Frequently Asked Questions About the Relationship Between Pre-AP* and AP* Classes

  1. Should there be any requirements for enrolling in a Pre-AP*/AP* course?
  2. If students have not taken "honors" courses earlier, should they attempt a Pre-AP/AP course?
  3. How do I get my students to read their textbook effectively?
  4. How can I get my students to practice higher-level thinking skills?
  5. What is the Pre-AP/AP teacher's responsibility for making the courses reflect greater depth and complexity?
  6. What materials beyond state-approved texts should I use?
  7. What is the difference between writing skills learned in English classes and those required in Social Studies?
  8. How do I grade all of those suggested writing assignments?
  9. Does the College Board designate specific objectives for Pre-AP courses? Are there separate TEKS for Pre-AP classes?
  10. What training is available and recommended for Pre-AP and AP teachers?
  11. Do I need a different textbook to teach Pre-AP or AP?
  12. How can I prepare students for future success in academically challenging courses?

Should there be any requirements for enrolling in a Pre-AP/AP course?

Most schools in Texas allow open access for enrollment in Pre-AP and AP courses. Many students are waiting for the challenge of a more rigorous course. Particularly in Pre-AP courses, many students are unsure of their abilities, needing an opportunity to stretch their academic experience. Particularly if a student plans to pursue education past high school, preparation is necessary. The sooner the student is mature enough to accept the challenge, the better, because advanced academic skills take time to develop. Some teachers hand out a "contract" to the students and parents to clarify the expectations these higher standards require.

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If students have not taken "honors" courses earlier, should they attempt a Pre-AP/AP course?

Yes. Students may enter Pre-AP/AP courses without any prior experience. A student might begin his/her experience with AP World History or AP Psychology. Any academic challenge is good experience for students, which is the reason that Pre-AP programs are crucial to student preparation. Realistically, early experience will give students more time to develop the necessary writing and analytical skills as well as determine what techniques work best for individual learning styles. However, entry in Pre-AP/AP courses can be made at any time in a student's academic career. Upon entering a Pre-AP/AP class, student commitment to assume responsibility for a heavier workload is essential.

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How do I get my students to read their textbook effectively?

Getting students to read the text is a fundamental challenge for educators of all levels. In AP courses, the textbooks are college level. It is essential that the student’s reading comprehension level be above grade level to allow for success on the AP exam and in college-level work. This represents a challenge for many students. Too often students are not accustomed to reading independently for understanding. Development of reading comprehension skills cannot begin too early. The reading standard that the teacher sets for the course on the first day of class should include the development of reading skills, such as note-taking (SQ3R, Cornell note-taking, and dialectical journaling), key-term sheets, reading quizzes, and use of student-developed notes on daily tests. (See the Skills Matrix on this site for ideas to assist in note-taking.)

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How can I get my students to practice higher-level thinking skills?

Higher-level questions must be central to the teacher-developed lessons. If the teacher is consistent in the use of higher-level questioning skills and persistent in using those questions, the students will rise to the challenge. While this is a component of all good classroom practices, use of the upper levels of cognitive questioning, such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creativity, are the central points of differentiation between regular courses and Pre-AP/AP ones. (See the Skills Matrix on this site for the Question Wall, a suggested method of consistently bringing higher-level questioning into your classroom.) With less experienced students, the teacher may be developing and posing higher-level questions. With increased experience, students may learn to develop higher-level questions for themselves and for contribution to class discussions, encouraging students to do more complex thinking. Early practice with oral discussion, warm-up, and brainstorming activities can translate into student confidence in abilities and eventually will be seen in writing skills essential to success in more challenging academic courses.

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What is the Pre-AP/AP teacher’s responsibility for making the courses reflect greater depth and complexity?

While higher-level questions are central to the development of good student skills, research has shown the positive impact the teacher’s use of language has on students. Both the language of the discipline (content and cognitive terminology) and the verbs stated in the TEKS are good guidelines to follow when communicating with students. It is this terminology that students should use and internalize in their writing and discussion. If the classroom teacher thoroughly covers the TEKS, develops skills in students using best classroom practices, and allows students to expand educational experience to include higher cognitive skills, then greater depth and complexity will be evident in students’ academic progress.

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What materials beyond state-approved texts should I use?

There is a wealth of material available to provide the advanced content of Pre-AP/AP courses. These might include primary source materials, recently published works in the field, Web-based resources, college-level textbooks, high school AP textbooks, and experts in the various areas of study. In addition, the College Board has several resources available to assist teachers (e.g., Vertical Team Guide, Course Outline for each AP course).

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What is the difference between writing skills learned in English classes and those required in Social Studies?

Historical writing requires a high level of accuracy and emphasizes the use of factual detail to support an argument. Because of the 30- or 50-minute timed writings, more emphasis is placed on logical, factual, substantiated argumentation in this type of writing. Rubrics are often used to grade the content as objectively as possible; this requires the student to address the specifics of a question. Students will learn that different writing styles are used in different disciplines. Not only do English and historical writing differ, but AP Economics, AP Government, and AP Psychology classes require application of knowledge in essay writing not emphasized in history classes. (See the "Writing in the Social Studies Pre-AP Class" and "The Social Studies Essay" section of this Web site for elaboration on these points.)

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How do I grade all of those suggested writing assignments?

Use of a teacher-developed rubric will facilitate the objective grading of student work. Students need extensive experience in writing in all classes. It becomes a cumbersome task to grade each paper with the careful eye necessary to allow for student improvement. Other options may assist in the management of evaluating student progress including the following:

With use of these methods, the teacher can evaluate a quantity of student writing more efficiently with greater feedback for students.

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Does the College Board designate specific objectives for Pre-AP courses? Are there separate TEKS for Pre-AP classes?

No. The TEKS content is the same for regular and Pre-AP courses. What differentiates the Pre-AP course are the following:

The College Board does not designate specific objectives for Pre-AP courses, but the skills emphasized on the AP exams provide a target to which Pre-AP teachers can direct their efforts. The materials offered on this Web site emphasize approaches to teaching and learning that develop skills and prepare students for success in AP courses and other higher levels of learning.

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What training is available and recommended for Pre-AP and AP teachers?

Many individual districts have specific requirements for the Pre-AP/AP teachers. Many different training options are available including the following:

These training sessions are often offered during the school year, as well as in the summer months.

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Do I need a different textbook to teach Pre-AP or AP?

Not necessarily. Some districts have opted to buy a different text for Pre-AP classes. State-required textbooks can be supplemented with primary sources and AP-level textbooks to enhance the presentation of course content.

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How can I prepare students for future success in academically challenging courses?

The best teaching practices that you are currently using will prepare students for future learning success. Giving students guidance in academic responsibility is a great benefit. It is essential that students learn to accept responsibility for their future learning. To have the students take part in the learning process through active learning techniques will give them a sense of accomplishment as well as a key to greater academic success. Emphasis should be placed on skill development in reading effectively, collecting and acquiring data, processing and analyzing, writing scholarly works of differing types and practicing study skills needed for success. None of these need be perfected on any specific grade level; rather, introduction and practice of techniques will prepare students for the transition from Pre-AP to AP classes and any further academic pursuits.

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