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Teaching after AP Tests: How to Keep the Fire Burning

After the AP test

As an advanced placement (AP) teacher, it can feel like your job is done mid-May because it's test time for your students. But after those challenging, college-level exams take place, it can be a while before the clock runs out on the school year, and you need to keep your students engaged. Fortunately, most students in AP courses are there because they want to be. So even once they're over the test hump, chances are that they'll continue to be enthusiastic about learning. But in order to master the art of teaching after AP tests, here are some tips from the pros.

Build on Students' Zeal

At Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in Bethlehem, PA, AP U.S. History teacher Tim Shuman recognizes that opportunities to sustain learning stem from his students' keenness for the subject. He looks for ways to marry their fascination with U.S. history and the school's mission to develop their talents in dance, music, visual arts, literature, theater, and other arts.

"Because we are an arts school, the students also prepare a group presentation based on their artistic major," Shuman said. Their project, which they do in lieu of a final exam, should interpret how their chosen art form is a reflection of a historical time period and also how that time period reflects the art form. "It's another way of saying, 'Does life imitate art?' or vice versa, or sometimes a little of both. Students have written songs, produced original paintings, and written original scenes to make their point." As an example, his pupils have integrated history, literature, songwriting, and artwork in projects on Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home," a short story about a soldier who returns home from World War I with what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Connect Real Life

At Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls high school in Hempstead, NY, 12 AP courses are offered, and their success is reflected by the fact that 57 students were recognized as AP scholars last year. Like Shuman, Camille Emmett—who teaches AP World History—taps into her students' obvious enthusiasm to keep the fire burning after the AP tests have been taken.

Emmett uses some of her post-test class time to encourage students' appetite for history by putting the spotlight on current global issues. After all, the events happening today will be the history of tomorrow. "I will be assigning articles on current issues for the students to read from a magazine all students receive here at SHA, called Upfront," she said. "We will then discuss the article and perhaps have debates on the issues presented."

Prepare for the Next Wave

In some cases, when teaching after AP tests, you'll have to start preparing students for statewide standardized exams. In New York, for example, students take Regents exams in subjects including English, math, science, and social studies to show that they've met mandated standards to earn a high school diploma. These exams start in mid-June.

The AP World History exam's emphasis is on highly analytical essay writing, involving document analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, Emmett said. With that experience under their belt, the Regents' "requisite thematic and document-based question essays would pose very little difficulty." Of course, she said, it's still important to plan reviews for Regents exams, which also include multiple-choice questions that may be stimulus-based and analytical. Practice tests keep students' test-taking skills sharp and their confidence high.

Teaching after AP tests may seem like a lost cause, but when you change your objective—and if you're lucky to have enthusiastic students—it's a feat that proves not so impossible. As long as you show your students the value in their education, you'll all continue to get something out of those final weeks of class.