Course Syllabus

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Ms. Bel, Room 406  781-446-6290 x4889

This course is an investigation of 19th and 20th century world history. We will study the major political, economic, and social developments of those centuries, looking closely at their causes and consequences and the role of individual decision-making. 

Essential Questions:

  • If people historically built empires, then why did people come to reject this norm in the modern era?
  • In what ways did the struggle to define identity drive power dynamics in modern history?
  • Why and how did the global economic landscape shape individual rights and national vitality?


Thematic Units of Study:

This survey course will be taught thematicallyEach unit will begin with a look at the current global landscape of a particular topic, and then go back in time to examine the people, ideas, movements, and institutions that have led us here over the course of the past two centuries. 

  • How did we get here? My Place in the Modern World
  • How did we get here? The 99% and the 1%: Industrialization, Labor, and the Global Wealth Gap
  • How did we get here? Black Lives Matter and Other Challenges to Systemic Inequalities
  • How did we get here? The New Nationalism and the Power of Identity
  • How do we get there?  TED 2021: Building the World We Want to Live In - A Final Experience


Shared Values:

  • Diversity: We value our differences as they allow us to see the world through varied perspectives.
  • Kindness: We treat one another with patience, respect, and empathy.  We hold each other to high standards while actively supporting one another’s efforts to grow.
  • Integrity: The work and ideas we present are our own.  We give credit to the scholars who help us shape our understanding.  We support one another's effort to develop and refine ideas, while respecting each person's ability and responsibility to think and succeed as individuals.
  • Resilience: We lean into challenges and persevere when we face something new or difficult.  We build strategies that help us to be successful when we struggle. 
  • Humility: We celebrate our strengths and we openly reflect in order to recognize and improve upon our weaknesses.



Curiosity, initiative, and persistence are three qualities that will carry you this year. Practice them. Doing so will require other behaviors. Treat everyone in the class with respect. Listen to and talk with your classmates in discussion. Commit yourself to personal development and not simply getting the work done. Be willing to take risks, like asking questions or sharing original ideas: we will all benefit when you do. Remember that what we do here is important. You can do it. Your teacher and classmates will help.

As a student in this course, you are expected to notice patterns and relationships between and among the people, places, movements, and events we study. You should notice when information is different than what you thought you knew. You should register your own emotional responses when what you learn moves you in some way. These habits of mind will require engagement on your part. It is that depth of engagement that will guide you to success in this class.

Ask for the help you need. Ms. Bel cares about you. She wants you to succeed. Reach out when you have questions, need clarification or coaching, or need extra time due to an unforeseen challenge (and do so in a timely manner, not at the last minute or after the fact). We are in this together!



You have chosen to take Modern World History at the honors level. That means that you have selected a rigorous, challenging course rooted in intensive reading and writing. In the WHS Program of Studies, here is the description of the course:

This class is for students who produced exemplary work in ninth grade social studies at a comparable level, who have a high interest level in history, excellent reading, writing, and critical thinking skills, and who can complete work without consistent outside help from tutors, parents, or the teacher. Students will be expected to read and write extensively, and be independent critical thinkers. The course will refine the student’s interpretation and evaluation of evidence, development of historical hypotheses, and research techniques.

You are expected to digest readings in such a way that you understand and can articulate main ideas, and can locate and access SPARC evidence easily for class discussions, projects, and writing activities. It is your responsibility to raise questions in class to tease out issues and information that you do not fully understand. Chances are good that you will not be the only student who would benefit from clarification.

You are expected to write insightfully in both formal and informal work. In other words, in writing assignments you will never be asked simply to spit out facts. Instead, you will be asked to think, respond to prompts, and use evidence to support the conclusions you draw. You will always credit the sources of the information and ideas you employ in your work.


With all that in mind, and the strange nature of this year in which our personal interactions will be constrained by masks, distance, and screens, understand that the words you say and the work you produce are the primary means by which Ms. Bel will come to know you as a person and as a student. It is therefore critical that everything you submit is genuinely your own original work. Unless otherwise directed, you must use your own words in every type of written work. By doing so, Ms. Bel will be able to assess your understanding, provide feedback, and help you develop as a student of history.


You must put your cell phone away during class. That means, even if you are at home, your cell phone cannot be accessible or visible to you. (This means it cannot be in your hand or on the desk, table, or couch. It cannot even be in your pocket. Zip it in your bag. Place it in a drawer. For the duration of class, your cell phone does not exist.)


Computer Norms

When we use computers, the only applications or web pages that are to be open are the ones we are using for this class.

There will be times when it is essential for you to show your face on zoom. At other times, Ms. Bel will cue you to turn off your zoom camera. If you have technological constraints that prevent you from having your camera on when required, you will be expected to make your engaged presence known through productive contributions throughout the activity.


Required Supplies for Every Class:

  • laptop and charger
  • ear phones
  • working writing utensil
  • paper/notebook
  • way to keep organized (unit folders or binder, for example)
  • highlighters in 3 different colors
  • assigned readings


Course Assessment: 

This course is built to reward sincere academic engagement and skill development. Students will be scored using consistent criteria for endeavor, rigorous thinking, historical understanding, and excellence of finished work. These criteria reflect the values, mindset, and expectations established above. Each of the learning outcomes will be determined using what is known as a "decaying average," which weights the most recent work significantly more than previous assignments. In this way, student growth is incentivized.

Every assignment will be assessed using some combination of the following learning outcomes.

  • Endeavor  - Sincerely and thoroughly attempts every aspect of the assignment, demonstrates META(cognitive) reflection on process, progress, product, and/or group dynamics (including but not limited to examination of: strengths and weaknesses, growth over time, gaps in knowledge, changes in understanding, supporting and including one's peers)
  • Historical Understanding - Accurately and meaningfully identifies, explains, and applies information about historical circumstances, events, and people, employing relevant vocabulary correctly
  • Rigorous Thinking - Engages with source material, considers the implications of details, makes connections, draws meaningful conclusions, expresses ideas about the information (does not just list facts), demonstrates originality, ingenuity, & imagination
  • Excellence of Finished Work - Responsibly proofreads and edits all written work, meets all requirements of a given product, work is ready to be published or presented, uses the form of a product to its highest potential, product is constructed and designed for maximum impact

Students can track their progress in the Learning Mastery Gradebook here on Canvas. Students' current performance on each of these four outcomes will be updated in PowerSchool every two weeks.


How will grades look in PowerSchool versus Canvas?

In Canvas, you will be able to see written feedback and rubric scores for your assignments by checking "Assignments" under the Grades tab. By selecting "Learning Mastery" under the Grades tab, you'll be able to see your overall performance for each learning outcome. The Learning Mastery scores will inform your grade for the course, NOT the scores on individual assignments.

Learning Outcomes will be assessed using a decaying average. In this system, your most recent assignment is more heavily weighted than your previous work. The purpose is to reward your continued growth and your genuine engagement with the skill development and content of this course.

In PowerSchool, you will see a single score for each Learning Outcome. This score will be updated at least every two weeks, using the current "Learning Mastery" score from Canvas. Students will already know how they are doing based on their Canvas feedback. Parents do not have access to Canvas, so the PowerSchool updates will give them an accurate and up-to-date snapshot of their student's performance in the class.

In the unlikely situation that your worst performance happens on the last assignment of the term, Ms. Bel will take into account your performance on each learning outcome over the whole term when determining your grade. This will protect against a potential negative impact of the decaying average structure.

In each term, the value of our four standards are as follows:

  • Endeavor - 20%
  • Historical Understanding - 30%
  • Rigorous Thinking - 30%
  • Excellence of Finished Work - 20%


Cheating/ Plagiarism

Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated. Any student caught plagiarizing from any source, copying material from other students, providing material to be copied, or collaborating on an individual student assignment, will face disciplinary actions according to the student handbook.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due