Advanced Placement United States History – Period 1: 1491-1607

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Advanced Placement United States History – Period 1: 1491-1607

Theme This course examines the history of America from 1491 to present day. Throughout the course, students will learn about the political, religious, social, economic, and diplomatic events that have shaped United States history through the critical analysis of primary and secondary materials. The course is designed to encourage students to become historians and researchers who are able to use historical facts and evidence with the goal of creating deeper conceptual understandings of critical developments in U.S. history. Students will learn to weigh evidence and interpretations as they build their factual knowledge of U.S. history and apply those facts analytically to draw conclusions about the issues that shaped and continue to shape this country.

Strand History


Early exploration of the North American continent and the developing interactions between Native and European cultures.


8 days

Content Statement

1. Before the arrival of Europeans, native populations in North America developed a wide variety of social, political, and economic structures based in part on interactions with the environment and each other.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain why settlers migrated and settled across the vast expanse of North America over time and why they developed into quite different and increasingly complex societies by adapting to and transforming their diverse environments.

2. European overseas expansion resulted in the Columbian Exchange, a series of interactions and adaptations among societies across the Atlantic.

Learning Targets:

 I can understand and describe how the arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere in the 15th and 16th centuries triggered extensive demographic and social change on both sides of the Atlantic.

 I can explain how European expansion into the Western Hemisphere caused intense social/religious, political, and economic competition in Europe and the promotion of empire building.
3. Contacts among American Indians, Africans, and Europeans challenged the worldviews of each group.

Learning Targets:

 I can understand and analyze how European overseas expansion and sustained contacts with Africans and American Indians dramatically altered European views of social, political, and economic relationships among and between white and nonwhite peoples.

 I can compare and contrast the efforts taken by Native peoples and Africans in the Americas in an effort to maintain their political and cultural autonomy in the face of European challenges to their independence and core beliefs.

Content Elaborations

1: A. The spread of maize cultivation from present-day Mexico northward into the American Southwest and beyond supported economic development and social diversification among societies in these areas; a mix of foraging and hunting did the same for societies in the Northwest and areas of California.

1: B. Societies responded to the lack of natural resources in the Great Basin and the western Great Plains by developing largely mobile lifestyles.
1: C. In the Northeast and along the Atlantic Seaboard some societies developed a mixed agricultural and hunter-gatherer economy that favored the development of permanent villages.
2: A. Spanish and Portuguese exploration and conquest of the Americas led to widespread deadly epidemics, the emergence of racially mixed populations, and a caste system defined by an intermixture among Spanish settlers, Africans, and Native Americans.
2: B. Spanish and Portuguese traders reached West Africa and partnered with some African groups to exploit local resources and recruit slave labor for the Americas.
2: C. The introduction of new crops and livestock by the Spanish had far-reaching effects on native settlement patterns, as well as on economic, social, and political development in the Western Hemisphere.
2: D. In the economies of the Spanish colonies, Indian labor, used in the encomienda system to support plantation-based agriculture and extract precious metals and other resources, was gradually replaced by African slavery.
2: E. European exploration and conquest were fueled by a desire for new sources of wealth, increased power and status, and converts to Christianity.
2: F. New crops from the Americas stimulated European population growth, while new sources of mineral wealth facilitated the European shift from feudalism to capitalism.
2: G. Improvements in technology and more organized methods for conducting international trade helped drive changes to economies in Europe and the Americas.
3: A. With little experience dealing with people who were different from themselves, Spanish and Portuguese explorers poorly understood the native peoples they encountered in the Americas, leading to debates over how American Indians should be treated and how “civilized” these groups were compared to European standards.
3: B. Many Europeans developed a belief in white superiority to justify their subjugation of Africans and American Indians, using several different rationales.
3: C. European attempts to change American Indian beliefs and worldviews on basic social issues such as religion, gender roles, and the family and the relationship of people with the natural environment led to American Indian resistance and conflict.
3: D. In spite of slavery, Africans’ cultural and linguistic adaptations to the Western Hemisphere resulted in varying degrees of cultural preservation and autonomy.

Content Vocabulary

 Columbian Exchange  Pueblo

 agricultural and hunter gatherer  Chinook

 encomienda system  Iroquois

 Europe  Algonquian

 gender  smallpox

 migration  mestizo

 Mexico  zambo

 natural resources  sextant

 religion  joint-stock companies

Academic Vocabulary

 analyze  evaluate

 compare  examine

 contrast  explain

 define  synthesize

 describe  understand

Formative Assessments

Students will be required to produce written synopses of the chapters to help them establish their basic conceptual knowledge of the concepts of the unit that is being studied. Any lack of understanding will be dealt with throughout the teaching of the unit. Daily feedback will be given in class as part of the ongoing assessment of students’ abilities and comprehension. All summative assessments will be utilized in a formative manner as well as a summative manner.

Summative Assessments

Students will be required to produce evidence of mastery of content materials through a variety of methods. They will take multiple choice exams, complete document based questions, and answer short response/essay prompts. These evaluations are patterned after the type of exam they will complete for the College Board in mid-May. These assessments will provide students definitive feedback in how well they are mastering the material and what work they need to do to be prepared for the Advanced Placement Exam.


America Past and Present, by Divine. (At the time of this writing, we are going through the textbook adoption process and this is likely to change.)

 Various primary source excerpts and documents

A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson

A Patriot’s History of the United States, by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen

From Colony to Superpower, by George Herring

The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, by Shepard Krech III

Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, by Paul Lovejoy

Enrichment Strategies

The nature of the course is already enriched as the expectation is that the content and materials are equivalent to a college freshmen survey course. Some strategies for enriching the course further would be to read any of the books on the resources list, obtain full length versions of excerpted primary sources, or explore the Miller Centers website which contains a series of academic essays on each president and covers more details than the College Board requires.


Depending on the unit, a variety of integrations will be utilized. Definitive links will be made with the English department in terms of coordination of writing as well as passages, texts, short reads, and novels that are being utilized in the English classroom. Math will be used in analyzing statistics most often pertaining to elections but not solely. Scientific discoveries and developments will be integrated throughout the discussion of the process of creating modern America. STEM will be incorporated specifically in discussion on industrialization and wartime production. Geography will be a constant as we use maps to illustrate the geographic changes to America and the changing electoral process as well as utilizing world maps for understanding America’s growth as a super power. Visual arts will be used consistently throughout the course in the nature of how art reflects American ideals as well as the importance of political cartoons as a political tool.

Intervention Strategies

Students struggling to succeed in Advanced Placement United States History must first determine if the coursework is too difficult for their abilities. Many students struggle with the volume and level of reading required for success in this course. In those cases it is suggested that a student consider purchasing a study guide book for the Advanced Placement Exam to help them with their reading comprehension. These books outline key concepts in a simple form which helps the student when reading the textbook to focus on main ideas. Students struggling with writing should set up an appointment to meet with the teacher to discuss writing strategies and should also consider meeting with the English and History academic assistants. Students who are struggling with multiple choice exams should make an appointment to come in to go over old exams to get a better idea how to take the multiple choice exam and guide their studying for future tests. Visiting the College Board website for the Advanced Placement United States History exam will provide the student with an additional resource if they are struggling.

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