is convenient for them to do so. HW solutions also affords me more time in class to develop and practice concepts by not having to take time to go over homework answers at the beginning of class (students are expected to check solutions, try to fix mistakes on their own, and then see me if they are still confused on a problem).
Here’s the link. Click on the links on the navigation bar on the left side of screen to visit each Unit page. And please feel free to use my worksheets as you see fit.”
-Douglas R. from Colonie Central High
“Give students FRQ’s starting the first week of class. The more they see and practice them, the more familiar the types of questions will be to them on the AP Exam.”
–Monika V. from Athens Area High
“Use the sample questions and past free response questions as warm up for the lesson at least once a week, if you can, work in material taught earlier in the year. Give them 15 minutes and collect them, then either score them with the guidelines or return them the next day and have them self assess.”
-Paula C. from Richmond Hill High
“Use the released exams found on the audit portion of AP Central during the year and/or as practice at the end of the year for review. Be careful to use the questions only for face-to-face teaching and collect the materials to keep them secure when you finish.”
-Fred A. from Marshall (MN) High
“Don’t recreate the wheel! Ask for help and GOOGLE! There is a ton out there.
Also, College Board offers great workshops. I would highly recommend going to these workshops even when you’re a seasoned teacher. There is always something to be learned!”
-Jessica S. from Cypress Bay High
“Save a few weeks to review at the end of the year for the AP test, but review throughout the year, too. Use warm-ups, build questions into assignments, or just take some “review days”. Released AP Free Response questions often involve content from throughout the year in a single question, and thus are great to reinforce skills.”
-Scott L. from Lakes Community High
“Get your audit approved! There are the most recent AP exams released on the College Board audit site to use in class for test prep. This is the closest thing you can get to the real exam, since it is that actual exam!
Purchase the PDF file of ALL AP Calculus AB/BC exams from 1969-1998. It is in one PDF file, with solutions, and well worth it.
There are also Excel spreadsheets around that have the topics tied to specific exam problems that you should get your hands on.”
-Christopher C. from Steinbrenner HS
“a) Make connections among topics
b) Model the concepts as much as possible using simple activities
c) Refer to students’ prior learning experiences”
-Andrzej S. from Magnolia WHS
“1. Attend as many AP Summer Institutes as possible! Best tips/information I ever learned were from these (and made my first year as an AP reader more intuitive).
2. Teach your students how to communicate mathematics effectively (write out justifications thoroughly without adding too many details that aren’t necessary. Too much explanation has a chance to not get AP credit if there is ANY wrong information included).
3. Be a continuous learner. Go to workshops; find professional development opportunities online (Calculus listserv, facebook groups, other calculus teachers, etc.)
4. Relate to your students. Don’t be just a presenter of knowledge but someone who can connect with them.
5. Try to grade like an AP reader would (don’t deduct points; students must earn them for correct work).
6. Expect greatness but accept that these are high school students who need a break every now and then (if 50% is a qualifying score for the College Board, allow your students some grace every now and then. It’s okay to curve some grades. You’re goal is to help them learn and be successful, not weed them out.
7. Apply to be an AP reader. Even though AP Summer Institutes prepared me well, the best learning opportunities are from actually seeing how to score an AP exam as well as the ideas shared from fellow AP readers.
8. Finally, enjoy your job! You are getting to teach some of the brightest and smartest students in your school!”
-Alan R. from Weatherford High School
“I cannot stress the importance of structuring your timeline so that all material is taught at least one month prior to the administration of the AP Exam. This way, there is plenty of opportunity to take several of the College Board-issued Practice Tests and fine-tune during those weeks.
Additionally, I feel it is important to write summative assessments that look just like the AP Exam and feature the same type of rigor. You can easily modify your scoring rubric to be fair to the students.
I think competing in an outside calculus contest is important as it fosters a sense of competitiveness. While your students may feel that they are competing against other schools through the year, you, as a teacher, can redirect this competitiveness toward the AP Exam in May. I have found this to be quite valuable.
If your students AP scores are good, by all means ADVERTISE THEM! Post them on your website. Let the students entering your class each fall know that getting 4’s and 5’s is the norm. You’re not bragging when you do this. After all, you’re not taking the test….the scores are not yours. They’re your students’ scores.”
-Anthony R. from Avon High School
“For Multiple Choice: work out the problem then look at the answers.
For Free Response: Read the problem carefully. The question may look familiar but may have a twist. Read the problem and answer the question. Don’t get all caught up in the mathematics.”
-Carolyn C. from Upper Merion Area HS
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AP Chemistry Teacher Tips
“Have students practice as many multiple choice (such as Albert) and prior free response problems as possible, make all unit tests using similar AP test questions, and hold students accountable for making attempts at all problems.”
-Douglas Arbuckle from Nordonia High School
“Grade only what the student has written on the paper. Never interpret, never expand, and don’t think about whose paper you are grading. When the graders read the AP tests, they won’t know your students, so you need to grade their papers the same way.”
-Frances Monroe from Seminole High School
“Strive to create a depth of knowledge in your class by teaching the content through multiple ways. Too often, I have seen AP Chemistry teachers burn through PowerPoints (60 slides+ !) and Labs in an effort to get through the curriculum in time before the exam. Instead, incorporate a balance of inquiry activities and create opportunities for inquiry in as many labs as possible that are student-centered and allow for students to create a depth of knowledge on complex topics. Though these activities take time and may result in student misconceptions, the learning that follows that creates rich student understanding by having students make meaning from those misconceptions and new knowledge. This not only varies the medium by which students learn but also engages them with a variety of activities that puts them in charge.”
-Jason Flesock from The Preuss School UCSD
“It’s vital to tie in atomic structure and Coulomb’s law every chance you get. If the students can understand Coulomb’s law and apply it across several units then their explanations will be thorough and complete. The majority of the test is over the big 5 – equilibrium, acids and bases, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, and kinetics. But the rest of the material is just as important. I often teach AP Chem as if they have not had a first year chem course. Don’t make assumptions of what they have learned or remembered. Take the time to explain as much as possible for all of the topics. Finally, practice, practice, practice. Roll out Free Response and old Multiple Choice as much as possible. Make sure when you use Multiple Choice for quizzes or tests that no calculators are used. That’s a big factor in Multiple Choice.”
-Jeremy Daugherty from Argo Community High School
“I think one of the greatest resources in AP Chemistry is the “Student Performance Q and A” published each year by the College Board. This document is written by the Chief Reader to provide an analysis of the common errors encountered by the graders as well as to provide advice to teachers and students about topics or concepts that need to be addressed more thoroughly. I encourage my students to practice on one of the recent year’s free response sections, grade it using the published rubric, and then slowly review the comments of the Chief reader on those same questions. My students have found that exercise to be very beneficial!”
-Paula Williams from Butler from Cincinnati Country Day School
“Students need feedback on the presentation of their work . . . they do not appreciate how important supporting work, units, and significant figures are. Sharing exemplary work from their peers and/or modeling appropriate format for documenting work is really important.”
-Christine Whitlock, Bernards High School
“Use Albert ASAP after a topic–assign grade as HW, Lab, or Quiz depending on purpose of the grade and the level of questioning per Albert. Integrate the Albert lesson with pre-activities such as a lab, discussion, FRQ assignment, Kahoot, etc.”
-Jon Christian from Walden III High School
“Don’t get discouraged! The first year is tough, but it gets easier each year.”
-Amanda J. from Fairhope High
“Use AP Style Questions for Assessments and Time all Assessments. Having to be under the gun of a time clock for the first time in May is unnerving.”
-Buck F. from Century High School
“I have my students present their problem-solving strategies frequently on the whiteboard in front of the class. It forces them to explain and defend their reasoning out loud, it allows me to observe their thought process as they approach a problem, and it serves as additional reinforcement for the other students.”
-Taheen H. from Miramar High School
“A few of the things that I think are worth sharing with first time AP Chemistry
- Know the background knowledge of students in your subject.
This helps to determine how fast you have to go, where you should start, how you relate with their prior knowledge.
- Do demos ahead of time and see how it goes.
- Make sure that all the lab chemicals and materials are available both in kind and amount. Block off enough class time to complete the lab otherwise stop at least 5 minutes before the hour is over. Remember cleaning time should be part of the lab work (it is important that students do not rush to finish the lab). Giving students enough lab time is important from a lab safety point of view.
- It is important as a teacher to look over the upcoming chapters ahead of time and check whether teaching resources are available or not (and try to find or gather teaching materials)
- As far as an AP class is concerned, it is important to prepare the students in line with what the AP exam looks like. The College Board guide (the 6 Big Ideas, etc.) helps.
- As a first time teacher or even for experienced teachers it is a good idea to attend the AP workshops, the AP summer training and if possible to attend the annual AP conferences (at least in couple years). All of those are great ways to learn, to get teaching resources and to connect with colleagues from other schools or states.
- It is good to use technology in teaching (this generation loves it and it helps).”
-Elias M. from Central High
“Start a study session every week in class for 15 – 30 minutes starting in February.
Teach the material for mastery and the test questions will make sense. A five is a very tough score to achieve in chemistry. Be willing to learn every day.”
-Jim M. from Penn Manor High School
“Work on timing early to get them used to time limits. Work on non calculator math.”
-Ryan K. from Hendrickson High School
“I give short daily quizzes that repeat over the year covering various ions, solubility rules, signs of enthalpy, entropy, free energy – things that are crucial to having down when the test comes around. The students say that these dailies really helped.”
-Brett B. from Paris High School
“The one thing I would say is that to provide the best opportunity for student achievement on any standardized test is to teach for deep understanding. Do not teach problems but teach concepts. Derive all equations if you can. Let your students see how the many units of chemistry are interconnected. For example: While you are teaching whether a solution equilibrium problem makes a precipitate or not, by evaluating K vs Q, you should keep mentioning free energy and how the value of G is changing in response to Q. This lets them see equilibrium is connected to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Also I would make your own answer keys for student viewing to AP problems. The students will benefit from seeing how you solve these problems using your teaching style. Often the keys provided in AP Central are not clear enough and do not reveal any steps.
I have also found it very useful to provide additional lectures for my students using a somewhat flipped classroom structure. I hope any of this helps.”
-Ben G. from Westhampton Beach High School
“I use a lot of formative assessments based on AP questions to gauge student understanding on a very regular basis. This allows students to take a “practice” assessment which is corrected but has “0%” weight in the grade book. It gives valuable information to me about what their strengths and struggles are and gives them a picture of where they stand as well.
I also design assessments around lab experiments instead of assigning a formal written report to each one.”
– Maryjane U. from Westerly High School
“Students do no know how to answer constructed response questions in science with enough detail. You need to train them not only in the language of questions but how to answer them effectively
Students who take AP classes tend to be those who have never really had to study. You need to train them from the beginning on how to establish good study skills, note taking, etc.”
-Liz W. from Phillip O’Berry
“Please combine all sorts of resources (notes, videos, labs, group work, text books, internet simulations) in order to help all of your students learn. Create an atmosphere where students can ask questions and work well together. Most importantly find another AP teacher that teaches the same subject even at another school to work with and brainstorm with.”
-Carrie A. from Waxahachie High School
“I would like for more onus to be placed on solving AP type problems. I also think it’s important we get with our Honors/Pre-AP teachers of these subjects to be sure that they are getting the proper training before teaching an AP Science class.”
-John B from Alief Elsik High School
“1. Set up a timeline for the entire year before you start to make sure you cover all the topics needed.
2. Keep asking your students WHY! They need to be challenged daily with understanding why something is, not just memorizing that it is.
3. Do at least 1 lab per chapter and ask lab questions on your test. Give them situations to explain error and see data from labs they never did in class.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask other AP Chemistry teachers for help. Go to their websites and see what they are doing.”
-Susan S. from Livingston High
“- The teacher needs to know the material as well as possible.
– Anticipate questions from year to year, you’ll cover material more efficiently.
– Know your tests and the AP test very well before you teach anything. This is not to limit your teaching to the test, but to know the difficult points that need to be stressed. There are topics tested by the AP exam that have almost universally bad grades nationwide. These topics need to be stressed.
– Develop a support system for your students. This should involve former students that are available either before school to help answer questions (while you handle specific students) or as one on one tutors outside of school hours. Encourage students to spend time in your room before school and to help one another. Having students help each other is a very effective method and allows you to work more efficiently.
– Give your students opportunities to learn how to become better students. This can mean study tips and motivational talks or opportunities to relearn material they didn’t master.”
-Matt M. from Chattahoochee High
“I highly suggest that you format your exams like the AP exam. I use old tests that have been published to make my current tests, especially for the FRQs. This way the students are used to the formatting and the AP Exam seems more manageable.”
-Kimberly H. from Hershey High
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AP Computer Science Teacher Tips
“Be flexible and accommodating. As much as we as AP teachers need to worry about the AP test, how we approach that material can be adjusted to the students that we have and make them feel comfortable with it. If the student is confident in the material that has been presented to them they perform better on the AP Test. I think finding multiple resources for single topics so the students can have as many looks at a topic as possible is one of the most important parts of teaching AP. One of the reasons I have my students on Albert.io is to have as many different problems on specific topics asked to the students as possible before the AP test. I think this variation helps them adjust when the AP test comes.”
-Michael Carbonaro from Howell High School
“With a little preparation, Albert can be used as a powerful review and testing tool. Vary your assignment sizes and scope to challenge students at different levels.”
-Marcus Twyford from Cincinnati Country Day School
“1. Use as many references as you can, especially Albert.io, the Barron’s Book, Past AP Free Response Questions, etc. to immerse students in the Java language and boost their confidence. The APCS test is certainly not trivial, and students must study hard to do well.
2. Have students practice Free Response with pencil, paper, and erasers, not in front of their computers.
3. Show students how the AP Readers score the Free Response Questions. Show them tips to get more points”
-Jeff G. from Frank W. Cox H.S.
AP English Language Teacher Tips
“In prose analysis, start with a sentence and then go on to the bigger picture. If they can explain how a sentence–its structure, content, and devices–develops into the larger argument, they can explain anything in the prose analysis.”
-Paul Piatkowski from North Davidson High School
“Aside from the normal content covered in class (rhetoric, writing format, etc.), I advise teachers to continually bring history and current events –both national and worldwide– into class discussions. Expect students to know what is going on around them and the impact those seemingly “boring” things have on their world. I also try to show them how much the prompts and their essays are enhanced by an understanding of what has happened and what is happening in the country and world. In a time where our culture seems to be more ego-centric, it is crucial that we help our students literally and figuratively move their eyes from their screens and look around. The world looks much different in real life. They just need to be reminded of that… daily.”
-Tami Brown from Sioux Falls Washington High School
“Never stop teaching the foundations of your subject. Students will teach themselves if they have the foundation skills. ”
-David Barr from Glacier High School
“Allow students to peer review their colleagues’ essays. This requires them to not only be familiar with the scoring guide, but also exposes them to multiple perspectives and approaches to an argument.”
-Anna Lang from Beecher High School
“Allow students to make mistakes and help them learn from those errors in order to become their own person and find their own voice. ”
-Joseph Vasquez from Rosemead High
“In analysis, teach students to focus on cause and effect — what techniques does the writer use and what is the effect of that technique on a specific audience. Also remind them to connect their analysis to the author’s purpose. ”
-Jason Clarke from Fort Collins High
“I think it important to pick good texts to start with for the class.
I find that high interest texts really help the students get into the book and then when they are bombarded with everything that is AP – they can manage a little better.
AP vocabulary is done outside of class in various ways through PowerPoint slides, collages, student created quizzes, flashcards, etc. This way I am not bogged down in class with trying to teach vocabulary- unless it is in context with the book.
My students have a calendar so they know what to expect and it helps with organization.
Before in class essay days, I have students always view student responses for another prompt the day before. We analyze them as a class, break them down, and vote on the scores they ‘should’ receive then look at the actual score.”
-Tiffany S. from TF North
“Keep the focus on analysis and what the author does and how he/she does it. Students often fail to support their opinions, which is necessary to have credibility as a writer. Students must read constantly to create a background of knowledge from which to draw support.
Keeping notecards on what has been read gives them a bank of references right before the test. Keep things categorized in areas such as political, cultural, nature, etc. to give them instant sources from which to draw evidence. Having a clear format for ap en helps relieve the panic.”
– Dr. Peggy J. from Seminole High School
“Have students follow news so they can “enter the conversation”. It seems that, often, the writing prompts, or at least one of the prompts, reflects current events.”
-John from Baker High
“1. Allow yourself to go through the material slowly. Less is more to allow students the chance to truly develop skills and understand the various elements involved in reading or writing.
2. Expose students to various subject matters for topics of discussion. The test challenges many ideas and teenagers are not typically well-versed in world news or topics. Students need exposure to this material regularly. My students have particularly enjoyed “Reader’s Response Wednesdays” where we read an article, essay, blog, etc. and discuss various components of it to build their skills of interpretation and understanding, while simultaneously exposing them to diverse material.”
-Kristy H. from Mukwonago High School
“A successful writing conference can be a quick focus on one aspect of the piece. It can be as simple as having students partner to share their introduction and then nominate one sentence in a conference partner’s introduction for best sentence and explain why.”
-Anna from Hazen High
“Tip number one: Always come to class prepared. Do not expect to come to class and ‘wing it’.
Tip number two: Provide students with critical feedback on their writing as often as possible.
Tip number three: Keep it interesting. Have fun and make sure your students have fun with you.”
-Briana S. from Lee High School
“I have an entire website for teachers. Feel free to browse it: I have one for students as well. You may provide links to either site on your website.”
-Jim M. from ATC High
“One of the most important things AP teachers need to remember is that their role as an AP teacher is more of a challenging guide than a facilitator of knowledge. AP teaching is about allowing students to explore the text carefully and to support their ideas with facts. Allow students to dream, to fall, to make huge mistakes and above all don’t get too caught up in micromanagement. The best AP course is organic.”
-Roger C. from Little Axe Public Schools
“As any new AP Comp teacher will soon learn, it’s easy to get buried under the paper load. Here’s a system I’ve been using to get students grading each other’s essays (instead of me always doing it). You do have to be careful introducing it, however, as parents can be skeptical of students grading students.
For each student-graded essay, I use the following process:
- Students write a 45-minute timed write on a prompt from a previous AP test. Students write only their ID numbers, not names, on their tests in order to minimize the effects of student popularity.
- I calibrate the students’ grading by going over officially-graded AP essays provided by the College Board. The students usually see a low-medium (4), a medium (6), and an advanced (8) essay. We spend about a half-hour going over the essays so that students get a good idea of why each essay was graded as it was.
- Students are put in mixed-ability groupings of four and given four essays to grade. Each student reads each essay, putting a single score in the corner of the paper. They then fold over this grade so as to hide the score from the next grader. The paper is then passed to the next grader, who does the same thing. The end result is four independent grades on each paper.
- Once all papers have been marked, the group unfolds the grades and is tasked with providing a single, community grade for the paper. When all the numbers agree, it’s easy to assign a grade; when they don’t , the students then have to defend their scoring. Eventually, the group decides on a common grade for the paper. Then they give two comments, one positive and one negative, for each paper.
- At that point, the grades are entered into the system, with the scores (curved from the highest score) coming in generally in a range from 4 to 8. In contrast, essays that I grade are scored at three times the weight (i.e., I take the score and use the gradebook multiplier to give it three times the weight of a student-graded paper). The result of this system is that student-graded papers have very little effect on a student’s grade. The papers are handed back to the students.
- As a final check against error, any student who disagrees with their grade has the option of having me review it. If I find the scoring incorrect, I change the grade in the gradebook to my score, but only in a positive direction.This method, which I was taught at an advanced AP workshop for AP Composition teachers, allows the students to grapple with essays of varying levels of success–students benefit from looking at less-successful attempts at a prompt, not just high-scoring ones. It also gets them more feedback than I can provide as a single teacher (for every timed write I assign, I have a good six-ten hours of grading outside of school, making more frequent writing assignments logistically impossible). Finally, it allows them to practice essay prompts in a testing environment, which improves their performance on the AP test. Most important for student grades, they can always ask me to re-grade any paper they feel deserves better. From my 90+ students, I usually have to re-grade three or four after each write. “
-Larry J. from El Diamante High School
“Always always get your students to answer each and every writing prompt very specifically. For example, if the prompt asks the student about an attitude, students must specifically address the TYPE of attitude — not simply that the author has an attitude. The student must always try to decide and understand if the prompt is saying something in a positive or a negative manner.
However, using the words “positive” or “negative” needs refining. Instead, students should phrase in ways such as… ”the writer has an attitude of antipathy” rather than “negative” or use “an adoring or reverent attitude” rather than simply “positive”.
Hope this helps.”
-Katherine N. from Mandarin High School
“One of the simplest things I do that is quite effective is Review IDs. Starting in January, I give my kids a spiral notebook. Every night, they have to pick 5 items we have already studied and write down who/what/when. In March, I increase the number to 10. This forces students to start reviewing old material a little at a time.
I then use these as game questions – I make a circular game board with spaces like “earn a coin” and “lose a coin.” 2 coins earn a piece of candy and 3 earn an extra credit point. This added incentive keeps the game competitive and it’s so easy from a teacher’s perspective.
My other advice is to have students write a more in-depth paper over a topic from every chapter – I take my kids to the library every few weeks to research and type. I give them a choice of 6-8 bigger topics to explore.”
-Angee P. from Waynesville High School
“I would suggest making use of all of the resources available. There are some great online resources; so, a list of the top 10 would be great to have. Also, see if their school district offers any AP professional development courses. They should take them. Perhaps their district offers credit for those courses or repayment which would be an added bonus. They should also check to see if their district offers compensation/credit for teachers who attend the national AP conference. They could collect so many useful resources and gain so much information on effective teaching strategies.”
-Stephenie F. from Severna Park High
“Teach the rubric to the students.
When they know the components of what it takes to write better it:
1. Saves time commenting on essays
2. Helps give them direction in writing
3. Lets them know where they stand in skill level
4. Allows for them to strive for something better”
-Rachel from Mesquite High School
“Since the AP multiple choice is so difficult, my students take one of these quizzes per week. Once they have taken four quizzes, I take the best score of the four and square root curve*. This gives the student’s exposure to the quiz to help alleviate stress, provides the format, and gives them a heads up as to which type of quiz (either pre or post 20th century) and which types of questions they have mastery over.
*To square root curve, take their initial score and multiply it by the square root, then move the decimal over. For example, a 50% on the AP M/C = a 71.”
-Liz W. from Rockwall High School
“Be comprehensive, but present and practice gradually. Eventually, students see how ideas build on the previous ones. Write weekly and keep the writing to see progress.”
-Pam F. from West Feliciana High School
Pilot Albert to take your classroom’s AP Prep to the next level
AP English Literature Teacher Tips
“Make heavy use of the released materials from college board, and help students track their growth over the course of the year, so they feel confident come test time. Also, talk to them about nutrition, sleep, and stress management during the year.”
-Brittany Rodin from Ridgefield High School
“Especially at the beginning of the year, writing (and grading!) full essays is NOT necessary. The planning and thinking is more important because a well-thought out essay can be written quickly. We spend A LOT of time on developing thesis statements, topic sentences, and pulling quotes (essentially mini-outlines of essays) for just about everything we read. Then we work on a specific skill (introductions, transitions, analyzing quotes, etc.) and I only grade the essay for that skill. It allows them to do the thinking of about 2-3 essays in a two week period when there is no way I would have been able to actually grade and give feedback on that many full essays.”
-Tricia M from Bourbon County High School
“1) Writing with the students and modeling what “good” writing looks like is key
2) Practice multiple timed in-class writing using AP rubric and allowing students to peer edit using the same rubric to understand the grading system
3) Model your classroom after a true college class, using an accompanying course website and providing students with a detailed syllabus and calendar of course topics, assignments, and deadlines
4) Serve more as a facilitator to student learning, allowing students to self-monitor their own learning in student-led lit circles, presentation of topics, and lit analysis”
-Jeannine H. from Harding High School
“Ask this question: What techniques and devices does the author use to achieve the theme? This question is really the basis for the entire AP test, so I try to ask it about every piece of literature that we study.”
-Jodi G. from Wilson Area High School
“1. AP students need to write more than you can possibly grade. Set aside time EVERY week for timed writing but only grade every third piece. Have students participate in peer and self review using released AP prompts and essays for the other two weeks.
2. Use small sections of released multiple-choice tests for daily practice. Students become intimately acquainted with the test and practice vocab and analysis skills.
3. If you teach a subject like English, teach what you are passionate about not just what you think they need to read. You will become a much better teacher.”
-Melanie L. from Foothill Technology High School
“When preparing your students for any one of the three essays, it is always beneficial to have your students read and score sample essays. After reading and scoring sample essays, I have my students meet in groups and assign each group a different essay from the collection they just examined. They then have to create a poster that lists the score they believe the essay deserves, and proceed to defend that score using specific language taken directly from the scoring rubric along with specific textual examples from the essay to support the rubric language. From here, the students present their findings to the class and then take a picture of the scoring posters before they leave. At home, they use the picture of the scoring poster to write their own version of the “Scoring Commentary” furnished by the College Board. The next day, I provide them with the “official” College Board “Scoring Commentary” where the correct scores are revealed (they love getting the score right!), and I have the students highlight those parts of their “Scoring Commentary” that correspond with the “official” version. I end by telling them that if they can think like the “pros”, they are one step closer to success!”
-Matthew W. from Carle Place High School
“The advantage is in knowing the literary works, novels, plays and poetry, in depth. It is better to know a few works well than to have a passing knowledge of many, many works. Before long you will know many, many works well. I took this advice from a veteran AP teacher over twenty years ago. Each year you can build by adding works to the ones you know.”
-Pat P. from Lawton Chiles High School
“Have students embody the text. What I mean by this is for them to act out a Shakespeare scene or any play scene. I create a little black box theater in my room with risers, lights and speakers, and require students to use these elements to enhance or dramatize their scene. In the process of dramatizing their scene through authorial control of a spotlight, or the symbolic color of their costumes, or the movement close and away between two characters to signify relational dynamics, the students get a concrete picture of the elements that a director uses to bring a scene to life. That exercise then leads to parallels with the tools writers use to enhance or dramatize a text or story. Writers use a particular point of view to focus the audience’s view; writers use alliteration or parallelism to create rhythm; writers use character actions and movements to reveal relationships. You might think this is a hefty time investment. It is, but the benefits are worth it in the end.”
-Daniel K. from Abraham Lincoln H.S.
“Read the classics and supplement with non-fiction articles.”
– Estrella Marziani from Port Chester High School
“Some teachers, and parents, might be surprised to read this but AP students often cheat. It is because they have a lot to lose, the stakes are high. Some suggestions to help curb cheating opportunities: don’t give back test for students to take home, especially if you use them year after year. Have students write essays in class. Check out online study sources, such as Sparknotes and Cliffnotes and read them.”
-Molly W. from Bullard High
“Become familiar with the test; take some yourself. Give at least 2 practice test to the students for each piece of literature you read. Assign texts that you love and have frequently appeared on the AP test. Teach annotation, literary terms, and tone words. I love to do inner-outer questions to get the students thinking and discussing amongst themselves. Write at least twice a week; peer edit for specific concepts, and rewrite. Do timed writing and timed practice tests.”
– Sandra A. from China Spring High
“Because AP Lit is a formula, give students an opportunity to be creative. For each piece of literature deconstructed — often with students yawning — require a group project when the piece is completed. They must entertain, amuse, and teach by focusing on themes and motifs.”
-Leslie R. from Boulder City High School
“I have found www.elireview.com to be very helpful in structuring formative experiences for our writers. Teaching them analytic writing within a workshop format has been a fruitful experience for our students. Write early and often!
-Michael S from North Muskegon High
“As the test draws closer, it is difficult to find as much time as I want to give in-class practice essays. Also, the students begin to burn out on writing. Therefore, in order to practice the quick thinking a bit more we will do 20-minute writing prompts. Students have come to love these days! We get a bit of practice in with time for review and discussion.
I will provide them with an AP exam prompt (either the poetry, passage, or novel free-response). They have twenty minutes to read, plan, and write. They only complete a portion of the essay, but they get a feel for how quickly they need to evaluate the prompt and the literature. As the year progresses, most students can get about a half of an essay done in that time.
We spend the rest of class reviewing the prompt and their responses.
This is not as useful as writing a full essay, but it has given us more opportunities for test preparation.”
-Lynne R. from St. Mary Catholic Central
“In preparation for the third essay prompt, I have students create notecards (either on paper or through a flashcard app). Each notecard has a novel or play title that they have read. On the flip side of the card are character names, etc. I found in practice that some students “freeze” on the third prompt because they have forgotten simple information like the author’s name or a central character. This is an easy way to jog their memory in the month leading up to the test.”
-Clint M. from Campbell County High
“In addition to writing a lot of practice Q3s, we “speed date” all of the Q3 Open Prompts from 1970-present. I cut them out with no book list attached and students spend a few minutes with each prompt paraphrasing the question, selecting a work, and how they will connect it to the overall theme of the work. They pass them around the class as they groan/complain or get excited about each prompt. Then, each student is responsible for leading a quick discussion on one of the prompts.
This accomplishes lots of things including:
–makes students realize how much they need to review their “go-to” books
–makes students realize that a book they were not planning to write about may be worth review because it is so thematically rich
–focuses on not necessarily writing on a listed book
–focuses on the theme of the work and not summary
–these discussions make for my FAVORITE class periods!”
-Adrian N. from Tunstall High
Pilot Albert to take your classroom’s AP Prep to the next level
AP Environmental Science Teacher Tips
“This is my 14th year so I have quite a few tips.
- I do many field labs since we have an aquatic environment on campus with visitors that include geese. I have had to structure what I teach around the seasons so I can do the labs when the weather is favorable. We monitor water quality, life in the pond, air quality, soil nutrients, etc. throughout the year.
- I do formative assessment at least twice a week so I know what my students know and don’t know.
- I give a practice exam at the beginning of the year and I do another mock exam at the end. This way I can measure how far they have come and what they need.
- We do free response questions of each area of the syllabus I teach on a weekly basis.
- I try to connect the curriculum with real life careers and what is in the news.
- I plan and re-plan (each year is different).
- I use video clips and article that are current.
- I give them a study disk with all my notes on it a month before the exam so they can review.
- I do study sessions starting mid April.”
-Tina P from Central High School
“1st year = forget labs. If you can do/plan/execute them great! But it takes a few years to get the materials and get enough materials.
1. Have students grade each other’s essays the day after the test
a. Saves you time
b. Gives students immediate feedback (if you grade them it will take forever and the feedback will be meaningless)
The first time you have the students grade the essays, you have to teach them how to do it. It take the ENTIRE block but that is okay.
My kids now grade each other’s essays and they are within 2-3 points of what I would give. It only takes a total of 30 minutes for all 60 essays to be graded.
2. Have students do test corrections
These are the best tips I have right now. I am starting over at a new school so I had to drop all my AP labs due to lack of equipment and supplies. I miss the labs they are fun.”
-Barbara M. from Denbigh
“Preparing for FRQ’s
1. What are the requirements for the question ‑ list, describe, cause and effect, etc.
2. If it asks anything besides identify, you should write at least two sentences. Have one sentence stating your clear, specific answer and the second sentence providing supporting evidence, examples or a detailed description.
3. Know the difference between environmental, social, political and economic effects.
4. How many examples are requested? If the question asks for two, only the first two will be graded
5. If you are not sure about the meaning of a word in the question, figure out what it means by pulling apart the syllables (anthropogenic – anthro (man) genic (origin or made) is man-made)
6. Start each question with whether it is A, B, C,… and leave a two to three line break between each section so you can come back later to add additional information
7. Do not rewrite the question; it is a waste of time for you and the reader
8. If you find yourself writing something vague, follow it up with a specific example. (Name a specific chemical that will cause the pollution and explain its impacts, name a specific specie or type of specie that would be impacted and explain how, name a specific law or specific possible law that will illustrate whatever you are talking about, etc.)
9. If a fourth grader could say it, it is too vague.
10. Be careful with absolutes, will it really kill all the animals? Will the entire ecosystem be harmed?
11. Often wrong but never in doubt: even if you are making it up, make it sound good and confident. (Be specific. You might be right, but you will not get any credit if you are not specific enough. No “maybe” or “might” unless there is actual scientific uncertainty.)
Basic rules for a non‑math question
12. Make sure the answers are legible
13. Always use complete sentences.
14. Each answer should be organized, comprehensive, and in prose form; outline form is not acceptable.
15. Drawings are acceptable only if there is a written explanation
16. No eco‑babble, flowery, or vague phrases
If the question is math‑based
17. Do not write anything in the green book so all your work will be in the answer document
18. Even if you can do the math in your head, show each step
19. Include units in each step to insure it is correct and in the answer
20. Does the answer make sense? A monthly light bill for a family should not be in the trillions of dollars.
There are several strategies you can use to help boost your score on the Free Response section of the AP Environmental Science exam. One of those strategies is to avoid the use of vague and “flowery” terms and phrases. These terms and phrases may sound descriptive, but they frequently say little and provide none of the detail needed to earn credit. To avoid them you should try to explain yourself as best as possible using more detail.
The following is a listing of these terms and phrases to try to avoid:
1. “bad for the environment / planet”
2. “cause environmental degradation”
3. “cause global warming and pollution”
4. “change” (Instead of specifying increase or decrease.)
5. “destroy the environment”
6. “disrupt the environment”
7. “disturb the environment”
9. “good for the environment”
11. “global solution”
12. “global catastrophe”
13. “global cooperation”
14. “harm the environment”
15. “harmful / dangerous chemicals” (Without specifying.)
16. “help keep the habitat cleaner”
17. “human footprint”
18. “human impact”
19. “incentivize the system”
20. “kill all the plants/animals/wildlife”
21. “make it illegal” or “the water law” or “the air law” (Without identifying relevant laws.)
22. “make it more / less expensive” (When referring to incentives.)
23. “mother nature “
24. “overconsumption of natural resources”
25. “pollute the environment”
26. “pollute the water / air / soil” (Without specifying.)
27. “restore the environment”
28. “repair the damage”
29. “save the Earth”
30. “save the planet”
31. “stop global warming”
32. “sustainable” (Without elaboration.)
33. “toxins”, “pollution”, “chemicals” & “health effects” (Without specifying.)
34. “________ the habitat” (impact, change, alter)
35. “________ the ecology” (destroy, restore, maintain, support, harm, compromise, reinvent…)
Flowery & Vague Phrases to avoid on the AP Environmental Exam
Putting this list into action:
Weak: “Acid deposition hurts forests.”
Strong: “Acid deposition can hurt forests in several ways. One way is by reducing the topsoil’s ability to retain vital nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium which are needed by trees.”
Weak: “Runoff from farms can reduce water quality and harm the environment.”
Strong: “Runoff from farms can reduce surface water quality by introducing nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates. These compounds promote algae growth which can reduce water clarity. Further, when the algae die their decomposition by aerobic bacteria can also reduce dissolved oxygen levels.”
Weak: “The pollution from coal power plants causes a lot of environmental degradation.”
Strong: “The air pollution from coal power plants includes nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and mercury which have been linked to several environmental problems including acid deposition and mercury contamination of surface water.”
Weak: “Garbage incinerators cause a lot of air pollution.”
Strong: “Garbage incinerators generate a variety of different air pollutants including carbon dioxide (CO2), dioxin, particulate matter (PM), heavy metals and sulfur oxides.”
-Mark A. from La Canada High School
Originally assembled by J. Rodewald from Shaker High.
“Visit local sewage treatment centers. The operators love it… they treat your students so nicely that your students have a great time despite their initial trepidation. Do lots of simple math equations with them. Lots & lots.”
-Vicki K. from North Shore High
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AP European History Teacher Tips
“Teaching the DBQ is vital, but grading essays for many classes is tough. I give students a DBQ each unit, but I have students only do the thesis for one, or group documents in another, and identify Point of View in the next. This way, we work on a DBQ each unit, but break the skills down and don’t get to writing them until later in the year when they are really good at them!”
-Frank Sanchez from Mountain Lakes High School
“For me, I have a system in place that if a student is willing to do the work, I believe they will succeed. The number one thing my students like that I do to make the course manageable is to give them a syllabus two months at a time. It tells them what pages to read, the topic that will be covered each day, and the primary documents they need to read. This allows them to plan their busy lives and takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed that so many of them feel. By giving them a system, it simply requires them to practice the discipline of being a student. I find almost all of my students can handle the work, they just need to be taught how to be a good student. And of course, make Albert assignments and have them due the day of the test. I count Albert as 10% of their grade and it is the best way to have them study and practice AP style questions!”
-Sean Cunningham from Sacred Heart High School
“The most important tip I have used in many, many years of teaching AP Euro is to assign nightly readings over the text, then give a short answer quiz the next morning over that material. I then collect the papers and go over the entire section answering those questions and adding much for information and discussion as we go. The tests always contain nearly as many “extra credit” questions as they do regular points, and students learn that these daily quizzes can almost always boost their scores. Students are thus motivated to read and learn the material. They help each other before class. They specialize in figuring out what I will see as important. They plan extra credit suggestions of their own, which I always entertain. It works!
-Jill Robbins, L & N STEM Academy
“The old adage is true – the best way to learn something is to teach it! I have students become experts on certain topics, eras, or people and have them teach and assess their classmates.”
-Sara Kelty from Carol Morgan School
“I use a DBQ Quick sheet to grade the DBQ’s. They are long for us to grade. In the beginning, you read a lot and most are not good at all. This forces the kids to focus on what the DBQ requires. I will update it this summer as there are new changes for AP EURO in 2015/2016. The conclusion really forces the kids to get the thesis correct. And if by chance they do muff the thesis–the graders can use the conclusion.”
– Kris W. from Pasco eSchool
“Go to AP training! Not only will you learn all you need to know about the course, but you will also meet fellow teachers (both seasoned and brand new) who you can make professional contacts. I am about to finish my first year of teaching AP European History and I cannot tell you how many times I emailed them asking for advice or asking some very specific question about the AP exam. It helps to know you have their support especially if you are the first to be teaching your AP course at your school.”
-Elizabeth B. from Fairhope High
“PRIMARY DOCUMENTS…PRIMARY DOCUMENTS…PRIMARY DOCUMENTS…use them to learn and to teach the subject. The first year there will be many days when you are just one or two classes ahead of them…it’s okay to say “I don’t know”…it’s NOT okay not to find out to tell them the next day.”
-Leigh M. from Career Center HS
“Encourage students to be responsible for their own learning.
Teach students organizational techniques to improve reading and note taking.
Treat your students like the adults you want them to become.
Try to get your students to understand that as they get older (and especially in college), more and more of their learning becomes their own responsibility, rather than the responsibility of the instructor.”
-Lee R. from Mount Carmel High
“Students have to do the reading. There is no shortcut. I have students take a quiz on every chapter to ensure students are doing the reading. If they don’t it is reflected in their grade because they don’t do well on the quizzes. Students have to write good solid essays. Practice with essays on tests and also a few announced, and then pop or surprise writing essays. It helps to see where they are as far as understanding of the material and also hopefully lets them see where they are as well.”
-Jeff M. from York High School
“This is my first year teaching AP and the best tip I could give any new person is KNOW your content and don’t hesitate to ask another AP teacher for help.”
-Lorrie F. from Western Hills High
“1. Students have to read / there are no shortcuts. Students cannot succeed in AP Euro if they’re distracted by social media or personal drama every ten minutes. When they enter your class, they’re IN COLLEGE.
2. Use Primary Source Documents as often as possible, not just as part of DBQs.
3. It’s fun to extend topics that peak interest with mini projects or films. But be careful, before you know it it’s April and you’re still on the Franco Prussian War!”
AP French Language Teacher Tips
“Build your program and your levels to be supportive of each other. When my AP students take the exam, all my lower levels make goodie bags for them, take photos around the school to support them (complete with the hashtag #tupeuxlefaire), and fill my board with happy notes. This is all in the target language. AP tests are important but kindness is more important.”
-Stephanie Hill from Glacier High School
“It is very important that the students work on the site which prepares them for the AP test but also watch the French news every night for 10 minutes so they incorporate realia and current events in their AP curriculum.”
– Maryannick Bovard from OPUSD
“Attend an institute with Christophe Barquisseau is my best advice.”
-Carole C. from Harker Heights, TX
“Students need to learn vocabulary to go with the themes. Students need to remember to make the cultural comparison when doing the presentational speaking on the exam.”
-Kevin P. from Southwest DeKalb High School
Here is a helpful set of flashcards from Regina S. from Triton Regional High.
Pilot Albert to take your classroom’s AP Prep to the next level
AP Human Geography Teacher Tips
“Figure out how to get your students to “read” the book three (3) times throughout the course. (Read-Skim/Take notes/Create practice MCQ’s for each chapter)
A map a day keeps the “score of a 1 away”
Examples, Examples, Examples (as many real-world examples as possible) and have students analyze and write about each one
Specifics (I try and get my students to write and speak using specific examples of real-world events along with key vocabulary use as much as possible)
Did I mention maps yet? Use a lot of map analysis in class.”
-Ben A. from Conifer High School
“You must continually refer back to previous units as you move through the course. When I first taught the course, I thought I would teach each unit independently and then a huge review session. Now I have learned that if I find ways to continually bring previous units back in each unit my students do better. For example, each time I look at a map I have the students tell which type of map it is also I ask them which type of map would I use to answer different questions as we look at different topics.”
-Vaughn H. from Pompano Beach High School
“Learn the vocabulary. It’s not enough to memorize words. Students must understand how to use the words in context. Also, on a weekly basis practice writing essays making a coherent argument with supporting evidence. Be sure to embed those vocabulary words within your argument. Always define your terms at the beginning of the argument whether they are key words from the questions or vocabulary words you’re using within your argument. Next, make sure you know the main countries on a map, and something about how those countries are related especially in terms of their place in the North/South divide. Finally, students need to start watching news shows that deal with global politics. I suggest to my students that they take time out to watch Fareed Zacharia’s GPS on Sunday mornings and start listening to NPR’s “The World” on a regular basis.”
-Pam H. from Deerfield Beach High School
“Having students complete current event journals helps them connect AP Human Geography to everyday life and the real world. They must understand that the course is so broad that involves virtually every spectrum of current events.”
-Darryl S. from Towson H.S.
“Try to compile information from several textbooks when designing your course. Also, use a review guide that is not associated with your textbook. Giving students as many different perspectives on the content, and exposure to various vocabulary terms, ensures they will have a good grasp on the information.
Have students practice FRQs as much as possible. Even giving them as “take home” tests where they are allowed to look up information is very beneficial. They will be practicing their writing, but also looking for real world application for the vocabulary and integrating various units at one time. Don’t worry about the timed portion until later in your course. Expecting students to write a cohesive essay in 25 minutes on Human Geography one week into the course is unrealistic.”
-Jennifer A. from Hutchinson High
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AP Macroeconomics Teacher Tips
“Building confidence and independence is critical when teaching Macroeconomics. As in any A.P. course, students are expected to not only have knowledge of terms, but to be able to apply theories and analyze trends. Students will make mistakes, and as much as they may not enjoy it, it’s an essential part of the learning process. It may seem insignificant, but creating an environment for students to safely make these mistakes is the only way for them to develop as learners. Allow these mistakes to happen, and then teach your students to ask questions about what they may not understand. Students will see their growth over time and build the independence to take what has been taught to them and expand their knowledge farther than they had ever believed possible.”
-Casey Markilinski from Chesapeake High School
“Assess frequently (even over the minutia) such as labeling graphs, simple vocabulary that builds to the more difficult concepts
Practice everyday in class.
Come up with silly (memorable) acronyms for remembering graphs/rules.
Make every single topic/concept relatable. Find relatable songs, phrases and movie clips.
Involve students in plenty of kinesthetic, tactile, and collaborative learning experiences daily.
Encourage students to find the obvious but remain logical.”
-Denielle T. from Meadowcreek High School
“Have a Super Bowl of Econ with other schools in your district. Questions can be short answer type and teams can consist with as many as 100 or as few as 10. The winning school takes back the Macro Trophy and gets their school name and year stamped on it. Takes about 2 hours to complete. Great review for AP exam and new friendships are formed.”
-Kevin S. from Garden Grove HS
“Create an instructional focus document that aligns with your school calendar to make sure you have enough time to teach and practice all of the material that will be tested on the AP Exam.”
-Stephanie from Jensen
“This was my first year to teach macro and AP both. I found that having a very structured calendar is a must.”
-Debbie G. from Odessa Senior High School
“Practice as many FRQ’s as possible.
Make clear connections of policies closing inflationary and recessionary gaps using fiscal and monetary policy.
Label graphs clearly and accurately.
Students need to answer the question succinctly.”
-Chris F. from Conifer HS
“Require the students to read the textbook.
Require proper labeling – they will push back on this but it makes a difference in the long run.
Model the proper terminology – the students will be tempted to avoid using the academic vocabulary, stating “you know what I mean”, but it is essential that they practice, and master, the academic vocabulary for this subject
Graph practice is important.
Frequent benchmark formative assessments will allow you to understand what they are mastering and what they are not, very important in this course.
There are many good online resources:
Crash Course – Economics”
-Kathy P. from Boulder Creek High School
“Graph early and often.
Have students participate in a mock reading, practicing completing and grading FRQs. It helps them understand what is being looked for.
Go to an AP Training. You will find some great ideas for simulations and different ways to explain the concepts to the students.”
-Melissa A. from Northwest Career and Technical Academy
“What has really worked for me is to give a Group Test on material before the actual assessment. The group test is very difficult and encompass all material taught for that unit. Students work in a group which is a round circle discussing the test. I facilitate and when they encounter a concept they do not understand, I reteach the concept. When I give an assessment on the material covered, all students do well because they have taught each other. This has worked very well for Economics.”
-Carolyn H. from Marianna High
“For the 9th grade teachers of AP Human, I highly recommend some websites/apps. My students have not had Pre-AP; therefore, they know nothing about maps. I require them to use Sheppard Software in order to increase their knowledge of significant locations. It is free.
In addition, because vocabulary is so significant in Human, my students learn it by using technology. I recommend memorize.com and Quizlet (it has digital flash cards).”
-Kay G. from Lubbock High
Pilot Albert to take your classroom’s AP Prep to the next level
AP Microeconomics Teacher Tips
“Graph all day”
-Ken C. from HCHS
AP Physics Teacher Tips
“Complete all released International Practice Exams before teaching AP Physics. Attempt to answer the questions within the time period alotted to the students. That will give you a true sense of the difficulty of the material and the time pressure felt by students during these exams.”
-Patrick Diehl from Hong Kong International School
“Teaching AP Physics won’t lead to being loved by your students because it may be the first time they struggle. But you must teach it the right way without watering the subject down. In the end, your students will appreciate that you made them work at something challenging. They will appreciate your effort when they continue in college. ”
-Anthony Silvestri from Morris Hills Regional in Rockaway, NJ.
“I have to offer a lab for rotational inertia which includes bill of material for making your own turntables. Mine uses Vernier Labquest, but the lab can easily be adapted for other measurement methods.”
-Dave T. from Lynbrook HS
“I’ve been recording each of my classes every day since 2001. At first, it was to VHS, then DVD and now stored on a server online. I upload these daily videos for students who are absent, have special needs or just want to review. There is a calendar file (html) with links from the dates to the server video storage (Microsoft Office 365) with their gmail and password.
I also take daily pictures of class notes and post them daily as PDFs on my website. My AP students also do this and post them to their class Facebook page to share with each other.”
-Kunal P. from Highland Park High School
“1. Do not give days off or at least try to condense topics as much as possible in order to give more review time for the AP Exam. I have about 10-12 days built in before the AP Exam to review testing strategies, concept recognition, and concept organization.
2. Make your exams just like the AP Exam in terms of difficulty, timing, and level of response. With the new changes, more explanations are required. In fact my questions are often more difficult so the AP Exam seems easier!
3. Have them build a concept map at the end of each unit so when they need to review for the AP Exam, they have all the units organized with the most important information. It’s a great study tool for year-long courses.
4. Be honest when you don’t know something/forgot how something works and then actually look into after class; do not just blow it off. It will help your understanding and in turn will help you next year when you teach it again.”
-Brian O. from Penn Manor HS
“Read the course description and make note the scope of the content covered. There is no need to teach directly to the test, but if you are calling your course “AP” class, the expectation should be to cover all of the content. This does not mean that you should not take tangents, merely that you should be aware of what tangents you are making.
Have the students take a practice exam before the actual test. Year after year, students state that the practice exam was the most helpful activity they did in preparing for the AP exam.”
-Eastman L. from HSPVA
“1. Critical thinking is more important than equations.
2. Motivation in students creates a better result than drills. Make your activities follow a familiar structure/routine, but include cool situations like the spaceX shuttle catching news, the discovery of the higgs-boson, or similar events as a way to get them involved.”
-Samuel M. from Clarkston High
“Join the Pretty Good Physics website. It has lots of resources you can use so you don’t have to create them all yourself.
Buy yourself a copy of nTIPPERs (Newtonian Tasks Inspired by Physics Education Research) by Hieggelke, Maloney, and Kanim and use it. If they can do the nTIPPER task, they probably understand the concept really well.
Get Familiar with PhET labs. While students need to be doing lots of real, hands on labs, this website has some great simulations and most of them have already developed materials that go along with them. You just have to filter through and find the ones that are AP level or adapt some of the honors level ones. Or use the sims for demo’s for things you don’t have the equipment to do in your classroom.
Take the College Board Summer Institute course. Make friends with the people in your class. Swap work emails. That way you set up a network of people that you can ask questions and/or swap materials with. Our Summer Institute class set up a shared Dropbox and we use it to share resources with each other.”
-Debby H. from Huntingtown High
“1. Your tests should mimic the AP exam. Use similar questions, format, grading, etc. Since the test scores should be lower than a typical course, find other ways to compensate for the difficult questions. Have other graded assignments to balance things out.
2. Purchase a review book for your students (Cliff’s, Princeton Review, Barron’s, etc). Most textbooks are difficult to use and a supplement is handy.
3. Utilize the good resources online:learnapphysics.com, apphysicslectures.com, and prettygoodphysics.wikispaces.com are my favorites.
4. Use both problem solving and conceptual techniques. Some teacher overemphasize mathematical problem solving.”
-Keith D. from Wilson High School
“Spend some time carefully reviewing available student responses provided by the CollegeBoard to help your students write better responses. Often, your students know the answer, but don’t take the time to carefully read the question and answer in a way that would maximize awarded points.”
-Bryan C. from Lindenwold
Updated Example Textbook List
An updated example textbook list is now available on the AP Course Audit website for AP Biology. This resource was reviewed by Learning List, an independent instructional materials review service for schools and districts. Learning List's detailed alignment reports and editorial reviews will help you use these materials more effectively.
Updated Course and Exam Description
The AP Biology Course and Exam Description now reflects the AP Calculator Policy updates for 2018.
New Exam for Classroom Use
A secure 2017 AP Biology Exam is now available on the AP Course Audit website. To access, sign in to your AP Course Audit account, and click on the Secure Documents link in the Resources section of your Course Status page.
Online Learning for AP Biology Teachers
Looking for guidance on teaching quantitative reasoning in your classroom? Start with a this two-part series of interactive online modules.