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Advanced Placement United States History


INTRODUCTION: The NORA (short for Notes on the Reading Assignment) is designed to help you record and organize important information as you read. As such, it serves three important functions: (1) improving your reading for comprehension skills by recording the information as you first encounter it, (2) contributing to your homework grade by giving you a written record of your independent work, and (3) helping your study skills by serving as a review tool. To be sure, completing the worksheet is not easy, and it will take you a while to learn the system, but it will help you improve your reading and study skills as well as your performance in this class.

UNDERSTANDING THE ELEMENTS: The NORA worksheet contains five important elements, each with a specific purpose and function. The first two deal with taking ownership for your work, and the last three deal with the work itself:

1. NAME: It might seem obvious, but make sure that you write your name in the space provided. You need to take ownership of your work so that your teacher does not have to do detective work just to grade your homework. Accordingly, understand that any work that is turned in without a name on it is subject to a deduction of points from the overall score on your assignment.

2. PLEDGE: Part of taking ownership of your work is also guaranteeing that the work is your own. For every assignment in this class, make certain that you write out the full pledge: "I pledge, on my honor, not to lie, cheat, steal, plagiarize or vandalize." Failure to pledge your work will result in a deduction in your grade on the assignment, and could result in further disciplinary action. Take the pledge seriously, because it is nothing less than your honor that is at stake.

3. TERM AND PAGE NUMBER: As you read from the textbook, you will find or be given a number of important vocabulary terms. Write each term in the appropriate box under the "Term and Page No." column on the worksheet. Spelling counts on vocabulary words, so make certain that you spell each term correctly. Then, as you read the assignment, write down the number of the page on which you find the term defined. Because students might have different editions of the textbook, the page number might not be the same for each student. However, the purpose of listing the page number is to help you record where you found the information. That way, as you are studying for a test, if you need to re-read a section of the text, you quickly will be able to find the necessary information.

4. DEFINITION: You will need to understand the meaning of each vocabulary word and record its definition in the corresponding box. You do not need to write down every last piece of information and you do not need to use complete sentences; instead, just stick to the facts: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? For most terms, you should have no trouble completing a thorough definition in 20 to 40 words, but remember, the important thing is that your information is correct and complete.

5. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: By far, the most difficult and time-consuming part of the Notecard Exercise is the "Historical Significance" section. It requires you to think about the vocabulary term and its definition, and then analyze why the term is historically significant. In effect, you need to answer the question: why does this person/event/place matter to our understanding of American History? Was it caused by something important, did it lead to something important, or did it reflect an important change in our thoughts, beliefs, values, tactics, or strategies? In other words, "So what?" Again, you do not need to use complete sentences, but you must use your analytical skills to think about the information that you have just encountered. Thorough answers can usually be completed in 20 to 40 words, but because they involve analysis, the "significance" portion of the assignment must be written in your own words.

A SAMPLE ENTRY: Take a look at the term below and use it as a model as you complete your NORA.

Term and Page No.
Historical Significance

John Rolfe, p. 12

Early leader of the settlement at Jamestown; secured peace with neighboring Native American tribe by marrying Pocahantas; introduced wide-leaf tobacco to Virginia, establishing first successful cash crop Marriage to Pocahantas removed security threat to the settlers, and the introduction of tobacco enabled investors to profit from colonization enterprise; inspired others to invest in Virginia Company and others to settle in America, either in Virginia or in new colonies

FUSWUJRIML: The NORA assignment can seem very daunting at first, but as long as you put forth your best effort, you will do fine. That said, please avoid falling into the trap of filling the boxes with large print or rambling speech so that the assignment looks complete but is not really useful. Because you get credit for what you say, not just how much you write, you should always remember: FUSWUJRIML: "Filling up space with useless junk really irritates Mr. Laskowski."

A LAST PIECE OF ADVICE: Remember that you are not expected to be an expert the first time you complete this assignment. Rather, you should strive to improve your performance each time you do it. Your hard work is appreciated, your academic integrity is expected, and your effort will be rewarded.


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