Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Multiple Choice Topics on the AP Govt Exam

One more resource is a list of 220 topics that have appeared on the multiple choice section of the AP US Government exams from 1994-2009. Randy Smith & I put this together over the past few years. If your students know this list inside and out, they will perform well on the AP US Government exam. Feel free to use and share with all of your students. Here's the link to the document: 

Review for the AP US Government Exam

We are having our final test this week and then will spend all of next week going over it.  My AP Comparative students had their test back in mid January so their review is different than the AP US Government students.

  • Comprehensive review sheet.  I no longer know where I found this, but it goes to the AP Comparative students.  They only do the parts they do not know as it is too long to do otherwise.  Mostly it is a way for them to remember items we may not have thought about during our comparative journey.
  • Frank Franz and Randy Smith's review of the released multiple choice exam questions which really is a good study guide as well. 
  • One hundred question review.  I got this from a Rebecca Small in-service years ago and break it up into four days.  The problem we have had is that kids have only used a few words or a line to answer the questions.  This year we broke up an old AP exam into four parts and let the students use their answers on it.  Magically the students were much more thorough in their answers! 
  • Barron's AP Government review guide.  I feel the summaries and the multiple choice questions (the essays are not in line with the real free response ones).  All year my students have done mc questions and been using the summaries as a review guide.  You also could use Quizlet questions, but know that you should vet them to pick the best ones. 
  • Time permitting we also give them some old AP free response questions. 
  • Finally we briefly go through my AP exam test tips.

Review for the AP Comparative Exam

My students always take a final test two weeks before the AP exam so we can go over it and it does not conflict with any other AP exams they may have next week and the week after.  Here are some of the things they have to review.  We (the other AP US Government teacher and I) always organize a breakfast for the kids and then a lunch in between the two exams (thankfully they will be on separate days next year).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

10 Tech Tips from David Pogue

Here are some very useful and cool tips from New York Times tech columnist, David Pogue.  Did you know for example, that in a text on any phone, all you need to do is press the space bar twice and a period will appear?  Instead of using the scroll bar to move up on any page, just hit the space bar to scroll down a page and the shift key to scroll up. Watch the 5 minute clip for 8 other cool time saving tips.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Notes and Video on one Screen

From a G+ post by Craig Nansen that I found within the Google Certified Discussion community in G+ (which anyone can join) something brand new called VideoNot.es which, in Google Drive, splits your screen and puts the video on the left and the notes on the right.  As you take notes, it records where you are in the video.  You can then save the video and the notes in Google Drive.  If you just want the notes, drag your cursor over them and paste it into a regular Google Drive document.  Above is a short video on how to do this. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Twitter for Your PLN

Today I am doing a presentation about Professional Learning Networks to the other social studies' chairs in my county.  I am going to focus on Twitter.  So to start off on top above is how to set up a Twitter account and below that is a great video on how to use Twitter (no, it has nothing to do about getting married).  I would suggest your watching it as it tells you how to do everything you'd want to do in Twitter such as set sending Tweets, direct messaging someone, following lists, getting help and on and on.  If you prefer seeing it all written out, here is a great set of written instructions and below is a summary of them:

To see everyone you are following (and your own Tweets), hit the “Home” button.  If you want to see your own Tweet, tap on the “Me” link.  If you want to see if people are enjoying and passing on your Tweets, go to “@Connect.”  If you hit “#Discover,” an algorithm will promptly deliver you some people on Twitter to follow.  When you are in the “Home” tab, just below your picture it says “Compose new Tweet.”  

Secondly we are going to look at lists of educators to follow.
Ken Halla @kenhalla
Cool Cat Teacher @letytijerina
We Are Teachers @WeAreTeacher
Larry Ferlazzo @LarryFerlazzo
Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal
Richard Byrna @rmbryne
Shelly Terrell @ShellTerrell

Finally we are going to look at how to set up a hashtag and how to use it in class.  As you might remember from my posts, my students have Tweeted the election returns, State of the Union, presidential debates and reviewed for the exams using hashtags.  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.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Very Improved Quizlet for Class Review

Quizlet and StudyBlue are two online flashcard sites. A year ago I was very high on StudyBlue but it requires one to have a login/password to see and while I still think, that aside, it is a great review device since it allows for pictures and sound recording, I now prefer Quizlet for the following reasons: 1) it allows everyone to see it whether they have a login/password, it now allows you to upload or search for images 3) you can write in a word and it will give you several choices of definitions or, of course, you can write your own. 4) it even allows you to play a few games with your words/definitions 5) it comes in a number of different languages so would help your ESOL students, 6) it will create short quizzes for you and 7) it can be used on an Android or an iTunes device.

Above is a short video showing you some of the features for Quizlet and below is one telling you how to use it.  Followers of my blogs know that my students now use it a lot to study for our tests as you can put in virtually any test in the search engine and get a fairly good review set of virtual cards that someone has done.  If you want to make a few changes, it will let you make the e-cards your own and then you can make the changes and share that link with your students.  Of course you can also have your students make the cards as well.  

Google+ As Part of Your Professional Netowk

On Tuesday I will doing an in-service for my fellow social studies chairs.  Time permitting (and it will be tough since I am also showing them Twitter), I will be discussing Google Plus (also known as Google+).

To begin with Google+ came into existence in 2011 as an invitation only social network.  As of January 2013 it surpassed Twitter as the second largest (to Facebook) social network in the world.   As of December 2012, it had 500 million users with over half of them active users.

The left side of the page has a stream listing the user's "friends."  As with Twitter you can follow anyone who either allows you or has a public stream.   To send a message, enter in whatever you want (unlike Twitter which is limited) in the box by your picture where it says "Share what's new...".  You can also add pictures, video, video links, etc.

On the rights side of the page you will see your name and a number besides it.  The number signifies how many people want to have you accept them as a friend.  The "+ Share" allows you to click on it and place a message in your feed.  If you look at name in the middle of the photo it signifies that I have a camera on my laptop.  If I click on the names below that I could either text or have a video conference with others in Google+.  Here is how to do all of these things.  

If you want to follow others, you need to first have a group of people to follow. Below is a list of people and groups you might want to follow.   To add a person or group, you simple go to the search box at the top of the screen and enter in a name or a topic.  When you find someone, simply add it to your circles.  To create a circle look for the symbols with three circles and click on it.  You can then quickly add friends, create circles, etc.  The advantage of the circles is that you can create feeds that only some people can see.  So, for example, you could create a feed for your students and they could set it so you could not see all of their private messages.  is how to use it.  Here and here is how you can create your circles.  Some of the people and groups you might want to include are noted below.  
Eric Sheninger (Principal)
Larry Ferlazzo (ESOL, US History)
Ken Halla (Yours truly)
Phil Wagner Google Education
Richard Byrne (FreeTech4Education)
Jordan Pedrazza (Google Apps)
Shelly Terrell (Noted Teacher PLN Person)
Teaching World History (Group of Teacher)
US History Teachers (Group of Teachers)

Next you can also have Hashtags such as are done in Twitter.  You can create your own or follow others.  Use the same symbols as Twitter as in "#HistoryTeachers." 

The coolest part, though, is a Google Hangout.  This allows you have a conversation with up to ten other people.  While you are conversing you can share text messages and urls.  You can also share your entire desktop and anything you have in Google Drive (here is how).  You can also record a Google Hangout and put it straight onto Youtube.  Here is how to do this. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Voice Comments in Google Documents

So this is pretty cool.  Watch the short video above to learn how you can embed recorded voice comments in Google Drive documents.  This will add a nice dimension to your overall comments for student paper in addition to the inserted comments you probably already use. I found it on a G+ comment from Judy Arzt about Jen Roberts' video.

Iranian Government Primer - About.com

There are a lot of good answers to questions on About.com including this one on the government of Iran.  If a student is prepping for the AP exam on May 14th, this would be a help. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How to Become a Connected Educator

Three well-known educators, Angela Maiers, Stephen Anderson, and Tom Whitby explain the importance of using Twitter to become a connected educator and discovering new ideas in education, even before school systems begin to consider them. Thanks to Stacey Roshan for twitting the link.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chechnya in the News

With the Boston Marathon bombers having brought attention to Chechnya it might be a good time for my AP Comparative students to revisit the area since it is certainly fair game for the AP exam on the 14th of May and the interest in the bombing make make it easier to remember.  Here is a NYTimes article by Peter Baker who used to be stationed in Russia and who incidentally, graduated from the school where I now teach. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gliffy for Easy Way to Use Venn Diagrams

You can create some great shapes from Google Drawings, but one thing you cannot do is overlapping Venn diagrams.  Well enter Gliffy to save the day!  Gliffy allows you to create all kinds of overlapping diagrams.  Not only can you easily manipulate the shapes, but you can also move the words around easily. Either you can sign up for an account or you can have your students make their diagram and then take a screen shot of it and paste it into their Google Drive drawing (or dare I say Microsoft Word).

I found Gliffy on the slideshow below.  Yes it is lot of slides.  I'd recommend going through it quickly and stopping at the interesting ones and know that ones that I find interesting I will feature in the next few days as well.  I found it on Google+ post from Eric Sheninger.

Quizlet AP Government

I have started my doing a lot of Quizlet reviews with my students (mostly since Study Blue which is a better study apparatus requires a login/password).  At any rate here are a ton of AP Government review sets.  Unfortunately most of them are noted by chapter numbers instead of titles.  But if you run your cursor over them, you will see a few cards and quickly be able to know what to look at.  While I am usually fairly happy with my students' AP scores, the part they do the worst on is Constitutional Foundations which is above.  

Update on How to Flip Your Classroom

Frank Franz and George Coe developed the slideshow above for a presentation they made on flipping the classroom back in August.  Frank has updated it as he recently did another presentation on it.  Not only does this short Google Drive Presentation go through how to do it, but he also gives a number of urls you can use to get more information and training on it.  I should add that when I started flipping two years ago the kids gave me more resistance, but now they almost universally like it (perhaps I have improved my craft too!).

Iran and the White Revolution

I just found this little ten minute film on the history of Shah Pahlavi (showing video of when I was living there).  It briefly discusses the 2500 celebration of Persian's history as well as lots of great shots of the king, westernization under Pahlavie and discussion of the White Revolution (beginning at 6:00). 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#apgovhelp to Help Your Students Review for AP Exam

Remember to tell your students about our (Frank Franz, Eliot Waxman) new Twitter hashtag #apgovhelp where they can put up questions or even answer questions.  I made it an assignment for my students as can you since anyone can use the assignment.  For my students without Twitter, I created an editable Google Drive document and they are doing the same assignment there. Of course the same assignment could work later on as you near the standard level government final exams, but then you would have to make sure your students are both asking and answering as our students will do both until May 14th. 

AP Comparative Website

We started our last country today, Iran, in AP Comparative and as a way to prep I am searching the Internet for assignments that might be useful to my class.  As part of that search I found Robert Crawford's great AP Comparative page.  If you look at it, there are individual country pages which include key vocabulary as well as a number of questions that should be considered for each state. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

How to Determine the Reading Level of a Document

I am thinking ahead to next year and how I will use the reading tests I give my students at the beginning of the year.  Since I have technology for them all my next goal is going to differentiate for them.  I see differentiation as going two different ways: 1) learning type which I also have a test for if you look below 2) reading level.

The reading level tests are also in early posts.  But then what.  Google Documents, before it was Google Drive had a very early way to determine readability, but it is now gone.

So for example here is an article on Obama and his consideration of his legacy from the WashPost and here are the results for the reading levels and here is what grade it is at level 8 which means it is appropriate for 13 and 14 year olds. For comparison I entered in an article from the Economist and it said it was a reading level of 7 or could be read by 12 and 13 year old students.   The truth is that generally any article or news magazine other than scholarly articles are going to be appropriate for your high school students - unless they test below reading levels and that is where you will have to have them look up key words.  If you follow this it will also impact state exams - or at least mine which give a lot of our ESOL students problems. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Judge Roberts' Hearing

Thanks to my colleague Charity Fisher for sending me this News Hour report summarizing the Judiciary Committee hearing in the US Senate. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reading Strategies

One of the teachers in my department correctly pointed out that while I had a good post on judging reading levels, I did not have a way to help solve the problem since most of us cannot just send a student to a reading specialist without missing the content in our classroom.

So Pearson has a succinct description of how to improve reading many of which you might know such as pre-reading, reading groups, organizers (I love this one) and more.  If you want more details here is a longer description of how to integrate reading strategies in your classroom go here

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Use Our Twitter Hashtag (#apgovhelp) for AP Government Exam Prep

I have written several times about how Frank Franz, myself and Rebecca Small had three assignments where we had our students Tweeting during the fall campaign and the State of the Union.

Well now one of our Fairfax teachers, Eliot Waxman, has pulled together a number of teachers to run the hashtag "#apgovhelp" which I would encourage you to give to your students. A number of teachers in my (Fairfax) county have joined together to have our students post questions and to answer any that your students might have.

Your students will know how hashtags work, but if you put the hasgtag in your Tweet then our students will see it. To see all the items on the hashtag just put it in the search engine and return. You will then see three items and click on "View all Tweets."

We want this to work both ways so you if your student sees something they can answer, then just have them give and answer with the hashtag in it. Perhaps you could even have it as an assignment as I am doing (and the kids who do not have Twitter will do the same in an editable Google Drive document.

We are concentrating on different topics each week, but your students can ask anything you want every week.

April 6 to 12
Constitutional Foundations, Political Beliefs & Behaviors
April 13 to 19
Political Parties, Interest Groups, Mass Media
April 20 to 26
April 27 to May 3
Public Policy, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties
May 3 14th
Any topic

If your kids do not want their friends to see them doing school work in Twitter, have them start of their Tweet with "@HideTag" or "@HideChat"

Finally if you want to present it to your students, here is what I am giving my students.

Learning Styles and Reading Comprehension

At my school we are working on Tier 1, 2 and 3 learning which essentially asks the teacher to differentiate learning with your students who are not meeting all of your objectives.
Two main items that we are looking at are learning styles and reading comprehension. Sure we think we know our students after a year of being with them, but isn't most of it anecdotal.  Next year I am going to talk to my department about having our students complete this learning style test (no login/password required).  
Secondly I want our teachers to consider reading comprehension using this test (or similar ones later).  Of course the hard part is once we know how learning style and reading comprehension the hard part is taking the information and putting it into action (more on that later).  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chinese Court System

Considering that AP Comparative has had a lengthy free response question on the Chinese judiciary, I do not feel Hauss' AP Comparative book (but I still like it better than the other ones) is adequate. There are multiple sites on the Internet, but I like this short summary of the recent changes and the way the Chinese judiciary works. 

Summary of Maggie Thatcher's Accomplishments

Since PM Margaret Thatcher is fair game for the AP Comparative exam I believe I will have my students read this NYTimes article from today on her career as it would be fair game for one of the short answer questions on the exam.  Above is a video of her important quotes.   The third or fourth part of the video has a nice run down on the parts of the European Union's governing bodies which you could use as a review. 

New Example of Super PAC

Outgoing mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who was a (D) until he ran for mayor and is now a (D) and is enough of a billionaire that he flies in his private jet to his weekend home in Bermuda most weekends, has his own interest group Mayors Against Illegal Guns is doing all the things interest groups do even if this one is largely one mayor against guns!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher

With the death today of Margaret Thatcher you will certainly be seeing a lot about her career.  I, of course, am thinking of how I can use it as a review of sorts for my AP Comparative students.  One place to start is the of Margaret Thatcher foundation.  While obviously biased it does have a good chronology of her life and you can click on their links for more details.  More importantly you could ask your students about the Parliament, how people get elected and then go to how did she get elected to Parliament, backbencher, Prime Minister, Conservative and on it goes!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Studying for the AP US Government Exam

May 14th is a big  day in my classes as my AP Government students are taking their AP exam and my AP Comparative students are taking both exams (thankfully in 2014 the exams will be on different days).

  • To prepare them for the exam we have already given them a ton of previously released AP exam questions.  I actually encourage the students to talk about the questions with each other (could I really stop them from not doing so).  Every year I find that most kids do about the same as they do on my tests (percentage wise), but some of the kids who really work hard improve and some of the lazy ones go down. 
  • Then I give them Rebecca Small's 100 questions. I don't ask them to do the court cases since they will have just taken a test on them.  
  •  Since my AP Comparative students have already (back in January) completed the questions, they will have to complete a lot of this lengthy review. I also give a "final test" before the actual AP consisting of 60 multiple choice and two free response questions.   After years of teaching I know seniors are more likely to care about the test than the AP exam so know this will get them to study for both.  
  • Finally we will go over my tips for the AP exam itself.   I have been teaching AP Government for I believe 13 years and grading them for 11 or 12 so I think my tips are fairly useful.  I haven't yet developed them for the AP Comparative exam, but it is fairly similar except for the free response portion which I will add to in a few days. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I recently posted about Text2mindmap, but in my teacher class tonight we were looking at it and so I decided I wanted to make a how to film for people.  If you every want to have a great way to create a flow chart about something this is a great tool.  One of the drawbacks is that it does not allow you to add a photo or a link, but if you go to your Google Drive drawing, you can download your Text2mindmap and then upload it there and add photos.

Iranian Presidential Elections

One day I want to return to Iran where I spent four wondthis NYTimes article that, of course, will take some time.  The article discusses such important AP Comparative terms such as president, supreme ruler, Guardian Council, clerics and parliament.  Iran is our last country which we should be starting the week after next.
erful years as a child (what could be better than a pool, lots of snow and camels coming to your front door), but not until the countries leaders change for the better.  Judging from

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to Use Twitter

This is a great video on why and, more importantly, how to use Twitter.  If you want to see different items to follow for social studies teachers, put "Twitter" in my search engine and you will get some great posts.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My View of the World, Part II

Microsoft's VP of Education Anthony Salcito asked me to pen my thoughts on education which you can find on his blog here.    I talk a lot about where I believe education is going in the next decade as well as who are some of my educational influences and what it is like in my classroom.  As with anything online, there are lots of links to help follow my discussion.

By the way the quote above is one that I got from a woman (long since forgotten her name) who taught my methods class when I was working on my teaching certification and has been my governing rule since I started teaching, hard has it has been at times to break the mold.