Have you ever looked at a large list of historical terms and your eyes glazed over? How can the textbook writers or your history teacher expect you to remember it all?
But, even if you were able to define every key term, if you can’t place that term in history or connect it to surrounding events, success on the Advanced Placement (AP) exam or your history essays is unlikely. Much of history, especially on the AP exam, has to do with understanding both ‘cause and effect’ and ‘correlation and change.’
One of the ways you can help understand these factors and correlations in United States History is to start connecting acts, wars, and eras to presidents. Presidents have specific term beginnings and endings, and by relating terms with a president, you can backtrack to see the historical context of that act or event.
A Presidential Timeline
Using your existing history document (or making a new one if you have no typed notes already), insert a chart with at least three columns. Label the first two “President” and “Term Dates.”
You can lump wars, acts, and events all into one final column, or you can separate them into individual columns. You can also add a column for Republican/Democrat, as that can be helpful information when you’re writing or answering questions about the presidents themselves.
Here is an example with the 16th and 17th presidents:
You may notice the color coding; this can also be a helpful trick to categorize information (our brains thrive on lists and categories).
In the chart above, assassinated presidents are in red, impeached presidents are in blue, and wars are in green. You could use a color for different laws/acts as well – just be careful not to overwhelm your eyes as it could negate the helpfulness of the chart.