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GREASing Success

Teacher/Instructor Bil Johnson
Bil Johnson

Yale University
Lecturer at Brown University

Bil has over 25 years of experience as a public school teacher. Before his current role as a teacher at the Urban Assembly School in NYC, Bil was a senior lecturer at Brown University.

So now, for our next step in preparing for the US AP history test, we want to look at what they call the standard essay question. I like to call it the free response because there is a certain amount of freedom because you get some choice. And that's really one of the cool parts of this part of the exam. You get to show how smart you are.

You're given two sets of questions, where you get to choose one out of two; an A B or C D, you pick one. They give you 80 minutes and I'll talk about that. That's a substantial amount of time, I don't want you to worry about that. Once again we're going to be stress free in this AP history experience. The thing I want you to really think about is, when we get to the free response essay, I want you to think about yourself as a bag of microwave popcorn. And we're going to start out right now, with you being that bag and going into the microwave oven. And by the time we finish this episode, you're just going to be popping with new ideas. And that's part of the fun we're going to have in doing the free response essay and have some fun with history.

You've got 80 minutes to write two essays, first and foremost don't freak out. 80 minutes is a huge lot of time especially since they're asking what do you know. One of the things we want to do, is really take a look at how these questions are structured, and how you can device a strategy, so that you'll answer them as effectively as possible.

Let's take a look. Their directions are: Choose one question from this part. You're advised to take five minutes prep, 30 minutes writing, cite historical evidence, present clearly and logically. Now, what I want to tell you right off the bat is, you don't have to go by their formula. And in fact, I don't think this is a really great formula. I think you can spend a little bit more time on your preparation, because good preparation requires less writing time.

The other part is citing historical evidence is providing what you know about history. So you get to show off what you know about history, which is really great. Then, presenting clearly and logically, they really want to hear your voice, your opinion. So this is really you showing how smart you are, how much you know about history, how much you can handle a question.

Let's take a look at a simple acronym that I think will help you be really successful. G-Greases. If you can remember this, it's not just going to help you with the free responses. I'm going to come back to this in future episodes. This is something that will really help you really master any history class or any social science class. If you look at this simple, what the letter stands for; G for Geography, G for Government, R for Religion, E for Economics, A for Art and Architecture, S for Science and Technology, E for Education and S for Social and Cultural values.

Now, those are the major institutions of any society and they apply across history. So this is going to be a very useful acronym for this essay in particular, but really throughout our study in History. Now what I'm going to do is, we're going to take a look at some sample questions, and then we're going to strategize. Then we're going to figure out how we can answer those questions.

Here's our choice, we have to choose one of these two. Evaluate the extent to which Radical Reconstruction was effective in solving the problems that confronted the nation after the civil war. Or, in what ways did the developments and transportation and communication bring about economic and social change, in the United States in the second half of the 19th century? First and foremost, we've got to go back to our basic strategy that we learnt with the DBQ. And that is to read the questions carefully. Do I really understand this question, evaluate the extent to which Radical Reconstruction was effective in solving problems that confronted the nation. Picking out those key words, evaluate, effective, problems or the second one. In what ways did the developments in transportation and communication bring about economic and social change in the second half of the 19th century? Again developments, transportation and communication focusing on economic and social change, second half of the 19th century. So I read the question carefully.

Then I want to do just as I did with my DBQ, I want to brainstorm. What do I already know? What do I know about this period about radical reconstruction after the civil war. Well, I can basically remember the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments called the civil war amendments or the civil rights amendments. I can remember it really basically didn't work. The Jim Crow Laws happened but I might not be able to remember much more than that.

With the second question about transportation and communication, and economic and social change, I think I probably know more. I know about the Gilded Age, I know about the big businesses and monlopolies, I know about Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. so I think probably just on a brainstorming level I'm going to go with the second question.

Once I have got into that point, then I can start to really organize and think about how am I going to respond to this? How I'm I going to answer this question in detail to really show what I know, and to really let the reader know, that I know my American history and I know how to answer this question. So what we're going to do is really look at how do we put that G-GREASES acronym into action. We're going to put some ideas into action, to write this free response essay and to really impress the people who are reading it. Because we do know a lot, and you probably know more than you're thinking of.

Now I've got my brainstorming. I did some brainstorming about transportation and communication in the late 19th century. And I remember about railroads and the transcontinental roads, Edison and Bell with various kinds of communication. Vanderbilt, Carnegie the big business people who really amplified business because of transportation and communication. So now the way I'm going to embellish and think through in an organized fashion, what I want to say in my essay, I'm going to use this G-GREASES formula, this little acronym is going to help me out. So do I want to say anything about Geography? Well, probably the transcontinental railroad. One of the things I know is that the government had a policy called Laissez fair. If some of the stuff is new to you as I put it up here, you probably want to look it up. And probably some of this is going to be on our bonus material. Government Laissez fear means government hands off, the government didn't interfere and this is why this business people were able to build up their monopolies in these huge empires that really were very much based on transportation and communication.

One of the things we see in the see in the late 19th century that really creates what we know as the modern world. The modern office building, the light ball allows people to work all day. The telephone, I mean if you think about your basic office today, the typewriter was invented in this period of time. So we see that communication, transportation in late 19th century. Religion we're not probably going to worry about. Economics, obviously, monopoly business particularly the railroads and again that connection to transportation. We also need those railroads to be filed. By the end of the century we get the Ottoman bill and of course we know Rockefeller and standard oil becomes the biggest company. Art and architecture is not something we're not going to be concerned with here.

Science and technology of course connects to all these inventions to all of the advancement. Education, it's significant, but probably nothing we have to worry about. Social cultural values, well we got to have concerned about this whole idea of the individual and really enter Carnegie's gospel of wealth and the whole notion of social Darwinism. These are terms we'll get back to and again if you don't know them right now, these should be good things to look up. But what I can see is from using my G-GREASE...