Students reflected on their past year of study in the Advanced Placement Human Geography course. The Student Feedback assignment was simple enough, but the results surpassed my expectations. The insight & the comprehensive explanation of experiences, successes, and failures that the students shared will prepare incoming freshman for years to come.
I was fortunate to have a class full of curious, self-motivated ninth grade students in the 2016-2017 school year. Throughout the year, they were engaged and worked hard to develop college-level skills in reading, writing, researching, critical thinking and problem solving. Unsurprisingly, over 95% of the class passed the CollegeBoard AP Human Geography Exam. With the success the students achieved, I knew how valuable their experiences and perspectives would be to the next year’s incoming freshman. Toward the end of the school year, I posed the following question to the students along with the instructions below.
What thoughts, feedback, and/or advice would you share with incoming freshman who will be taking AP Human Geography?
Minimum word count: 300. Please share any ideas you feel may be helpful for incoming freshman who will be taking AP Human Geography. Consider writing about your personal experiences taking tests, studying notes, models, theories, and concepts, completing classwork and homework, reading thoroughly, collaborating with peers (and being stressed out by peers, if applicable), developing reading and writing skills, managing time, staying organized, engaging in class discussion, supplementing work in class with independent research and review, keeping up with current events, learning the locations of countries, and understanding international politics, economics, cultural practices, and conflicts.
Each student must also comment on at least one other student’s post before class on Thursday, May 18. One or two complete sentences will be acceptable for comments. Consider writing about a particular idea or piece of advice that you agree with or that you think is especially valuable for incoming freshman who will be taking AP Human Geography.
Many students at high levels of learning are competitive, driven to excel not only by self-motivation or encouragement from parents, but also by the actions and work rate of peers in and out of the classroom. I feed their competitive spirit regularly with review games that prepare the students for assessments by combining the concept of a trivia game with the competitive atmosphere of a summer camp ‘color war’. Beyond their competitive nature, the students in my class were also socially adept and had a clear interest in helping others succeed. Exploiting their empathy was a no-brainer. The students could easily recall the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ feeling that they had in the beginning of the school year. Freshmen often come into high school ill-prepared for the workload, pace, and skill-level of advanced high school, let alone college, classes. When my students first heard about the Student Feedback assignment, they quickly recognized how valuable their ideas could be to incoming freshmen. When I read the students’ responses, I was pleasantly surprised by the candid description of their experiences. I couldn’t wait to see how the next group of AP Human Geography students would respond to their predecessors’ feedback.
The feedback offered by the students was unequivocally helpful to the incoming freshmen for the 2017-2018 school year. On day one, I covered the ideas in the class syllabus and then passed out printed copies of individual responses to the Student Feedback assignment from the end of the previous school year. Students were instructed to read the individual’s feedback and be prepared to share with the class a couple of interesting or useful ideas from the feedback. After a first round of discussing some useful tips, ideas, and experiences, the students were instructed to swap their sheet with a classmate in order to read another student’s feedback and, again, be prepared to share with the class ideas from the feedback that stood out. The incoming freshmen were hitting all of the key ideas offered by the previous group of AP Human Geography students, from bad habits to avoid, to strategies for preparing for assessments. Several months into the school year, the positive impact of the Student Feedback assignment is apparent. The incoming freshmen still have room to improve, but are clearly accepting the feedback and avoiding many of the pitfalls encountered by last year’s group.
I am from Hollywood, Florida. I graduated from Florida State University in 2011 with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Science Education. My passion for teaching stems from years of coaching basketball and soccer, and tutoring high school students. My work as a Test Prep Instructor has allowed me to help hundreds of students succeed on the SAT and ACT and get accepted into prestigious universities around the country. I have been teaching history and test preparation classes at Katz Yeshiva High School for the past five years.
For the 2017-2018 school year at YHS I am teaching 9th grade Human Geography, 10th grade European History, and an after-school Test Prep course. Additionally, I am the faculty advisor for the Model UN club.