Teaching world history: from StudentsFriend.com

Sample unit plan

This sample plan includes suggestions for introducing the course and covering Unit 1 of the Student's Friend concise narrative of world history. The lesson plan may be adapted for use with later units by incorporating alternate activities such as those found in Teacher's Tools.


Unit 1 - Overview, Basic Concepts, Origins of the Earth and Humans

1. Major Objectives

At the end of Unit 1, students shall be able to

     -identify from memory four major eras of world history and one representative development from each era (see 4 Eras Timeline).

     -explain two reasons why historical accounts might not be accurate.

     -identify the major astronomic theory regarding the formation of the universe.

     -identify the major geological theory regarding the structure of the Earth's surface.

     -discuss the development of early humans and human culture.

2. Duration: approximately three weeks (see: developing a course schedule)

3. Text Student's Friend, pages 1 through 4

4. Major assignments and activities for Unit 1:

Students shall

     - Review class information and policies

     - Complete course pre-test

     - Select a subject for research paper and begin library research.

     - Complete five research notecards including bibliography card.

     - Read, write about, and discuss the topics in Unit 1 of the Student's Friend.

     - Identify key points from topics on pages 2 though 4 (What is it? Why is it important?). Write key points in complete sentences.

     - Participate in class discussions regarding key points and the content of Unit 1.

     -View and discuss graphic materials relating to the content of Unit 1.

     -Complete unit exam.

5. Procedure

Teacher shall

     a. Welcome students to the course.

     b. Administer the pre-test before any course content is discussed.

     c. Advise students to bring with them to class every day a three-ring binder, lined paper for the binder and a pencil or pen with blue or black ink.

     d. Provide an overview of the the objectives and content of the course.

     e. Hand out and review with students the class information packet that explains classroom policies and procedures.  For an example of such a packet, click here.

     f. Hold class discussion about why we study history. (See: Why study history, a brief lesson.)

     g. Hand out the Student's Friend and briefly explain its organization. This should be done after students have brought their 3-ring binders to class.

     h. Hand out Research Paper package and review with students the project instructions and student products. This is a formal research paper format suitable for use through college. The paper will include at least one visual, a bibliography, and a minimum of three sources including one primary source. Requirements may be increased for students for whom this is not their first exposure to writing a formal research paper.

     i. Discuss strategies for choosing a research paper subject and provide examples of how to either broaden or narrow the topic. Students should have an additional day to consider topics before choosing.

     j. Conduct a "lubricating the gears" class discussion about the objectives and content of Unit 1. Invite class participation to connect the students' prior knowledge with new learning.*

     k.  Introduce the 4 Eras of History used in the course. Conduct a class reading and discussion of SF page 1, an overview of history.  Students begin to develop the ability to recall from memory the four eras (think PAMM), place them in chronological order on a timeline, and recall at least one representative development from each era.

     l. Have students read to themselves the first two topics on page 2 of the Student's Friend and analyze each topic for key points: "What is it?" and "Why is it important?" Students write key points for each topic in complete sentences.

     m. Lead a class discussion during which students take turns reading aloud paragraphs from the two topics and discuss student choices regarding key points. Divergent opinions are encouraged. Teacher helps to clarify concepts and clear up misconceptions. The class develops consensus and underlines consensus key points in the Student's Friend. Teacher ensures that the most important key points are included. Key points become the basis for the exam at end of the unit.  On a subsequent day, students will cover the remaining two topics from page 1 in a similar manner, and so on until all topics in the unit are covered.  

(Once students are familiar with the concept of key points—and understand that these points provide an essential explanation of any historical topic— other writing strategies (e.g. notes/quiz) may be employed in subsequent units.)

     n. Provide visual support of content during class discussions by using projected images, maps, chalkboard, video clips, Internet resources, or bulletin board/poster materials.* The experts say it's best to use brief video clips surrounded by discussion. Video sources could include quality video series such as Civilisation, The Ascent of Man, or Lost Civilizations  (available from the Student's Friend store).

     o. Hand out outline maps and use the projector to review map locations from Student's Friend page 1. (see Maps)

     p. Have students select their research subjects from the major topics or subtopics (in bold type) in the Student's Friend. (Or other suitable topics with teacher's approval.)

     q. Discuss research strategies including the use of notecards and how to record source information in proper bibliographic style.

     r. Take the class to the media center/library where students begin their research.

     s. Administer Unit 1 exam after coverage of unit content is completed. Unit exam includes questions about the main topics covered in the Student's Friend plus map identification and short-answer essay questions designed to cause students to think more deeply about what they learned and to connect, compare, or synthesize knowledge.*

     The Unit 1 exam also asks students to draw a timeline from memory with 4 Eras of History depicted with one representative historical development from each era. (This exercise is repeated at intervals during the course and on the final exam. As students acquire more historical knowledge, the teacher may request more than one representative topic per era.)

     Map identification questions work best when the test map has locations already marked with letters by the teacher, and the student supplies the  letter that corresponds to the location specified on the exam.  

     Questions (other than map identification) emphasize constructed-response answers instead of recognition-type answers (multiple-choice, matching).*  

     In subsequent unit exams, approximately a third to a half of questions are taken from content covered during previous units. In this way, distributed practice* is achieved and students understand that course content is meant to be learned for continued use and not merely memorized for a test and forgotten. When possible, review test answers with students immediately after they have completed testing.*

     t. Have students hand in their key points writing assignments, which teacher will grade and return.

6. Optional Activities

     a. Other activities from Teacher's Tools.

     b. Plays, skits, or reader's theater; such as: "24 Exciting Plays for Ancient History Classes." available from Student's Friend store.  (But only if they legitimately support course content.)

     c. Museum field trip.

     d. Guest speaker.

     e. Supplemental activities suggested by Internet Resources.

     f. Suggestions from other teachers


     g. Activities derived from teacher's creative imagination

7. Assessments:

     a. Pre-test, which is not graded at this time but retained for comparison to post-test results at the end of the course.

     b. Assessment of Student's Friend key points writing assignment. Check for complete sentences and for adequate coverage of key points: "What is it?" "Why is it important?"

     c. Assessment of five completed research notecards. Corrections are made, and notecards are returned to students before additional notecards are prepared.

     d. Ongoing observation of, and communication with, students—particularly during writing assignments, research time, and class discussions.

     e. Unit exam over Student's Friend content plus map identification locations and 4 Eras timeline


*These strategies are consistent with findings from cognitive science research.

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