Five Ways to Make AP® Classroom Work for You

by Katie Upton and Kara Brittain

AP Classroom is a valuable tool that can yield powerful data, but it can also be overwhelming to use. Here are five ways to make the most out of AP Classroom.

  1. Track student progress through the Personal Progress Checks

The Personal Progress Checks (PPC) are great ways to monitor student progress through the school year. The best part about a PPC is that it already exists. College Board has done the work for you by pulling passages and questions that align with the skills covered in the units from the Course and Exam Description. With a few clicks of your mouse, you can assign a personal progress check, monitor student performance, and release the results so that your students can track their growth and take ownership of their learning. Your students can create plans of action by comparing their performances on certain skills and reflecting on the effectiveness of the strategies they use on the checks. It is important to remember that the personal progress checks cannot be used as grades in your grade book, but you can assign student reflections over their performances, and those can definitely be used as formative assessments.

  1. Differentiate among sections

Hang on, we aren’t through with personal progress checks yet! In fact, they are so helpful that we have found numerous ways to utilize the data we gather from them. Before AP Classroom, I was aware of the different strengths and weaknesses among my AP Lang sections, and while I knew that I could be doing more to target the instruction each section needed, it was difficult (almost impossible) to differentiate quizzes for each class so that I could monitor their progress. I just didn’t have the time to get it done. With AP Classroom, this task is actually feasible. I can now create a different quiz for each section: one that includes multiple questions that cover their weaknesses in order to track their growth as they receive explicit instruction regarding their weaker skills. If one section is struggling with a specific short answer question type, I can assign that question type to that particular group. Although there is more work involved than simply assigning the personal progress checks, creating your own quizzes that include multiple-choice, short-answer, and/or long-essay questions, it is certainly worth it!

  1. Isolate Skills

Have you ever had one of those days when you wished you had a way to specifically isolate and evaluate student performance on one particular skill or skill set? Now, you can through AP Classroom. College Board rolled out some major changes in the AP English Language course last year, including a whole new type of multiple-choice question. Using the Question Bank in AP Classroom, I can create a quiz that targets their ability to evaluate writing. This is a great asset because I have fewer writing questions in my own arsenal. Another option is that I can develop a quiz with the same amount of reading questions and the same amount of writing questions which allows students to quickly evaluate which question type at which they are more adept. This knowledge is vital for exam day. It helps them create a better plan of action! By occasionally picking out a few questions from the question bank and assigning my own quiz, my students will be more prepared on exam day.

  1. Practice Free-Response Questions

One of the greatest benefits of AP Classroom is that it provides scaffolding for our students. Students may not be ready to write a full-blown rhetorical analysis in August; instead, I can choose that they write an essay that focuses on identifying the author’s line of reasoning. In AP Chemistry, students need multiple attempts to fully explain how to translate between different representations of data. Assigning a variety of free-response questions allows students to build their skills. A second benefit of utilizing the free-response questions in AP Classroom is that it could possibly mirror exam day.

  1. Empower your students

Through AP Classroom, teachers can assign instructional videos created by College Board for AP students. These videos provide explicit instruction for students. Students can also take the initiative by watching the AP Daily Videos on their own, regardless of whether or not it is an assignment. Students can watch the videos that target their weaknesses, providing more opportunities for growth. Additionally, students can also complete practice exams on their own through AP Classroom. They can choose from multiple-choice or free-response questions, or they can even complete a full practice test.

A Final Word of Caution

If you plan to administer a quiz that includes multiple-choice questions, we recommend that you review the filter labeled “Assessment Purpose and Use” and filter out any questions from the AP Practice Exams. Currently, students cannot access these questions without installing the AP Classroom lockdown browser, and if students are using their own Chromebook, there is no way to install the lockdown browser. Instead, you will have to administer these quizzes in paper/pen form. To learn how to install the AP Classroom lockdown browser, visit this link.

AP Classroom is a great supplement to your own classroom, helping you track student growth, scaffold their skills, and give students ownership of their own learning, and while it is beneficial to teachers and students, it is important to familiarize yourself with the question bank, the personal progress checks, and the AP Daily Videos.

Katie Upton has been teaching English courses for 15 years, helping students become college and career ready. She is an expert in AP® Language and Composition and a leader of the AP® Capstone program, and has led professional development as well, helping teachers blend 21st century learning with educational practices that have stood the test of time. A former basketball coach herself, Katie spends her free time cheering on her two boys in all that they do and supporting her husband, a head girls’ basketball coach.

Kara Brittain has been teaching for 7 years after leaving a successful career in human resources and recruitment. With a background in English and Communication, she has taught courses across secondary English Language Arts, college-level Communication courses, and electives such as Debate and Independent Study & Mentorship. For the past four years, Kara has been focusing on AP® English Literature and Composition, quickly becoming a campus expert. She has a passion for helping students prepare for college and the workforce through a blend of traditional English Language Arts skills and new technology. Having taught in Texas for the last 7 years, she now lives in Louisiana with her husband and two children.

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