• Course Syllabus: AP WORLD HISTORY

    Bjarki Sears                                                                                   bsears@acsu.org

    802-462-3974(h)   802-382-1110 (w)

    Welcome to Advanced Placement World History, a college level survey course that covers human history from approximately 10,000 BCE to the present day. Clearly, this is an incredibly wide span to cover in a short period of time, which makes it different than some college level history courses you might be used to hearing about, which often focus in on a particular region, particular time period, or some other very specific topic. In fact, it is the breadth of the course that allows AP World History to serve an especially valuable role as a precursor to the study of history on the very specific level. This course will provide you with what so many students of history realize that they are missing only later in their academics: a framework for understanding history, a core of knowledge that new information can be plugged into and integrated with, a vehicle to make new learning much more meaningful and enduring.

    The timeframe is wide, it is true, but within its breadth we will find that the world shares a common story. This is what makes the course possible. This is a story that takes many independent twists and turns for different regions, but involves a tremendous amount of connection, synthesis, and sharing between societies and peoples, and often shows common patterns of development and interaction. It is not conceived as an exploration of the histories of all the different places and peoples of the world. It instead explores how all the different places and peoples have developed and grown into the world we inhabit today.

    Course Material:

    The course covers the 12,000 or so years in a largely chronological format, but will focus on five primary themes that we will trace throughout history: interactions between humans and the environment; the development and interaction of cultures; state building, expansion and conflict; the creation, expansion and interaction of economic systems; and development and transformation of social structures. Chronologically the course will be broken into six major units that correspond with the “periods” defined by the “AP World History Curriculum Framework”:  Technological and Environmental Transformations, to 600 B.C.E.; Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, 600 B.C. to c. 600 C.E.; Regional and Transregional Interactions, 600 C.E. to 1450; Global Interactions 1450 to 1750; Industrialization and Global Integration, 1750 to 1900, and Accelerating Global Change and Realignments, 1900 to the present. The units may blend into each other, but almost always we will stick to a chronological sequence, so you won’t get lost. After these units we will spend substantial time preparing for the exam, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 16th during the morning session.

    For our primary textbook we will be using The World’s History by Howard Spodek. You will also be given two compilations: Discovering the Global Past vols. 1&2 by Weisner, Wheeler, Doeringer and Curtis. Beyond these you will receive innumerable handouts and supplementary readings.

    Course Schedule: This course meets every other school day for the entire year. In many cases you will be alternating days with another course, perhaps another AP or Journalism. Classes are designated as either “orange” or “black” day classes. AP World is a “black” class. At the beginning of each month I will post a calendar of the schedule. They will not change within that month, even for snow days or special assemblies. If there needs to be adjustments made, they will be made in the next month’s schedule.

    Reading: Although many times homework will include some elements of writing or some other work to produce in your process, it will not be uncommon for you to simply be assigned reading for homework. In fact, you can bank on reading for every class whether you produce any “product” or not. I cannot stress enough that it is ESSENTIAL for you to do your reading. You will be assigned quite a bit of it, and we will not be covering all of it in class. The class covers a tremendous amount of information, and if we just discussed your homework reading that is all we would ever do and it would get quite repetitive and monotonous. Often we will have some time in class for discussion, perhaps to emphasize some certain points, lead us into a project or activity, or simply to clear up any misunderstandings you might be carrying, but not always. On chapter tests there will always be AT LEAST one question we have not covered in class.

    If you are having trouble retaining information or understanding the rather complex readings, please meet with me outside of class. We can come up with strategies for retention.

    Notes: It is not uncommon for intellectually savvy high school students to believe that taking notes is “beneath” them, that they retain everything and it is only less able students who take notes. This is a conceit for the inexperienced, and I will not allow it! In more rigorous courses, and using more complex readings, notes are essential. As I said, this is a course that serves as a precursor to collegiate academics, and 5% of the credit for early chapter tests will be based on reading notes for the chapter. You may take notes in whatever format you would like, and I know amount of depth will vary, but I require you take some. These may be typed or hand-written. Credit will be given holistically based on effort. I may end this practice at the end of quarter 1, and I may not.

    The Exam: The AP Exam will be given on May 12th, during the morning session. You are not required to take the exam, but I highly recommend it.  Here are some reasons why: First, you can often get college credit for the course, but only if you take the exam. Even some colleges that don’t give credit will allow you to place out of a lower level course if you have taken it. Second, we are going to spend a fair amount of time covering specific elements of the exam, learning about the types of writing involved, and reviewing for it. You’ll be so well prepared, you’ll already be at the proverbial water; all you’ll have to do is drink. (Not saying you’re a horse…) The final reason is one that is probably mostly opinion, but I know for myself I have a natural curiosity about how I respond to challenges, and how I would stack up. Why not spend a morning doing something you’ve prepared for, that can have good benefits, and that can be a challenge?  Two summers ago at an AP training I took the test myself (and got a five). It was challenging, but felt pretty rewarding in the end!  Yes, it does cost a little bit to take, but if it’s a hardship talk to me about it, we’ll see what we can work out; some avenues for assistance do exist.

    The exam is comprised of four sections, each of which is timed. The first section is made up of 70 multiple choice questions that you have 55 minutes to answer. The second section is a Document Based Question (DBQ) and you will have 50 minutes. The third is a Continuity and Change Over Time essay (40 minutes) and the fourth is a Comparative essay (40). They all involve some pretty specific approaches and criteria, and we will spend ample time preparing for these in class.

    Assignments: Besides working on the specific elements listed above, we will be doing a wide range of assignments and activities. It essential you do these on time, as they will pile up if you do not. Your grade will be heavily based on tests and essay writing, as this is fairly consistent with academic practice post-high school. That being said, there will also be shorter homework assignments, smaller in-class assignments like outline creation, and a variety of other works you produce in various modalities, even art!

    Chapter Tests:  Often after reading a chapter in your textbook (or several in The Human Drama) you will take a chapter test that covers the most important pieces of learning. Although called chapter tests, they will also include information contained in supplementary readings that go along with those chapters. These will follow the format of the AP Exam in the sense that you will be given some multiple choice and at least one essay to write in the form of either a DBQ, Change Over Time, or Comparative essay. My goals here are to keep you focused, assess your learning as we go along, and to continue to get you more and more familiar with the form and substance of the AP exam.

    Essays: You will spend substantial time in this course writing essays, both of the kinds in the exam and others, such as persuasive essays and research papers. For the timed essays, we will begin untimed, with you being able to work on them at home to hone your craft and allow you time to wrap your mind around the various elements required in each. Over time, however, we will begin doing them in class, timed, to help you learn to streamline your approach and condition you to be able to handle the crunch of time.

     “Office Hours”: I have noticed an interesting thing throughout my academic career. Students who meet with the professor or teacher do not get labeled with some scarlet letter; they instead succeed, grow in ability, and often get sweet opportunities like research positions and the like. Why? Because they are working to grow and the instructor knows it. I will have a clipboard in my room with a schedule of times I will be available (generally after school or during block 4) to meet with students. PLEASE be willing to take me up on these available “office hours” to cover any material you are wondering about, help you with your writing, answer some questions, or even whup you at chess! (Actually, I’m not that good, but I enjoy it!) Just write your name on the paper, and I will check each day and enter the names into my personal schedule. I will put a new piece of paper on the clipboard so you don’t have it advertised that you are meeting with me (then people will ask how badly I beat you at chess! That won’t be good for your rep.).



    Grading: Your final grade for the class will come from a number of different assignments. Individual units will place more or less emphasis on distinct parts. Assignments are given a point value based on the difficulty and/or length of time needed to complete them. Generally, but not always, assignments will break down as follows:

    Assignment Category

    Point Value Range

    Active classroom participation/ in-class writings.




    Group/Individual projects, presentations, essays







    • Late homework will drop 10% in possible grade if late, (for example, a B+ becomes a B). If the work is more than a week late, the maximum will be a 50.
    • Late projects will lose a third of a letter grade per day if late.
    • No matter what it is always better to get your work in on time, an “F” is still actually much better than a “zero.”It’s important to remember that it is my directive, and mission, to hold you to a high standard. Remember two things: this is an AP class (where you are expected to produce well thought-out, crafted work), and that “average” will be considered about a “C.” Keep those facts in mind, and we’ll be good!
    • Website:Email and Phone: Use e-mail or call if you need to! I can’t guarantee I will always get your e-mail at night, but most nights I check it pretty late. If you call, please don’t do so after 9:30.
    • To find out what we did in class or check your homework, please check my page on the school website. Go to the school’s homepage, click on “Academics” and the find my name listed under the social studies department. Click on my name, and then select the course you are in. You will find a Google calendar with relevant information. When I can, there will be links to the actual assignments themselves.
    • Plagiarism: I cannot stress enough how serious an offense plagiarism is. Plagiarism is not just taking someone’s words verbatim and copying them, it also includes taking someone else’s idea and using it without citation. Where I went to college, plagiarism meant expulsion. In the world of academia, it means the end of careers. In the world of commerce, it means lawsuits. Don’t do it, ever. I know there can be a lot of pressure on a student, especially a student carrying a heavy load. You chose the heavy load; no excuse will work. Plagiarism will mean a zero on the assignment and notification of parents and the office. Not fun, and not necessary.
    •  We’re going to have a great time, enjoy the year, challenge ourselves, and learn a lot! Let’s go!