by Derek Reichenbecher, Choices Teaching Fellow
Howell High School, Farmingdale, NJ

I have been teaching Advanced Placement US History II for twelve years. A tricky part of teaching the class is that the American History timeline must be completed in time for the Advanced Placement Exam in early May. This leaves a full month between the completion of curriculum content and the district final exams. In order to motivate students as summer nears, I encourage them to apply what they learned throughout the year to the world they inherit. To do that I combine two Choices units: The Teacher’s Guide for the Fog of War and The U.S. Role in a Changing World. Students begin by completing background briefings in the US Role. This work and subsequent discussions help dovetail earlier class discussions with current policy and issues. We then watch and discuss the Errol Morris documentary THE FOG OF WAR, incorporating the accompanying lessons from the Choices’ Guide. After screening the film, students are asked to layout an overview of their preferred American foreign policy through a written assignment. They are expected to reference their own understanding of history as well as the issues and resources discussed through the Choices Program. Four pathways provided by the Choices unit are helpful as the students organize their own priorities and concerns. If time allows, students also explore the Choices role play at the end of the U.S. Role unit and deliberate on the best possible path forward for the United States.

It is critical that as teachers we not only provide students with facts and information, but also encourage them to think critically about their world. By using the Fog of War and the Choices Program units I aspire to create a classroom environment where students consider themselves as decision makers. Ultimately, the goal is not just to teach history, but also to support the students in making a connection between the knowledge they acquire and the country they are one day going to help govern.

The Fog of War Trailer

http://youtu.be/hcAyzbMvF7k