GT American Studies class opens to juniors next year


Ms. Hodum and Mr. Kear will be the teachers of GT American Studies in the 2018-2019 school year.

Mariana Pena, Reporter

Juniors enrolled in the Gifted and Talented program can take the new American studies course starting next year.

“The idea behind American Studies is that it’s taking a look at American History and American Literature, but using the backbone of the AP US History and AP English III courses from College Board,” teacher Lauren Hodum said. “It’s like taking AP US History and AP English III separately, but we teach them together to use more GT strategies and less direct test prep. ”

As Prosper ISD continues to grow, many of the programs offered within it, including the Gifted and Talented program, will also expand.

“The Prosper community went to Ms. Janet Anders, who is the Advanced Academics Coordinator, and wanted to see some GT offerings at the high school level, so this is the next rollout in that idea,” Hodum said. “It started with GT Humanities [last year, and American Studies] is really meant to be a continuation of GT Humanities.”

The class uses GT teaching strategies, such as projects and activities, that are meant to help students who learn differently.

“It’s nice because the students get to do a lot of hands-on stuff and the AP English III class is all non-fiction, so we can put that together and look at the Constitution, for example, which we can talk about from a historical perspective but also look at how it functions as an argument,” Hodum said. “So it’s a nice class because you get to learn english skills and history thinking skills at the same time. It never really feels like two separate classes because it’s all really combined, so you never walk in and feel like ‘today we’re doing history’ or ‘today we’re doing english.’”

The structure of the class and the way its curriculum blends literature with history, allows time for students to analyze additional parts of American society that they wouldn’t go as in-depth about in other social studies courses.

“My favorite part of the class is the humanities component that comes in where we look at culture,” Hodum said. “[This includes] visual arts, music, film, drama, and we even look at dance, costume, and clothing. We look at how culture is shaped by the literature and history and vice versa.”

While balancing the workload of both english and history at the same time may concern students, GT students haven’t had any issues performing on the exams in the past.

“What I’ve found in GT students is that they don’t necessarily need day-in and day-out test prep, and I’m also a big believer that good writing is good writing, so if you write well we can go back later in the year and review what College Board wants to see,” Hodum said. “My GT Students in American Studies have historically performed just as well if not better than students who take it separately without going through the AP drill.”

Ms. Hodum taught American Studies at Plano West in Plano ISD, the first school district to have American Studies in the area. She currently teaches AP English III and co-teaches GT Humanities with Ms. Carrie Butts.

“The course will be taught by myself and by Mr. Jeffery Kear, who has been teaching AP US History forever, so he and I will be an interesting duo,” Hodum said. “Mr. Kear and I will be looking at what I’m bringing over from Plano West and use that as a starting point for what we’re doing.”

AP US History and are very compatible classes because of their structures and the differences between the intensity of their content.

“The AP US History exam is what we call a content-based exam where there’s actual content to study and the AP English course is purely conceptual, so we work on the skills, and it’s nice to bring the two of those together,” Hodum said. “The class is difficult because there’s a lot of higher level thinking, but it’s a really fun class.”