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.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Contemporary Supreme Court Case Summaries

Street Law, Inc 
40 years of education about, democracy, and human rights

Resource Library
Supreme Court Case Summaries: 

StreetLaw offers a plethora of resources for teachers and students not the least of which are Supreme Court case summaries. The summaries are particularly useful for mock trial exercises in the classroom. The case summaries can help AP Government students understand contemporary issues in government. Save it in your favorites as every Supreme Court season new cases are added so it never gets old! 

Need to Meet Scheduler

Do you have problems scheduling meetings with your colleagues and send numerous emails to get it together?  Well Need to Meet might be the answer.  First off you don't even have to join.  Secondly it is incredibly easy as it prompts you for each step.  Essentially you give the date and time of potential meetings and send a url to friends who put in their preferences and without a second email you will have a date and time for your meeting.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

What to do the First Day of School

I am almost laughing this as my summer school students finished on the 5th of August when some of you were already heading back to school for teacher work days.  Unfortunately in Virginia, for both parties, business reigns supreme and so we have our so called Kings Dominion Law which necessitates that we start school after Labor Day putting giving our students 2-3 weeks less instruction than others before the AP and IB exams not to mention more time after Spring Break when we all know students start smelling summer!

But enough of the diatribe.  I am thinking to my first day of school on September 2nd.  My first day is typical - refined somewhat after twenty-three previous ones.  I spend most of the period getting to know my students and they me.  They have to answer questions such as 1) best place they went this summer (outside of their home bc otherwise they would say "bed!") 2) the place they would most want to be (again outside of their home) to which I answer here where I spent four years (and has this at the end of it)  3) Why we should study history (and don't say "to learn from the past") after which I show them the first minute from this.  4) something they want to learn from the course (which is difficult for most - but we want thinking to occur right) even it is a skill.  5) a quality (singular or plural) about their favorite teacher.

This article and this one use research to effectively say what I am doing is on task, but the authors also argue that your introduction to the content should also be done the first day and that (and thankfully I do this as well) your expectations should also be laid out the first day.  As we know from back to school night, students often form their impression of us on the first day and it is hard to change that.  So be fun, firm and kindly keep the kids on task and you will set yourself up for a great 2014-15 school year.

Good luck.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Parastatals in AP Comparative

My AP Comparative students have to learn all of the terms on this list which Rebecca Small gave me at an AP institute and I have been amending ever since.  One of the terms is parastatals.  If you look the definition up it is actually quite easy.  But when you want students to show a deeper understanding, problems occur.  You and/or your students might like to refer to this short article from McKinsey and Co. that gives a very detailed explanation and gives plenty of examples in an easy to read explanation. 

Conflict in Circuits and Issuing Certiorari

For those in favor of ending bans on gay marriage, this WashPost article's title implies that it may be about to reach a problem in Ohio.  But it is a great way to go over how cases make it to the US Supreme Court.  As this short piece details, it takes conflict (sometimes multiple) in primarily circuit courts to get the justices attention.  As this article explains, the Brown v. Board of Education case was actually four state and one D.C. case - a total of five, rolled together which convinced the court to issue a writ of certiorari. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Teaching Thoughts

One of the more interesting education books I have read recently is "The Smartest Kids in the World."  Above is a very interesting interview "excerpt" where she mostly says Finland closed down its education schools and then only opened them again in the prestigious universities.  She even notes that technology is often missing in Finland and Korea (although I argue in my book that it is being used improperly as effectively a way to just digitize paper).

But what you might want to do is to look at the author, Amanda Ripley's blog which has a lot of stimulating articles.  You can also follow her on Twitter.  Food for thought to improve our craft.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

TJ's Plagiarism?!

Every year I have my students look at the VA Declaration of Rights (also known as the VA Constitution of 1776) compared to the Declaration of Independence.  It was published on June 29 and appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette the day before Jefferson was charged, along with four others to write the Declaration of Independence.   If you follow my students' exercise you will see that the bottom part of the VA Dec. of Rights looks surprisingly like the Dec. of Independence, in some case, in fact, it is word for word.  Know also according to Ray Raphael (I just read this) that Mason's document was copied much more in the colonies than Jefferson's.  Indeed the VA legislature voted for independence in April 1776 and prior to that was Worcester, MA.

If you want to finish my exercise, then have your students compare the complaints in both the Mason and Jefferson documents to the Bill of Rights and it will be a clear case of cause and effect.  


Thanks to Doug Zywiol for catching the video above on gerrymandering as it gives a short history on it.  It comes from Vox which continues to be incredible.  Here is their article on the topic and clearly they have their bias which is for non partisan gerrymandering.  Whenever I post about this topic I have to add in what I learned in my PhD courses that is that political scientists believe that incumbency is much more potent than gerrymandering.  I still remember when Gary Condit was under suspicion for Sandra Levy's disappearance and his marital relationship with her, he still won all the new precincts in his gerrymandered district that he had been representing.  So my two cents (and I certainly keep this from my students is that non partisan gerrymandering is a great idea, but with Congress' inability to work, it would be interesting to see if Maine and CA, for example, have improved their legislative output after they started term limits.   Soap box aside if you use the search function on my blog, you will find lots of other information on teaching gerrymandering.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Answer an AP Government Free Response

This is the best video I have ever seen on how to write a free response question as it clearly is done by an AP grader and goes through how the essays are scores, how to write them, what are key words and all in six minutes.  The only thing I would add is that the sentences written by the students must be copied word for word from the prompts.

I have written a tutorial for teachers to go along with video which you can access here.   

Family & Friends Super PAC

First off if you want a definition of a Super PAC that your students will enjoy, look no further than Stephen Colbert (wow I will miss him in my government class) for that.

Today the NYTimes has a great article bemoaning the fact that many Super PACs are just cash machines for family members of candidates so they can write checks for their relatives.   All of this is possible because of the Citizens United v. FEC case.

If you want to think of ways how to use this in the classroom here is what my students do with campaigns and interest groups.  It is a very practical assignment where kids have to find candidates and look up spending amounts, PAC donations, editorials, advertisements, etc. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Russian Orthodox Church

This is a nice article on the Russian Orthodox church.  It is one of the items I cover in AP Comparative.  Putin was smart enough to invite the patriarch (who is in the video) of Moscow to live in the Kremlin.  Smart enough because it is estimated that there are 150 million members in Russia which is half of the entire Eastern Orthodox Church

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thank you, Ken Halla, for inviting me to participate in the AP U.S. Government and Politics blog you created. I am looking forward to guest blogging from time to time.  As I have been an educator for nine years in North Carolina, seven of which were in a bricks mortar school, and two exclusively online for NC Virtual Public Schools I am certain I will enjoy writing and sharing in this venue. I have experience teaching Civics and Economics, U.S. History, AP U.S. Government and AP Psychology.

Becoming an educator was always of interest to me, however, I did not make it happen until I was 45 years young. I had a career in hospital management in New York and Duke Eye Center. My undergraduate major is Political Institutions and Social Theory. I also hold two graduate degrees; one in Health Services Management and Policy and the other is a Master of Public Administration.

Let the mid-term elections season begin!

Know the vocabulary, know success. This is the mantra I have had with students for years. Every subject has it's own nomenclature including government. Understanding concepts in government comes easy when the student is secure in the terminology. This is a resource students can benefit from throughout the course and in preparation for the AP exam. 

The Gaming Industry and the Iron Triangle Assignment

On Wednesday I was driving to work and listening to an NPR story on a lobbying group for gaming software.  Well since I was spending the week editing and writing lesson plans, I decided to make one on it. The results looks at the Entertainment Software Association and the Child Safe Viewing Act, how it was made (committees, etc.) donations to campaigns and the role of the FCC once the law had been passed.