Model Lesson Plan for Advanced Placement World History (APWH)

Sharon Cohen

Sections of Mesolore to be used

  • “Traditional Mesoamerican Agriculture” by Robert C. West and John P. Augelli in Mesolore’s References
  • “Keeping Time” Ã’udzavui tutorial, especially the section on “Naming”
  • “Life in the Rain Place” Ã’udzavui tutorial
  • “Introduction to the Codex Nuttall” Ã’udzavui tutorial
  • The full text of the Codex Nuttall
  • “From Bones to Knowledge: Whose Property?” by Michael Brown, part of the Debate on Cultural Property.

How these sections of Mesolore will be used

The APWH course is the equivalent of a college-level survey course taught to high school students. The periodization of the course is based on five major changes in world history from the Neolithic Revolution in 8,000 B.C.E. to the end of the Cold War in the late twentieth century. The first unit begins with the development of agriculture globally and then focuses on major political, social, cultural, religious, technological, and economic changes mostly in the eastern hemisphere. Therefore, the first lesson directs students to use Mesolore to compare the development of agriculture in Mesoamerica to the plants and animals domesticated in the eastern hemisphere. Students would read the article for homework and complete a chart outlining the major characteristics of the Neolithic Revolution in Mesoamerica. In class the next day, students would contribute to a class discussion on whether the development of agriculture was an independent process or happened as a result of regional diffusion.

The first unit of APWH also is known as the “Foundations” part of the course, because students learn about the basic political, social, cultural, religious, technological, and economic developments that serve as the basis for all societies up to the present. In the second lesson explained below, students investigate the cultural and religious effects of the calendar systems created by peoples in Mesoamerica and compare them to the purpose of calendars in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Shang civilizations.

The second unit of the course begins at 600 C.E. and examines global processes of growing interregional trade, spreading religions, expanding empires, and intensifying social inequality. These global processes affected people in both hemispheres though not to the same degree. Mesolore can help APWH students recognize the independent developments in the western hemisphere and compare them to those in the other half of the world. The Codex Nuttall displays all of these global processes, so students can use the text, with the help of the accompanying interpretive materials, to perform parts of the codex. The last way that Mesolore can be used is to engage students in some of the intellectual debates that scholars consider when using historical sources. A sample debate topic could be: if the Codex Nuttall was a sacred text for the Mixteca, then is it appropriate for historians and history students to use it to analyze the past?

What are the general pedagogic benefits of this use of Mesolore?

APWH teachers employ six themes to organize the vast amount of material included in the college-level survey course:

  1. The dynamics of change and continuity, and the causes and processes involved in major changes of these dynamics
  2. Patterns and effects of interactions among societies and regions: trade, war, diplomacy, and international organizations
  3. The effects of technology, economics, and demography on people and the environment (population growth and decline, disease, labor systems, manufacturing, migrations, agriculture, weaponry)
  4. Systems of social structure and gender structure (comparing major features within and among societies, and assessing change and continuity)
  5. Cultural, intellectual, and religious developments, including interactions among and within societies
  6. Changes in functions and structure of states and in attitudes toward states and political identities (political culture)

Each of these themes is highlighted in Mesolore. For example, when students use the article on agriculture, they are investigating the changes caused by technology and demography on people and the environment.

Furthermore, APWH teachers use seven Habits of Mind to help students learn how to think like historians:

  1. Constructing and evaluating arguments; using evidence to make plausible arguments
  2. Using documents and other primary data; developing the skills necessary to analyze point of view, context, and bias, and to understand and interpret information
  3. Assessing issues of change and continuity over time, including the capacity to deal with change as a process and with questions of causation
  4. Understanding diversity of interpretations through analysis of context, point of view, and frame of reference
  5. Seeing global patterns and processes over time and space while also connecting local developments to global ones and moving through levels of generalizations from the global to the particular
  6. Comparing within and among societies, including comparing societies reactions to global processes
  7. Being aware of human commonalities and differences while assessing claims of universal standards, and understanding culturally diverse ideas and values in historical context

There is almost an infinite number of ways that Mesolore can help students develop these habits. Students discover from the first lesson on agriculture about historians’ diverse interpretations of the causes for the diffusion of agricultural technologies across hemispheres and the independent domestication of the wild plants and animals available regionally. Students can then compare how peoples in Mesoamerica domesticated grasses to make maize and those in Mesopotamia domesticated grasses to make barley and wheat. Students can discuss whether global patterns like the development of agriculture were the result of diffusion of methods and ideas or independent inventions based on local experiences with the nearby environment. The second lesson enables students to analyze cultural, religious, and intellectual developments related to the creation of calendar systems in Mesoamerica, and then practice the skill of comparing the religious use of calendars by the Mixteca with those in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Shang civilizations. Using the Codex Nuttall gives students practice with analyzing primary sources from early complex societies. In the third lesson, students will perform sections of the Codex Nuttall. Their preparations for performances of the text will lead them to use the materials in the tutorials, thus practicing the skill of collecting and using information, but more importantly of maintaining cultural sensitivity. It is important for students to develop the habit of being aware of human commonalities and differences while assessing claims of universal standards, and understanding culturally diverse ideas and values in historical context. Another major skill emphasized in world history is the ability to see local examples of global processes and to generalize global processes from a group of local examples. Therefore, performance of the text will guide students into understanding a local example of the global process of elites using public performances to enhance their status. Finally, the class discussion in the fourth lesson about Michael Brown’s essay on the controversies concerning ownership of historical cultural knowledge will help students develop and analyze arguments. The rich resources available in Mesolore are only barely utilized in these few lessons. There are numerous other approaches one could take.

Specific assignments and their pedagogic benefits

Assignment #1’”“Agricultural Revolution”


In Unit One of the APWH course, the first major topic is the development of agriculture beginning around 8,000 B.C.E. in the so-called fertile crescent of Mesopotamia. The technologies necessary to domesticate plants and animals led to large enough surpluses of crops to feed a sedentary population. Thus, students will be familiar with the concept of the Neolithic Revolution from their previous investigations of the effects of agricultural technology and the subsequent demographic changes on the people and environment of the eastern hemisphere.


For homework, students will take notes from “Traditional Mesoamerican Agriculture” by Robert C. West and John P. Augelli, an article in the Mesolore library on agriculture in the Mesoamerican region. Their notes should answer the following questions about the development of agriculture in Mesoamerica:

  1. When is the first evidence for agriculture in Mesoamerica? How does that date compare to the first evidence in the Eastern Hemisphere?
  2. What plants were domesticated? How different is the Mesoamerican list compared to the plants domesticated in Mesopotamia?
  3. What animals were domesticated? How different is the Mesoamerican list compared to the animals domesticated in Mesopotamia?
  4. What is your hypothesis for why the plants and animals domesticated in the Americas were different from those in the Eastern Hemisphere?
  5. What technologies were developed for agriculture? How similar are the agricultural technologies globally for this first development of agriculture?
  6. How far did these technologies spread in the Americas?
  7. How much of these original technologies are still used?
  8. How many domesticated plants and animals are still in use today in the Americas?
  9. Which Mesoamerican plants and animals spread to other parts of the world?

They will then use their notes the next day in class to discuss the following question included in the APWH Unit One curriculum:

What is the most common source of change in agricultural technology globally from 8,000 B.C.E. to 2,000 B.C.E.?

Pedagogic Benefits

The APWH Habit of Mind related to comparison is relevant for this lesson, because the students would be making comparisons while they read and take notes on the article that explains agricultural developments in Mesoamerica. Moreover, students would need to compare among agricultural societies globally in this first time period for the sources of agricultural technological change.

Assignment #2—“Calendars”


In previous lessons on the early complex societies in the eastern hemisphere, students learned from information in their textbooks and through class discussion about the ways calendar systems were created in the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Shang civilizations for political and religious purposes. The calendars, students learned, were a key component of the foundation of these civilizations. In this lesson, they will compare the earlier calendars with those in use by the Mixteca to determine if the Mixtec calendars served similar political and religious purposes. Students also need to complete the previous assignment on agriculture.


For homework, students should read the “Keeping Time” and the “Life in the Rain Place” Ã’udzavui tutorials, and then answer the following questions:

  1. How many Mixtec symbols are in their ritual calendar? How many numbers are in the ritual calendar? What is the total number of days in the Mixtec ritual calendar?
  2. Which symbols in the Mixtec calendar reveal the domesticated plants and animals in Mesoamerica?
  3. How many days are in the Mixtec solar calendar?
  4. How are the two calendars used together to help the Mixtec navigate through time? Is the Mixtec concept of time cyclical or linear?
  5. How are the calendar dates used to name Mixteca? What is the divination role of the daykeeper?
  6. What are the religious purposes of the Mixtec calendar?
  7. What are the political purposes of the Mixtec calendar?
  8. How do the religious and political purposes of the Mixtec calendar compare to the ways that calendars were used by the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Shang civilizations?
    What is your hypothesis for why there are similarities and differences between the purposes for the calendars developed during the early civilizations in the Eastern Hemisphere with those created by the Mixtec?

In class, students will work in small groups to compare the political and religious purposes of calendars in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Shang, and Mixtec. They will create large Venn diagrams to present the major similarities and differences of the calendar systems to the rest of the class.

As part of a whole class discussion after the presentations of the Venn Diagrams, the teacher can help students draft a thesis statement that hypothesizes the reasons for the similarities and differences. The teacher should encourage students to consider whether having a calendar is part of being a civilization? Or, is it a technology that some societies develop as part of their religious beliefs and/or political structures?

For the assessment, students will write a thesis paragraph comparing the Mixtec with at least one other calendar system created by an early complex society. Some possible thesis statements might be:

While the Mixteca elite used their calendars to assert their power publicly, the Mesopotamians kept knowledge of their calendars for private religious use.

Both the Mixteca and Egyptians used solar calendars to help regulate the annual agricultural activities necessary for sustaining large sedentary populations.

Although the Shang calendar served to help the emperors keep track of the dates for rituals required to pay homage to the venerated ancestors, the Mixteca calendar had a more general purpose of providing a sacred connection to the workings of the whole universe.

Pedagogic Benefits

In this lesson, students again work on both the APWH Habits of Mind and the APWH themes. They will practice using documents and other primary sources, developing the skills necessary to understand and interpret information. Students also will work on comparison among societies, especially related to cultural, intellectual, and religious developments.

Assignment #3’”“Performing the Text”


In Unit One of APWH, the importance of the development of writing in the early complex societies is emphasized. Students previously would have studied the creation and interpretation of Shang oracle bones to identify a society in which writing was an essential tool for communicating with venerated ancestors, they would have analyzed the religious purpose of the hieroglyphic tomb inscriptions for the Egyptian elite, and they would have traced the economic and political uses of cuneiform texts developed by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia.


For homework, students should read the background information on the Codex Nuttall to identify how the codex and similar texts were created and used in Mesoamerica. The teacher should lead students through the following points at the beginning of class the next day:

  • A codex is a [see the “Mesoamerican Screenfolds” Ã’udzavui tutorial].
  • Performance of the codex was a means of communicating with the divine and ancestors.
  • A bundle in the images represented the divine.
  • The codices were hung on walls during the performance, and the illustrations would help the performer keep track of the plot and characters, especially the royal ancestors and the sacrificial rituals carried out by the priests.
  • Throughout Mesoamerican performance of the texts by the elite was a way for them to display their status and authority.
  • The elite performance of sacred texts is a global pattern of “theater states” especially well known in Southeast Asia.
  • Commoners also got to see a version of the performances during which the calendric information would be shared with the whole population.

In class, students will discuss the purposes of the codices and how they were performed. For the remainder of class, students will work in small groups to select one section of the Codex Nuttall to perform. They should use the Lab Tools to get translations of the text, understand the order of the images, and gather other pertinent information.

The next class period, students will then work in small groups to prepare for performing one section of the Codex Nuttall. The teacher will keep track of what sections each group selected, so that all parts of the Codex are performed. Students may need more class time for preparation (this will depend on other performance experiences they have had in this course or previous classes). The performances must:

Be between five to ten minutes
Use at least two props
Include at least two kinds of repetitive movement (dance)
Use at least ten Mixtec words, pronounced correctly
Project the section that’s being performed so that all students can see the images
Involve all students in your group actively

During each group’s performance, the other students should take notes on how all of the APWH themes are addressed in the codex. When the performances of the whole text are complete, the teacher will lead a discussion of the major characteristics of Mixtec society they learned through their research, performances, and observations. The social hierarchy, gender roles, and religious beliefs and practices all emerge from the students’ close reading of their section of the text as well as the performance of the other parts of the text by their peers.

A possible extension is to have students draw their own codices about their class or city.

Moreover, students should be encouraged to identify possible additional primary sources that would help them understand the purpose and meaning of the Nuttall Codex. The discussion about additional types of primary sources will help students practice this skill for the DBQ essay on the APWH examination.

Pedagogic Benefits

Students gain the skills of using documents as historical sources and the purposes of performances of texts for elite and non-elite audiences in the past. Moreover, students broaden their perspective of one society’s characteristics and then can put the Mixteca in the global pattern of theater states. They can see how issues of class inequality and social hierarchy reflected in the codex show how similar the Mixtec were to previous civilizations studied in the course.

Assignment #4—“Who owns the text?”


Students already have begun considering the issue of cultural ownership when discussing ethics of tomb raiding in general, and the European practice of taking artifacts from Egypt in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to fill museums and for personal pleasure.


For homework, students should read “From Bones to Knowledge: Whose Property?” by Michael F. Brown in the Debates section, and listen to his talk on the subject. They should be prepared to debate the issues raised in the article:

  • Should sacred texts be restricted to those who share those religious beliefs? Yes or No?
  • Is it appropriate for historians to analyze sacred texts as primary sources? Yes or No?
  • Should researchers use a professional code of ethics when investigating human societies? Yes or No?

The debate can be run as follows:

Each student must speak twice—once to state a position with at least one piece of supporting evidence from the article and once to contend with the statement of another student by pointing out the weakness of the other student’s evidence or logic.

The teacher keeps a score on the blackboard so that students can see when one position gains or loses points.
After every student has a chance to participate, then the teacher should lead a general discussion about professional ethics and the effect of restricted access could have on the production of new knowledge.

For a final assessment, students could write a response to the question “Who owns the text?” and submit the essay for the next class.

Pedagogic Benefits

Students must practice developing and analyzing arguments for success in the APWH course and on the examination. They also need to identify and tolerate diverse interpretations in history to expand the Habit of Mind, being aware of human commonalities and differences while assessing claims of universal standards, and understanding culturally diverse ideas and values in historical context


Sample Course Syllabus

AP World History Syllabus
Instructor: Ms Sharon Cohen
Email Contact:
Social Studies Department
Springbrook High School
Silver Spring, Maryland 20904

“The purpose of the AP World History course is to develop greater understanding of the evolution of global processes and contacts, in interaction with different types of human societies. This understanding is advanced through a combination of selective factual knowledge and appropriate analytical skills. The course highlights the nature of changes in international frameworks and their causes and consequences, as well as comparisons among major societies.” (AP World History Course Description 2004, p. 3).

THEMES for the Course

  1. Impact of interaction among major societies.
  2. The relationship of change and continuity from 8,000 BCE to the present.
  3. Impact of technology and demography on people and the environment.
  4. Systems of social structure and gender structure.
  5. Cultural and intellectual developments and interactions among and within societies.
  6. Changes in functions and structures of states and in attitudes toward states and political identities, including the emergence of the nation-state.

The Earth and Its Peoples by Bulliet, et al.


Prepare to take the AP test on Wednesday, May 4.
Actively participate in class and complete all assignments thoroughly.
Attend class daily, arriving on time.
Complete all work promptly.
Make up work when absent’“contact instructor and send assignments due electronically if possible; make prior arrangements for planned absences; 2 days allotted for each day absent to turn in work.
Keep a well-organized and complete notebook for the entire year; bring to class daily. Use your notebook to study for tests. Ask for help if your notebook is incomplete.
Ask instructor for help if needed
Challenge yourself to work hard and maintain high standards.


Grades will be based on points, and added up to a final quarterly grade based on the following: 88% and above’“A; 78% and above’“B; 68% and above’“C, 58 and above%’“D; below 58%’“E. Interims’“C and below.


UNIT 1. Foundations, c. 8000 BCE to 600 CE (5 weeks)

Focus questions: What is “civilization”? Who is “civilized”? Does change occur by diffusion or independent invention?

Topic 1. Locating world history in the environment and time
Topic 2. Development of agriculture and technology globally
Topic 3. Basic features of early civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus, Shang, Mesoamerica
Topic 4. Major Belief Systems: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity
Topic 5. Classical civilizations: Greece, Rome, China, and India.
Topic 6. Interregional networks by 600 CE

COMPARISONS: early civilizations, major belief systems, systems of social inequality, cities, political systems, international trading systems, migrations.

UNIT II. 600-1450 (6 weeks)

Focus questions: Should we study cultural areas or states? Did changes in this period occur from the effects of nomadic migrations or urban growth? Was there a world economic network during this period?

Topic 1. The Islamic World, the Crusades, and Schism in Christianity
Topic 2. Silk Road trade networks, Chinese model and urbanization
Topic 3. Compare European and Japanese feudalism, Vikings
Topic 4. Mongols across Eurasia and urban destruction in Southwest Asia, Black Death
Topic 5. Bantu migrations, Great Zimbabwe and Mesoamerican developments: Mixtec, Mayan, Aztec, and Incan political, social, cultural, and economic developments
Topic 6. Ming Treasure Ships and Indian Ocean trade networks (Swahili coast)

COMPARISONS: Japanese vs. European feudalism, European monarchy vs. African empires, role of major cities, Aztec vs. Incan empires.

UNIT III. 1450-1750 (5 weeks)

Focus questions: To what extent did Europe become predominant in the world economy during this period? Why?

Topic 1. “Southernization” in Western Europe and the Scientific Revolution and Renaissance; Change’“Reformation and Counter Reformation
Topic 2. Encounters and Exchange: Reconquista, Portuguese in Morocco, West Africa, Spanish in the Americas
Topic 3. Encounters and Exchange: Portuguese in Indian Ocean trade networks, Manila galleons and the Ming Silver Trade
Topic 4. Labor Systems in the Atlantic World’“The Africanization of the Americas (slave trade, plantation economies, resistance to slavery); Labor systems in the Russian Empire and resistance to serfdom
Topic 5. Expansion of Global Economy and Absolutism: Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal, Bourbons, Tokugawa, and Romanov
Topic 6. Effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade on demography in West Africa, resistance to the Atlantic slave trade, and expansion of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa

COMPARISONS: Imperial systems in Europe vs. Asia, coercive labor systems, empire building in Asia, Africa and Europe, interactions with the West (Russia vs. others).

UNIT IV. 1750-1914 (5 weeks)

Focus questions: Through what processes did the influence of industrialization spread throughout the world? How did the rights of individuals and groups change in this period? To what degree did new types of social conflict emerge during the nineteenth century? How and with whom did the idea of “The West” as a coherent and leading force in history gain currency?

Topic 1. Enlightenment, John Locke, American, French, Haitian, and Latin American Revolutions, Napoleon
Topic 2. British Industrial Revolution and De-Industrialization of India and Egypt
Topic 3. Imperialism and Industrialization
Topic 4. Nationalism and Modernization
Topic 5. Anti-Slavery, Suffrage, Labor, and Anti-Imperialist movements as Reactions to Industrialization and Modernization
Topic 6. Chinese, Mexican, and Russian Revolutions as Reactions to Industrialization and Modernization

COMPARISONS: Industrial Revolution in Europe vs. Japan, political revolutions, reactions to foreign domination, nationalism, western interventions, women in Europe of different classes.

UNIT V. 1914-2000 (5 weeks)

Focus questions: How do ideological struggles provide an explanation for many of the conflicts of the 20th century? To what extent have the rights of the individual and the state been replaced by the rights of the community? How has conflict and change influenced migration patterns internally and internationally? How have international organizations influenced change?

Topic 1. World War One, Total War, and Reactions to the 14 Points
Topic 2. Rise of Consumerism and Internationalization of Culture
Topic 3. Depression and Authoritarian Responses
Topic 4. World War Two and Forced Migrations
Topic 5. United Nations and De-colonization
Topic 6. Cold War, Imperialism, and the End of the cold War

COMPARISONS: De-colonization in Africa vs. India, role of women in revolutions, effects of the World Wars on areas outside Europe, nationalist movements, impact of Western consumer society and culture on others.

Review for Exam (2 weeks)