Sunday, April 26, 2015

Snow Day Reprise

In ten years of being a chair, tomorrow will be the second day I have missed a county wide meeting (so I can work with my AP Comp kids to better prepare for the AP exam).  I was going to present on how to teach students on a snow day.  But using my favorite technique, I can flip the presentation using the video above.  The video explains how you can use Blackboard Collaborate which is something we have in Fairfax County.  But there are other alternatives as you can see below.
  1. You could Google Plus Hangout live stream where you could send a link to your students and they could watch a live lecture (here's how).    You could then use Today's Meet to send a link to students and you could see their live questions.   You would be able to do this by splitting your screen
  2. If the day is cancelled tomorrow we will spend much of the period answering questions on review problem sets and then I will assign a few more so that we can have our quiz on Wed and our test on Friday without missing a beat.  
  3. But you don't always have to meet your students.  For example last year  I decided not to have an online session and instead made the video above as both an introduction and a continuation of our material.  Then my government kids watched this video to look up these court cases.  
  4. I communicate with the kids by using Remind, Blackboard and even using my grade book which has all of the kids' emails.  For the Remind message I used a shortened tinyurl ( which linked to my normal homework e-sheet. so I didn't have to text the kids multiple times with the assignments.  
  5. So if you have a motivated bunch and you can't afford to miss a day of school you might want to try some of the techniques. 
The bottom line is that we had 12 snow days in my county and a number more late starts and my kids still got in all their work and are where we should have been should we not have missed school.

I should point out that this is one of the many techniques I go over in my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud To Individualize Instruction.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

AP Government Review Resources

So, like you I have been a bit overwhelmed this (and next week) with four AP exams coming up for my students and one state exam last week (thankfully the last one is not until June) and so have not posted this amazing resource from Billy Shulman who was one of the people who submitted entries (and won!) to get my new book Deeper Learning Through Technology.

Billy's one stop shopping review has jeopardy games, videos, Quizlet and practice questions all on one neat Google Drive document.  Thanks Billy. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Trouble w the Electoral College

This video explains both the electoral college and why candidates avoid certain states.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cram for the Exam

One of the great things about going to the AP grading each year is that you get to meet a lot of people who can really help your classes.  I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dan Larsen rather well. He and Andrew Conneen have created CitizenU whose aim it is to make a US government course sans textbook.  Here are a series of short "cram for the (AP) exam" reviews you might want to share with your students.  

Vermin Supreme for President

So this is nothing else other than good clean fun.  New Hampshire has fairly easy rules to get on their ballet to run for president.  As a result your students might enjoy one of the Democrats, Vermin Supreme. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Study for a Test

When I was growing up I was expected to "always do my best."  I translated this to studying for my midterm exams several weeks in advance over the winter break, always doing it two or three times prior to a normal exam and even arguing post test for every single point.  Thus when I started teaching I assumed my students would make their own study guides, and truly study.  But alas I have learned over the years that studying, for more than not means,

  • doing nothing at all and hoping for the best
  • reading one's notes and
  • for only a precious few, actually doing what my daughters are doing right now by quizzing each and helping each other make sure they have actually learned the material.
Two days ago I met a student in an AP US class who said she suffered from test anxiety.  She admitted that she never did more than review her notes to which I asked if she wasn't fulfilling her prophesy in that she was taking the easy way out by reading, but not studying and then blaming her low scores on the imagined anxiety.  I asked her if she had every varied her approach to prepare and the answer was, "Well sometimes I don't study."

This year I have made a conscious effort to discuss what is meant by studying - even modeling it repeatedly with my non AP classes.  But here is a list of 22 different ideas to think and perhaps even share some of them with your students such as
  • quizzing one's self (I love Quizlet)
  • studying for multiple days
  • studying in different parts of the house
  • using different memory devices such as songs and story telling
  • writing it out
  • taking breaks and more
The video above echoes many of the points above, but also how to reduce anxiety in a test.  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Win a Free Copy of My Book

So I want to give one of you a free book.  The person who can find me the best review (for US/world history, US/comparative government or economics) will get a free copy of my book.  The catch is that the resource has to be online and more sites are better than one.  My book, Deeper Learning Through Technology, is all about the personalization of your teaching so that each of your students can have more one on one time with you - the teacher.  It also looks at how you can find a professional learning community online so you can go beyond your classroom as well as using many online tools and how to flip your classroom.    Send me a note at

Crash Course Government

If you are a flipper, you might want to check out Crash Course's government series which is now up to eleven videos and is adding a new one every ten days.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

LovGov Has Government Class Resources All in One Place

I troll the Internet constantly and like to think I have a handle on all things that are digital.  But, alas, I am far from all knowing.  Take LovGov which is done by Jennifer Hitchcock who teaches at the other end of my county (admittedly we are 188,000 students strong) and has created a tremendous website that is part blog and part multiple resources broken down by each section of government. Even more evident on the site is Jennifer's love for teaching government.

As I move my post book classes next year, her site will be one I will be frequenting to put the finishing touches (do we ever finish?!) on my course.  I should also point out that Jennifer is one of the co-administrators of the Facebook AP Government page.  

AP Comparative Government Test Prep

We start our last country - Iran - on Tuesday, but my students have already completed review guides for each of the other countries.  Beyond that, some items we are are using to prepare for the AP exam are below:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

James Madison Fellowship

There is a tremendous scholarship by the name of the James Madison Fellowship scholarship which funds teachers up to $24,000 for a master's degree.  The group selects up to one person per state each year.   So if you are looking for help, you might want to check it out.  One of my department colleagues, Doug Zywiol, just won the grant from Virginia.  

My Newspaper Editorial

I have been seeing a lot of negative editorials recently on technology use in the classroom and, not being a shy person, I wrote one and with the help of the Smarter Schools Project it was published today in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  As with many states, Virginia (where I live) has been grappling, in our legislature (as has our Congress), to protect students, often at the cost of using technology.  While it is a fine balance, my thoughts are printed here in full.  About the only thing missing is that I wish a start-up would develop to vet our burgeoning ed tech needs.   

Iran's Government

Today we are starting our last country in AP Comparative - perhaps my favorite - Iran.   To help my students I have this site from Harvard that gives you everything you need to know about the Iranian government.   For those of you who want more depth, this is a great site.  If you want a visual, this one from the NYTimes is a great one, even though the people in the positions are now outdated. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015


RealClearPolitics gives you all you could want to discuss with your students about government. Basically it aggregates stories from many many sources and will allow you to give a real world application for some of what you are teaching. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Great Britain's Upcoming Election

There will be a general election for Parliament in Great Britain on May 7th.   To that end 538Blog has a new page on the elections and are going to forecast the results, much as the site has done for US presidential elections.  This article is a great primer on GB as well as the issues behind the May election.  The article discusses devolution, the three major parties, the EU and politics beyond England.

538 also has a great glossary of British politics, most terms of which need to be known for the AP comparative exam.   Here, also, is a political history of GB since 1945 - again all fair game.