Monday, September 1, 2014

Twitter Warm-up

So I always have a meet and greet on our first day of school, but tomorrow, thanks to @dougzywiol I am going more high tech (imagine that!) and having the kids Tweet their answers.  To do that yourself you can either create your own hashtag by putting a number a hashtag symbol besides a name (make sure others are using it first) and then have your kids add it in of their Tweets which is what I am going to do.  Alternatively you could just have the students write your Twitter handle in their Tweets.  I will then have the kids go to our hashtag and we will go through them.  For the kids who don't have Twitter, we'll just do it orally.   

Amicus Curiae

One of the things you have to teach in US government is amicus curiae briefs or amici briefs for short.  They are "friends of the court briefs.  In the Hobby Lobby case, for example, 80 were sent to the US Supreme Court.  What I always tell my students is that this is a place where the justices and their clerks get many arguments to present in their decision.  Now a W&M (proud alum here) professor has done her research and found that between 2008 and 2013 there were 124 citations from amici briefs.  Considering that there are only roughly 70 cases a year - so 420 total over the period - that means there is a one and four chance of an amici brief having its facts mentioned.  Of course this doesn't forget that oft cited are also the plaintiff and defendant briefs.   More here

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Ugly Business of Attack Ads

The UP table talks about the long tradition of attack ads during political campaigns.

The Problems with Polling - Lesson Plan Idea

It used to be that all a pollster had to do was to call a number of people and interview them to get an accurate poll.  With the advent of cell phones, caller ID and online self driven polls, a scientific poll is becoming harder to find.  This article from one of my favorite blogs, 538, gives a very detailed explanation why polling is so difficult.  

If you want an idea for a class, I would find a poll and have your students watch the video below at home and then come in and have a series of questions to be used to answer the 538 article, remembering key terms such as scientific, straw poll, Literary Digest, sample, etc. that you might want to cover.

How to Interview Someone Using a Google+ Hangout

If you are like me and all of your classes have a state or national exam at the end, you often feel somewhat pressed for time so bringing a speaker is not always something you can do until the end of the year.  But if you use a Google+ Hangout, you can bring someone in, limit the time they are "in" your room and share the live broadcast and or have it recorded to YouTube for later broadcasts. Above is a short video telling you how to do this.

Friday, August 29, 2014

AP Comparative Group on Facebook

The unstoppable Ken Wedding (who retired a few years ago, but still continues to be a force in AP Comparative Government with his blog and his books) has created a Facebook group for AP Comparative which has 450 members and is one more great resource to find ideas and ask questions.  I might add that when I started teaching I hounded Wedding as he is very receptive to questions and loves to help.   

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tiananmen Square "Incident"

I just returned from an amazingly wonderful trip to China where among other places my wife and I got to take our kids.  I also must admit I asked our guides a lot of questions and while I received a lot of good answers the discussion on the Tiananmen Square Massacre was repeatedly referred to as the "incident."  That made me curious about checking their "Google" site (since it is banned) which is called Baidu.  It is very interesting what you can find as it is not the Western version of events.  It might also be a fun exercise for your AP Comparative kids to look up the Cultural Revolution or try this one on that the Museum of Revolutionary History (in Tiananmen Square) no longer comes up because the Communist Party in 2002 decided to stop calling itself revolutionary since they had become status quo (something I picked up from the very interesting book Age of Ambition) and so the old name for the museum has been literally wiped out! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Take My Technology Integration Course

I will be teaching the seventh version of my technology integration course with Fairfax County Public Schools this spring.  We will learn about such items as webquests, pacing your students individually using technology, flipping the classroom, using electronic textbooks, collaborating online, how to use Google Drive and lots more in a ten week course.  You can get more details here on page 43.  To sign up go to MyPLT (if you need help go to page 68) and put either the title or just a few words from the title or even e-mail me and I can add you to the class.  The sign-up window is August 27th at 4 pm until September 10th.

The class will be on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7ish at Woodson.  It is free to FCPS employees, but if you live in the areas and are not in FCPS you can take it, but you have to pay for it (page 9).  The class fills up quickly, so if you are interested I would sign up sooner rather than later.  If you have questions, please e-mail me at 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Twitter In-Service

Tomorrow I will be doing an in-service on using Twitter in the classroom.  My colleague, Doug Zywiol, joined my department last year having never used it before and attended my Twitter in-service. Now he is a force and will show you how to do warm-ups using Twitter while I will have a hands on demonstration on using Twitter for your PLN and how to use a hashtag for discussions.  We will be in room 228 during session A.  If you are not a FCPS teacher, use the video above to learn how to use Twitter.   If you prefer seeing it all written out, here is a great set of written instructions and below is a summary of them:

For your PLN, a great group to follow is listed below:
Ken Halla @kenhalla
Cool Cat Teacher @letytijerina
We Are Teachers @WeAreTeacher
Larry Ferlazzo @LarryFerlazzo
Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal
Richard Byrna @rmbryne
Shelly Terrell @ShellTerrell

For hashtags, go to this link to see how my classes use it for government discussions returns, presidential debates and reviewed for the exams.  Below is a list of hashtags you might want to follow.  Some other useful ones are #SSChat (social studies), #HistoryTeacher and #GeographyTeacher.  To find a hashtag, type in the # symbol plus the name in the search engine in Twitter and the conversation will appear.  If you want to be really blown away go here for the 300 most popular hashtags for educators.
Educational Chats: #edchat, #schools, #lrnchat, #TT (Teacher Tuesday), #GlobalEd
Technology Chats: #edtech, #elearning, #mlearning (mobile learning), #edapps, #gbl (games based learning), #islide2learn (iDevices & learning), #vitalcpt (effective use of tech in the classoom)

If you want to both follow a hashtag and Tweet at the same time, I'd suggest you use TweetChat.  Below is a video on how to use it.  

Flipped Classroom In-Service

Tomorrow I am teaching two sections of how to flip your classroom to Fairfax County (VA) teachers.  If you are coming, I will be in room 228 during sessions B and C.  If you aren't a teacher in Fairfax or if after our session, you want to watch how to do it again, above is an eight minute video detailing all of the steps and what to do in the classroom after you have done your flipping.  

The PowerPoint below has a number of great resources for more information on flipping.

Finally here is an example of a flipped video, the actual Google form we used and the interactive assignment that followed in class

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review or Intro of US Government

Probably you'll want to use this as a review at the end of the school year, but it is a nice 14 minute review of most of the major topics in government.  

Targeting An Advertisement Campaign

One thing that you will probably discuss with your government students is targeting when you get to the campaign season of the year.   While VA's US Senate campaign will probably not be a close race, the NRA is trying to help it become that way by sending out flyers to my neck of the woods (liberal Northern Virginia) and putting the ad up above targeting Michael Bloomberg in a reverse Koch brothers type of ad (above) as he started Everytown which is a gun control advocacy group and has promised to spend $50 million this fall on ads. .  Here is a great look at targeting in Virginia.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Become an AP Grader

I have been grading different AP exams for well over a decade and have found it one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.  Yes it does get hard the fourth and fifth day of grading the same exam over and over (well some subjects like US train you in two), but the rewards are many.  I have a national network of friends whose collective brains I pick throughout the year, learn how to master an AP rubric and generally enjoy the places where we grade (San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Lincoln, Daytona Beach).  Perhaps the best thing, and the reason I go is so I can help my students "beat" the AP exam.  I must also say I am very efficient in grading throughout the year as being a grader has greatly improved my speed and the ability to find the exact mistakes the kids are making (which unlike the real AP exam I mark).

If you are interested, apply here by the end of September.  If you decide to go and they generally look for people in their third year - but last year government took people who had taught fewer - you will have your plane, hotel and food paid for the week and you will get an "honorarium." You will spend your first day learning the rubric, the grade for five full days and part of the a sixth one.  You work from 8 to 5 with two 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch.  Even if you think it would be miserable, I think you owe it to your students to try it once. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

AP US Government PowerPoints

While I have largely moved away from PowerPoints in US government, they might still be a good starting point for a new teacher.  My advice is to find some and then think 1) how you can tease out a bunch of flipped videos and create assignments out of the rest of them.  Nonetheless if you need a start with this, here, here and here are three sets of PowerPoints. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flipped Videos for Your Government Class

I used to think that I had to make all of my own flipped videos and while I still make them, I now use lots of other peoples' as well.  Here are all of Keith "Flip" Hughes' government videos.  Actually one of my goals this year is to build up my government videos to match the ones I have done in other subjects.