Utilizing Primary Sources
As the AP United States History Exam is given in early May, teachers of AP U.S. History are always captives of time. For this reason you should not spend more than six days on this unit (assuming typical 50-minute class periods), one of which may be used for student evaluation. If unforeseen occurrences (e.g., assemblies, athletic events, sickness) cut the number of class days, reorganize your schedule to cover as much as possible in the time you have. Remember too that you should plan on having a week of review prior to the exam in May. Thus, time lost at the start of the year can be made up during review.
This resource guide contains a topic outline, instructions for using the APPARTS and Asking Questions and Drawing Inferences strategies for teaching about primary sources, a lesson plan using the 1993 DBQ (which focuses on colonial development), and a writing assignment on the same DBQ. Below are also listed some primary sources that commonly accompany this unit when taught in a typical survey course.
These materials focus on the use of primary sources because it is extremely important that you take time during these early weeks in the semester to ascertain how prepared your students are for AP-level work. Some students may have done little or no work with primary source materials; they may also have trouble writing clear, intelligent responses to essay questions. It will be your responsibility to help students develop these skills.
- Unit Outline: Colonial America, 1492-1763 (.pdf/112KB)
- Primary Source Strategies (.pdf/71KB)
- DBQ Lesson Plan (1993 AP U.S. History Exam Document-Based Question) (.pdf/88KB)
- DBQ Writing Assignment (.pdf/145KB)
A Selection of Online Primary Sources
- Bartolom de las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1542)
- The Selling of Joseph (1700)
- William Byrd's diary (1709-1712)
- South Carolina runaway slave notices (1730s)
- Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (1741)
- The New England Primer (1777 edition)
- J. Hector St. John de Crvecoeur, Letter from an American Farmer, Letter 3: "What Is an American?" (1782)
Cora Greer has taught in California, Massachusetts, and Maine—most recently at the University of Maine at Machias. She has served as Reader and Table Leader at the AP U.S. History Reading, been a consultant in AP U.S. History, Building Success, and Vertical Teams, and won the College Board New England Region's Advanced Placement Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching.