Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Prepare for a Test

My mom asked me the other day where I get all of my ideas and sites for the blogs.  I told her that I basically just teach and search for answers to all of my questions.  For example the other day a friend asked me for help with her daughter's studying ability.

I actually always start this kind of an answer with asking if the student writes a study guide.  Most of the time, the answer is no.  Bu as I have now come to require my students to fill in one before each summative assessment, I have found that is where most end.   Given no study guide, most, would do nothing.  Given a study guide the most kids do is read them over and hope for the best on the items they don't know.  This is contrary to my kids who insist on us quizzing them repeatedly for days, which is exactly what the research suggests is best.  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,

For this year and last 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.

  • In addition to requiring study guides and 
  • giving them the Quizlet links for a particular subject (you can just do a search on the site and say something like "Regents WHI China" and someone has put together a pretty good group of cards. 
  • I tell them about Google Hangouts so they can quiz their friends and not have to worry about getting together.  They can be done on any device and allow you share your screen.
  • or use which allows students up to 999 other participants in a group call
  • or even the old fashioned meeting someone in person!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sanders, Fiorina, Trump and the Changing Political Landscape or Not?

So I am definitely not willing to concede that the party elites (Clinton, Rubio, Bush, etc.) won't be the presidential party candidates.  But this article from Vox and the video above are interesting.  Prior to 2000 the party elites won all the primaries, but since then far fewer have (dare I mention that Obama was 31% points down on Clinton 12 years ago).  But to quote Erza Klein:

"the inside game - courting donors, winning endorsements, endorsements, influencing the primary calendar, securing key committee assignments, luring top staffers, working with interest groups - makes up the bulk of politics."

Indeed a lot of people credit Tom Daschle's endorsement of Obama as the key that led him to get many of the insiders in his campaign.

But Klein, in the article argues that other factors (can you say social media) are changing the landscape.  As Vox points out when Bernie Sanders is mentioned in an article social media goes crazy and so news outlets want to report on him and when you get more press, you get more public support.   It is still too early to know what is going to happen, but as a teacher I love to enter a government class and feel the buzz generated by non traditional candidates.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pearson and Its Impact on Our Students

I got curious about Pearson when I saw this article on how we still have the same Texas Instruments calculators that we had in schools 20 years ago.  Part of that problem is because they are still in our textbooks and part of that, to be truthful, is that teachers hate changes (even in a difference in page numbers) in their textbooks.

The video above is an excellent one on the history of Pearson and the attacks it takes from both the left and right.  It is an $8 billion company that is behind most our state tests.   It does have some redeeming features such as online classes, good textbooks, etc., but it also continues to pursue cheap multiple choice tests rather than project based ones that are more expensive, yet better preparation for life beyond K-12.  (Did you know the pencil and standardized learning were invented the same year - more in my book on that).   Really we should be asking why our state exams are really exercises in Googling and not higher level thinking pieces.  To wit, the tests do drive our instruction.  Create project based end of the years assessments and you'll get more throughout the year.  Create end of the year multiple choice exams and you'll get more during the year and don't even get me started on the awful statistical practices that this has spawned!

At any rate it is always good to learn about "the forces" behind our legislative decisions.  In our state, for example, we have cut some year end tests, but it is bad form for Pearson to lose more of them and you can bet its lobbying arm is fighting more (and more here and here).

To wit, here is a great Politico article on Pearson and here is another recent one from Fortune.  Please take the time to look at these resources and get involved with your state and locally elected officials and ask them when our testing will start reflecting the changes in our society instead of the world one hundred years ago when we first saw the dawn of standardized testing.   

Late Night Humor with SNL

We like to have a little fun in class by watching ads and appearances by the presidential candidates. The top skit obviously features HRC and the bottom stand-ins for Trump and his wife Melanie.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

FRQ Grade Converter

We give a number of FRQs and so, thanks to Rich Hoppock and Dan Maxwell whom I team with for both economics and government, we have a nice converter.  To use it, download it and then upload it into your own Google Drive account, or if you don't have one, open it up in Microsoft Excel.  Then plug in the number you want and it will give a grade percentage. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Article IV Video

Every year there are problems that kids have one of them is that kids confuse the full faith and credit clause with privileges and immensities.  If your kids have the same issue, you might want to give the video above from Hip Hughes to your students.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Embedding Remind Texts in Blackboard

So in my school district a lot of people like using the "Announcement" tab in Blackboard.  The problem with that is if you change it to just a text (which is possible) then all teachers have to be limited to a text.

So, of course, many people who know that students never check emails love to use Remind.  So if you love group texting your students, but have to use the "Announcement" tab in Blackboard, then watch the video above which shows you have you can embed your Remind texts in Blackboard and meet your district's needs as well as meet your students where they best reside - on their smartphones!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Make Videos with WeVideo

One of our special education teachers made the video above using WeVideo.  First off I should say we flip for not just mainstreamed students, but also special ed and ESOL (ESL) students.

WeVideo is an app that you can add in Google Drive or sign up for separately.  As with everything else here, it is free and pretty amazing as it lets you add in sound, video, words, effects, etc.  Best of all, you can use it with your students in groups as it lets them collaborate much as one can do on a document in Google Drive.

Below is an introductory video on WeVideo and here are all their (short) tutorials

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Strive for a Five Full Length AP Government Exam

StriveForaFive is a teacher run website that has two full length AP Government exams that students and teachers can take and receive free feedback all for the princely sum of $0.00!

They are looking for donations to keep the site open for another year if you like what you see on it.   You can go here to make contributions.   

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A China - US Primer

It is a big week in DC with the Pope here now, the looming shutdown next week and President Xi of China coming later in the week.  Above is a primer you could use in your class.

If you like the Economist (and it is a great site for AP Comparative), then here is their article on the upcoming visit and here is their ongoing site on China

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Super PAC Update Explanations and Videos

I am still trying to come up with a project that entails, in part, super PACs.  Above is an update I will want to use as it goes into depth over the relationship between candidates and their involvement with super PACs.

Here is a great overview of super PACs from Vox which also looks at Citizens United as well as "dark money and the older campaign finance laws that are still around."

Here is an example of a brand new super PAC advertisement that is supporting John Kasich.

Below is my still favorite Colbert Report definition of super PAC.

Chromebook Shortcuts

So last Friday the two wonderful SBTS (school based technology specialists) in my building delivered thirty Chromebooks to my classroom.  We spent about 20 minutes logging in and then connecting to the two WiFi accounts that we have at school.  I was surprised first by the number of kids who hadn't heard of them and then later by the number who said they liked them so much they were going to looking into buying their own.  My favorite comment came from a young man who said he no longer had time to text in between going from webpage to webpage.  Yes they are lightening fast.

So I promise to blog about using Chromebooks this year and will start with what I mentioned in class today which is the list of shortcuts that you can use on the laptops.

By the way if you are like some of my students and haven't heard about Chromebooks then you should know that they are a very cheap, but high quality laptop ($200-250 is where most fall for school needs).  The ones we have are sturdy and from signing in to being on a webpage is less than ten seconds.  There is some space for downloading, but not enough room to run programs that require java script.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rouhani on 60 Minutes

Thanks to Rebecca Small for catching that President Rouhani was on 60 Minutes.  You probably don't have time to show the entire show, but it is a good primer for you - the teachers.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Voice Typing with Google Docs

It takes a bit of getting used to, but you can say things like "new paragraph," or "exclamation" and it will do them in addition to regular old typing on your Google Drive documents.  I found this on Google+ from Carlos Guerrrevo

Thursday, September 17, 2015