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Experiencing Language through History

Integrated Modern US History and Advanced Placement Language and Composition

In this integrated class, students consider the ways literature reflects American politics and the human experience, as they refine their awareness of language and the writer’s craft. They make connections between history and literature while examining the American landscape.

19 brave students found the following description appealing enough to commit to two semesters of Integrated Modern US History and Advanced Placement language and Composition last spring, when they registered for their classes. Some teachers were willing to do the same. Several weeks into the semester, neither seems to regret the decision.

There were specific reasons why some students chose this class and there are some perks that the teachers identified early. Taylor Theakston, Junior at Bob Jones, stated that her parents felt like it was a good idea because “colleges are starting to do this.” Other students may have taken honors courses in the past, but were not ready to commit to the traditional AP course load. “I was looking for something different, not the standard English or history course,” stated Bob Jones Junior, Jenny Shaver. Even some students who were hesitant about history courses in general are enrolled in this integrated course. “I don’t like history, but I like English,” stated Ashlee Sunderman, another Bob Jones Junior, “and thought that this class might make history more interesting to me.” All students that I spoke with are already finding the course very intriguing and different than what they have been accustomed to in an English or a history course. As for the teachers? “We get to have our students all year,” stated Robin Dauma, who along with Bridgitte Drummond, feels that they will have time to do more with their students.

After visiting a district that offers all English and history classes as an integrated option, Madison City Schools decided to offer Integrated Modern US History and AP Language and Composition class as a pilot, to see if our students would benefit by having their English and history classes taught together. Would the experience provide additional context that would help students understand more of what they read? Would having two educators in the classroom provide additional support necessary to help students become better writers? More analytical thinkers? It is much too soon to speak to these questions; however, if student and educator satisfaction so far is any indication of success, then this class may become a fixture in high school curricula.

Students reported finding the class much more interesting than the standard thoroughfare and had been analyzing words from John McCain when I visited. Students’ homework? Identify a lyric from a song or a quote from a book and explain how it expresses a change in the human landscape. “It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all / The opposite of love’s indifference, by The Lumineers,” said Shaver, “because no war has ever been fought by an indifferent leader. Passion of some sort has started every war that we have ever experienced.” If this student’s explanation is indicative of the benefits of an integrated English and history course, then we are on the right path.


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