US History

Unit 1: A Panorama of American Eras

Unit 1

The 11th Grade United States History course will allow for students to focus on the major themes of equality, economics, and foreign policy to help drive and define the Nation's history in the 20th and 21st centuries. This introductory "launch" unit focuses students on many of the reading, research, writing, and historical thinking skills being applied throughout the course. Throughout the two trimesters, using a "workshop-style" model, students will have several days each unit to work with their peers and the instructor as they build a culminating opinion/argumentative research paper and performance-based project in the final unit of the course. Designated activities will also be dedicated to an application of these skills and reflection on the process. In addition, a focus on inquiry, research, sourcing, and communication skills will also be assessed as students will be required in subsequent units to participate in classroom discourse as they challenge their peers' thinking.

Specifically, this initial unit also includes a foundational "panoramic" analysis of American history based on an arrangement of chrono-thematic eras from the nation's founding through the modern day. Students will trace and analyze key events, statistics, and development of ideas/innovation over eras to both determine patterns and inspire research topic selection. Workshop sessions and deeper exploration of historical eras in American history help the students build the foundations of research and opinion/argumentative writing. An end of unit performance allows students to create an informative visualization of a significant era in American history which will be referenced by the class throughout the course.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Synthesizing

Unit 2: Liberty and Equality

Unit 2

The focus of this unit design is to have students challenge themselves and their thinking about why, despite incredible historical efforts of marginalized groups, inequalities have perpetuated for African-Americans, Latino Americans, women, Native American/Indians, LGBT groups, groups with mental or physical disabilities, etc. Students will use an inquiry approach to analyze the definition of equality/inequality, different natures of oppression, alternative approaches for overcoming oppression, the variety of obstacles that have stood in the way of equality, and what subsequent actions a particular group might take. In order to develop a deeper understanding of these trends, students will investigate what equality really means to the individual. Students will question why all Americans have not always experienced equality and what was necessary to change conditions and achieve equality and justice. The unit will conclude with students evaluating their understanding of past civil rights movements and applying this to present obstacles of inequality. The student will be able to make informed decisions through the planning of a grassroots movement designed to challenge a specific form of inequality (i.e. gender pay gap). Reading, research, opinion/argumentative construction, and historical thinking skills will also be of focus during several workshop sessions as students develop a thesis statement for their final research topic, begin to make connections to the themes from unit 2, and select a related book which will be read throughout the course. Students will also choose groups for the collaborative end of course project.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Perseverance

Unit 3: Economics and the Land of Opportunity

Unit 3

In this unit, students will research major economic trends impacting the US Economy in the 20th and 21st centuries. Through this understanding of historical economic policy, internal factors, external influences, and resultant socio-economic trends within the US population, students will contemplate what a "healthy economy" might really look like and the role that government has played (and should play). A closer look at labor, market, and other historical factors impacting the economy allows students to understand that almost everything can be measured using a cost/benefit analysis. Every economic choice has the potential to impact others and students will investigate these impacts from multiple perspectives. Each concept will have students grappling with compelling questions through the lens of a particular economic focus, ranging from the individual family unit to the global economy. Understanding socioeconomic factors leading to opportunities and/or disparity in wealth as well as the role the government plays in such factors will also help students develop an end of unit economic policy platform that outlines what role the government should play in the 21st century economy. Through the analysis of data, texts, first-hand experiences, and in-class tasks, students will be equipped to make informed decisions based on forecasted economic trends in the United States and the global economy.  

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Decision Making

Research Unit

Research Unit

This unit provides students with the opportunity to embark on an in-depth, independent study of a topic of personal interest.  Throughout this unit, using a "workshop-style" model, students will work with their peers and the instructor as they build a culminating argumentative research paper.  Activities will be dedicated to an application of skills as well as reflection on the research and writing processes.  Students will begin with the vital task of proper topic selection, followed by careful development of a workable research question and then the construction of a strong thesis statement.  Students will narrow, broaden, or shift the focus of their papers as they research using both primary and secondary sources.  Students will actively search for, evaluate, and read a variety of sources, take organized notes on evidence that supports their thesis statements, while properly citing all sources.  After they organize their evidence using an outline structure, they will begin writing a formal research paper that clearly supports their thesis statement and demonstrates their understanding of the topic. Their papers will not be mere reports on historical facts, but rather argumentative papers that add to the scholarship on their topics.  Throughout the process, teachers will conference with students and help guide them through this independent project.  


21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Synthesizing

Unit 4: American Foreign Policy

Unit 4

As American society developed throughout the 20th century, the country's position in the world substantially changed. Inevitably, like all nations, the United States continues to balance its global interests while holding true to its founding principles. With the rapidly changing dynamics of the 21st Century information age, the intricacies of diplomacy, collective security, and globalization challenge the US government and its interests and actions around the globe. A major dilemma, which has become more apparent with global extremism and polarization, is that of determining a particular approach or course of action and the potential impacts of that action. Included in the evaluation of foreign policy is the importance of geographic reasoning and its influence on diplomatic decision-making. This unit encourages students not only to develop a clarity in their underlying beliefs about foreign policy at specific "decision points" in the 20th century, but also to understand the impact of the various foreign policy tools available to preempt, respond to, and influence contemporary global issue and conditions. Continued reading, research, opinion/argumentative writing, and historical thinking skills will also be of focus during several workshop sessions as students further develop their thesis statement and outline, make deeper connections to the themes from unit 4, and begin working with peers and the instructor to draft a paper and reflect on the process.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Engaging in Global Issues

Unit 5: A Panorama of American Legacies

Unit 5

The culminating unit in the US History course has the dual purpose of finalizing the research paper and also helping students understand how contemporary American culture reflects the themes explored throughout the course. Students initiated the process of research and opinion/argumentative, thesis-based writing in the "launch" unit of the course. Through regular workshop experiences, students have developed and applied historical thinking skills as they prepared to construct a final draft for their research paper. The culminating stages in this workshop process will be for the student to produce a final paper and an annotated works cited, which has incorporated major themes from the course, independent research assignments, and review/feedback from both classmates and instructor

For the latter half of the unit, students will inquire as to how the course has helped define Americanism and American Culture. What does it mean to be an American and how have we defined ourselves based on the lessons and experiences from our nation's story? An essential aspect of the United States History course has been to dive deeply into the course themes of social and political equality, economics, and foreign policy, requiring that students draw on foundational historical knowledge, research, and historical thinking skills. Through a functional definition of Americanism and American Culture, including its progression and evolution or consistency, students will use this summative "landing" unit as they evaluate and present an analysis of social, political, economic, and foreign policy issues from throughout the US History course. Students will essentially be using the US history course to better understand who we are today as an American people. The "Legacy Project" a final performance-based assessment, will ask students to serve as consultants to the business and entertainment community, communicating the importance of these cultural themes throughout American history

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Product Creation