I have become obsessed with trying to find activities in the AP® World History classroom that foster analysis. Having students understand what is meant by the word “analysis” is hard enough, but then finding ways to develop it often seems to be an uphill battle. This activity came about as a result of this obsession. It combines the essential skill of answering LEQ-like prompts in a different and engaging way with embedded tricks to help students understand and develop their analytical skills.    


To be successful on the AP® exam, students need to learn to write effectively by targeting the AP® World History writing rubric. They need to learn how to understand a prompt, develop a line of reasoning to answer that prompt (thesis), provide several examples to defend their line of reasoning (evidence), and offer insightful analysis to explain their reasoning while attempting to reach complexity in that analysis (analysis). A teacher often must employ all the strategies in their teaching arsenal to help students obtain these points on the AP® writing rubric. Doing ten-minute writing prompts, thesis exit slips, structured templates, three document DBQs, and full in-class essays (with feedback) all help teach students how to write. However, when writing gets monotonous (and it will), try this activity as an alternative. It allows you to have a little fun while practicing the thinking process needed to be successful on the AP® exam.  


This activity is modeled after one of the longest running shows on television, Meet the Press. I am often impressed by how guests and experts on this show not only have to answer difficult questions but then are often asked to answer the “why” part to these questions. This show is loaded with phrases like “due to, because of, as a result of, in contrast to…” and so, it has been incorporated into this lesson as a way to teach analysis. This lesson is best used as a review at the end of the year (March/April) to practice essay prompts but can also be adapted and used at the end of an individual unit or time period. Once again, I think this lesson allows you to keep the academic rigor demanded from this course while allowing the flexibility to create a fun and engaging classroom.      


This lesson starts by having students, as part of a group, select only one of 15 prompts to answer during a “live” Meet the Press taping in front of the class. Each student in the group will answer a different aspect of the prompt and will become an “expert” on their answer. Students will develop an argument, find evidence to support that argument, and then have to explain why that evidence supports their answer. Basically, it is an essay in an oral format. They are a guest on an in-class edition of Meet the Press and they must be able to answer their prompt effectively. However, it becomes more interactive in several regards.

  1. The moderator (the teacher) gets to challenge the student answer, evidence, or reasoning, which makes it more engaging for the student and audience. Can the students withstand the questioning? Do they give in? Is there a line of reasoning?
  2. On the day of their “taping” of Meet the Press, each student is given a specific notecard with an analytical phrase on it that they must use during the discussion. This is a surprise and helps students work on being more analytical. The phrases include “due to,” “because of,” “as a result of,” “similarly,” and “in contrast to.” These phrases demand analysis and the more students use them, the more analytical their answers become.
  3. Students have to rewatch their Meet the Press segment and work on creating a counter argument to their original answer. By doing this, students see an opposing argument which then helps them learn one of the possible ways to earn the complexity point on the AP® World writing rubric.


All in all, it is a fun and engaging way to practice essay writing and develop the analytical skills listed in the AP® World History Thinking Skills (Habits of Mind).





Dave Drzonek is in his 23rd year of teaching at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois, and has been teaching AP® World History since 2006. He is currently a Senior Reviewer and Writer for the AP® World History: Modern coursebook by AMSCO® and has developed and delivered AP® World History content for the online video-based AP® test prep service GetAFive. He has also been a reader for the Advanced Placement® World History Exam. He earned his M.A. in Teaching, Curriculum and Instruction at Governors State University in Illinois. He believes that there is no greater way to spend a lifetime than teaching.