Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Poll Dance" from We the Voters

Should we believe polls? What are some of their limitations? This five minute clip from We the Voters explains.

We The Voters - The Poll Dance from FilmBuff on Vimeo.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Incorporating Geography and 

Economics in Your Government Lessons

Washington Post Article on U.S. Foreign Assistance

I saw an article on in the Washington Post this week providing a set of cartograms highlighting the spending by the U.S. on foreign assistance.  I love incorporating cartograms periodically with my students; it's a great geography skill to review or teach, and it really allows them to visualize quantitative information in a different way.  This article also allows you to incorporate some discussion of macroeconomics principles.  There's definitely plenty of material for group discussions and debates.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Storytelling and Politics

A few weeks ago, I finally sat down to watch the Sandra Bullock movie Our Brand is Crisis.  It would be great to incorporate portions of this movie into a discussion on campaigning, particularly given the current election cycle.  (Note: It has an R rating, so proceed according to your school policy.)

Then, a couple weeks ago, I saw this video in the New York Times, where a real life political strategist talks about the story lines that campaigns strive to create.  He definitely gives some of his own opinions in the piece, so I would talk to students about that before-hand, but it might be an interesting pairing with the Sandra Bullock movie and a discussion on this year's election.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Presentation Options

This is the first year in over ten years that I will not be in the classroom as fall gets ready to start.  I've taken a new position doing program evaluation in my district.  As such, I'm getting nostalgic for all the bulletin board creating, lesson planning and classroom set up this time of year always involves.

I still get to create presentations, however, and I have been looking for some new tools to shake things up a little bit.  Many of us know about Prezi, and this blog has also covered the potential available with PowToon, but I was looking for something that would take some PowerPoints and help step them up a few notches.

I found this blog post by a company focused on presentations that had a great listing of various alternatives, including the ones mentioned above.

A few I'm looking at for this school year include:




SlideDog basically allows you to use existing presentation pieces (PowerPoints, Prezis, PDF files, etc.) and create a play list with all of them into one large presentation, while emaze and Projeqt both allow you to import an existing PowerPoint and 'glam it up' or create a presentation from scratch.  SlideDog involves a download, while the other two are cloud based. All three have a free option, hence their initial appeal.

Happy lesson creating!

Monday, April 4, 2016

I subscribe to education alerts from The New York Times, which can be a great way to stay on top of what's going on with education policy.  They also periodically cover different resources, such as these interactive games, which were partially created by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

While not every student will enjoy the games, they look like a great tool for giving students some application of key government concepts.  I experimented with playing one called, "Do I Have a Right", which focused on setting up a mock law firm to handle issues of Constitutional law.  Another game involves staging a race for the presidency.  The games look like perfect tools for students who need more hands-on application of the civics and government concepts.  I could see using the "Do I Have a Right" game to help students review the amendments before the SOLs begin in the next month.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Look Back to Primaries in 1968

With all the primary chaos going on this year,  it has been a government/U.S. history teacher’s dream for provoking thoughtful class discussion.  It’s the perfect opportunity to include some discussion of other key election years, particularly the Democratic Primaries of 1968.   

This article from the Stanford Political Journal is slanted, but provides some nice parallels to the Democratic primaries this year.  There is also this article from PBS, which gets into the convention itself.  Finally, this article from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics on the changes Democrats made to their process after the 1968 election. It includes a great explanation of how the Democratic delegate selection works.  

Some classroom ideas might include the following:

  1. Divide the class into thirds, with each group reading a different article.  Students can then hold discussion about each article’s information/perspective.  
  2. Read the articles at home or in class and hold a discussion about the parallels between the 1968 election year and this election year.  Students might be asked to hypothesize what might happen at the Republican Convention during a very divided year.  
  3. A third activity might involve students reading the articles, holding a discussion, then redesigning the convention/primary/delegate system for one of the political parties.  

I teach alternative education, and my students aren’t always known for their enthusiasm for history and social studies, but this has proven to be a topic of conversation they are initiating themselves.  I also teach five subjects simultaneously (World History I and II, U.S. and Virginia History, U.S. and Virginia Government, and Economics and Personal Finance) and this provides a topic that can be connected to all of those subject areas in some way.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Electoral College Predictor by Blendspace

Today I am going to be getting to Austin to attend the South by Southwest Education conference.  I am going to be spending some of my time there with TES (more on them later).  They recently purchased Blendspace which allows teacher to use a variety of resources to build digital lessons for their students such as the one I did above which I call "Predicting the Electoral College."  You can go to Blendspace and build your own very easily.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Presidential Delegate Counter

This site from Bloomberg keeps a count of all the delegates won by the presidential candidates as well as all of the ones that are coming up in future primaries and caucuses. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Take US Government Advertisement

I put this up last year and Paul Sargent has gotten even better.  If you are trying to sell your program right now, this is a great video to show. Look at my link for other great videos. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How Presidential Delegates are Selected

While the narrator is somewhat monotonous his short explanations are great and the Democratic video even explains superdelegates. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Supreme Court Vacancies in Election Years

Here is a short piece from SCOTUS blog which tells that most (in the last 100 years) vacancies in the Supreme Court have been filled because the Senate and president were the same party.  But there were two times when this was not the case and they were still filled.  For example Reagan nominated Kennedy and the Democratic senate approved him.

Here are steps that my dissertation chair, Sarah Binder, says, in the WashPost will follow in the bid to replace Scalia. In the world is actually quite small, the second year of my teaching career I taught with one of his daughters who was an awesome language educator. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Loving v. VA

Thanks to my former colleague, Janet Babic who found this great four minute on Loving v. VA.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Exit Poll Results for New Hampshire

Above is a video summary of New Hampshire's results. But here and here are really great demographic results.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Brexit from the EU

The term being used for the exit of Great Britain from the European Union is "Brexit" which now Prime Minister David Cameron has promised the nation will have a referendum on before June. Euroskeptics know that polls show the pendulum has swung towards leaving.  Thus the Economist video above or this NYTimes editorial today are good fodder for your AP Comparative classes as all of the terms in this post are fodder for the AP exam both on the multiple choice as well as the free response questions.

The video below gives more details into what the move would actually mean for the Great Britain. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Iowa Results

Between the WashPost and NYTimes two results' pages you will have everything you need to know about the Iowa caucuses.  First off Trump's lack of a ground game and the fact that his voters are less likely to have a college degree and therefore vote, showed mightly as he had an eight point turnaround over the most recent polls.  Rubio showed that he might be a viable alternative and the real question is whether Bush will drop out this week.  As predicted on the Democratic side it was more or less (Clinton won) a dead heat, but look for Sanders to win in NH.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Every Political Ad from 2016 and Ongoing

This site has every political advertisement so far from the 2016 campaign and breaks it down by candidate, super PAC, etc.  Really quite amazing. 

Legacy of the Iowa Caucuses

When you discuss the Iowa Caucuses tomorrow with your students, you might want to look back on previous results.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Iowa Caucus in Legos

Thanks to Brian Wittington on the Facebook AP US Government page for the great two minute clip above on how the Iowa caucus works.  

What's the Difference Between a Caucus & Primary

The Learning Network section of the The New York Times has an excellent review of the difference between caucuses and primaries including a couple of video clips.

The clip below explains the Iowa caucuses and the clip below that explains the primary process.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

How I keep my students informed about schedule changes when school is closed

We've missed lots of school because of the blizzard, which means that I've had to make changes to my schedule.  How do I inform my students of these changes?  It's easy if you use these tools.

My official class schedule is on Google Calendar.
I put a link to that calendar as a tab ("Assignment Calendar") on my class Blackboard page.

Before I had settled on Google Calendar I had tried to use the calendar on a previous version of Blackboard.  That Blackboard version was far inferior because it would not allow for events to have start times.  In appears that the newest version my district uses solves that problem, but for now I'm going to stick with Google Calendar.

When I need to make changes to our schedule I just make them in Google Calendar, and the changes appear for my students when they check the Assignment Calendar on Blackboard.

To inform my students about these changes I use these three tools:

1st: I post an Announcement in Blackboard that I have updated the Assignment Calendar.  Blackboard then gives me the option to email that Announcement immediately to my students.
2nd: I use Remind to send a text message alert about the changes.  I really like Remind because I can send the text immediately, or schedule it for a later time.  (This is especially good if I'm working at odd hours; I don't want their phone to beep or buzz too early or too late with a text from their teacher!)

3rd: I update the changes on the WhatsDue app.  WhatsDue creates a class calendar for my students that resides on the app on their devices.  Any change I make automatically generates a text alert to my students.  I like WhatsDue because students can use it to send themselves text reminders of upcoming due dates and deadlines.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Prime Minister's Question Time

Thanks to Rich Hoppock for this one.  The Prime Minister of Great Britain has to go before the House of Commons and answer their questions.  It is great to watch and fair game on the AP Comparative exam, especially if you throw in terms such as House of Commons, Prime Minister, backbencher, shadow cabinet, cabinet, Conservatives, Labour, coalition, etc.

So you can always find the most recent PM questioning on CSPAN.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Difference Btw Substantive & Procedural Due Process

I was just asked the difference between procedural and substantive due process which is fair game for both AP US Government and AP Comparative.  The video above answers it in less than a minute and gives and example as well. 

My New eLearning Blog

I am stuck at home with two feet of snow, but thankful that I can still do my job as I have recently changed from a classroom teacher and chair to the eLearning Coordinator of our 4000 student, 53 course strong Online Campus.

To that end I have, as you might have noticed found some other to help continue my other blogs and have continued adding posts myself to them.  But my new site - "eLearning Blog" is where I am putting anything related to learning online.  You can also receive the posts using Google+ and/or following me on Twitter.  Recent posts have included

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Flipping AP Comparative

I have come to the belief that most textbooks are boring and one can do a better job with videos - not to forget that students prefer learning through videos.  If you are of the same belief or if you want to use slate of them, then here is my AP Comparative playlist.  The better ones are done by Larry Stroud and are based on Ethel Wood's AP Comp book

How effective are newspaper endorsements in influencing voter behavior?

The Des Moines Register announced its Iowa Caucus endorsements earlier this evening.

This year they endorsed Hillary Clinton ("a thoughtful, hardworking public servant who has earned the respect of leaders at home and abroad") and Marco Rubio (who "has the potential to chart a new direction for the party, and perhaps the nation, with his message of restoring the American dream.")  Here's the CNN report (2:11) announcing the paper's endorsements:
The Register began making editorial endorsements for the 1988 caucuses.  While possibly interesting at the moment, the Register has a mixed record of influencing the overall selection of the presidential nominees.  Here's a list they published that shows who they endorsed, who won the caucus, and who was the nominee:


Republican endorsement went to Bob Dole and Dole went on to win the caucus.  But the nominee that year was George H.W. Bush.

Democratic endorsement went to Paul Simon but Richard Gephardt won the caucus.  Michael Dukakis was the Democratic nominee for president.


No endorsements.


Republican endorsement went to Bob Dole, who went on to win the caucus and Republican nomination.


Republican  endorsement went to George W. Bush, who went on to win the caucus and Republican nomination.

Democratic endorsement went to Bill Bradley, but Al Gore went on to win the caucus and Democratic nomination.


Democratic endorsement went to John Edwards, but John Kerry went on to win the caucus and Democratic nomination.


Republican endorsement went to John McCain, but Mike Huckabee won the caucus.  McCain ultimately recovered and went on to the Republican nomination.

Democratic endorsement went to Hillary Clinton, but Barack Obama went on to win the caucus and Democratic nomination.


 Republican endorsement went to Mitt Romney but that didn't help him win the caucus, which was won that year by Rick Santorum.  Romney came back, though, to win the Republican nomination.

What impact will today's endorsements have on the 2016 caucuses?  Politico is already speculating that the paper's endorsements could "backfire."

Classroom Connection: Ask your students: How effective are endorsements on influencing voting behavior?  To research that question, have them choose a newspaper and trace how effective an endorsement from that paper is on determining an election's outcome.

Bloomberg for president?

Is another billionaire thinking about running for president?

Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg retired from public life after leaving office in January 2014.  Today, he runs the Bloomberg Philanthropies, where he works to encourage progress in a wide-range of fields such as the environment, public health, education, and the arts.

The New York Times reported this morning, though, that Bloomberg is exploring plans to run for president as an independent.
That news is interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that, in a conversation Bloomberg had with New York Magazine in 2013, he categorically ruled-out running for president in 2016.
No response yet from Bloomberg on his Twitter feed.  You can follow Mike Bloomberg on Twitter @MikeBloomberg.

Classroom Connection: Tweet or send a Remind notification about this story to your students.  Ask them to write a one-page reflection analyzing the impact a Bloomberg candidacy could have on the campaigns of the announced candidates in both parties.

Friday, January 22, 2016

U.S. Elections--How do they work (a Brit explains)

This video (4:25) produced by the British Parliament explains our (American) system elections, democracy, and representation in the United States.
It also does a great job of explaining differences between the American model of government (president as head of state and government) and the British model (monarch as head of state, Prime Minister as head of the government) and differences in elections (U.S. House based on population, the House of Commons based on 'first past the post').  The explanation of the American electoral college procedures is particularly clear and informative.

This video would be great to show students in both U.S. Government and in your Comparative Government courses.

Iowa Caucus Explained

So I love this Iowa Caucus video explanation as well as this lesson plan on it which has 30, 60 and 90 minute plans.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How does the Iowa caucus work?

This short feature from PBS Newshour explains how.  The short article explains how the caucus first started, how they work for the Republicans and Democrats, and the impact that night's results could have.  Also addressed: the Iowa weather and what that might mean for turnout.

This year's Iowa Caucus is on Mon., 1 Feb., and begin at 7pm CST.  Expect to see live coverage on CSPAN and of course extended coverage and commentary on all the networks.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Trump and the British House of Commons

So it might be fun and a good way to tie in your review of Great Britain in AP Comparative Government by looking at today's debate in the House of Commons in London (the entire debate is on the top video).  First off you have a short overview above, but a much better one here from the Guardian which includes an article on it. It would be a good way to start Great Britain as you could cover such terms as Parliament, House of Commons (and Lords), backbencher, Conservatives, Labour, Scottish National Party (and others), first past the post elections and the fact that GB does not have proportional representation and on and on!  

"Electing the President" Brochure from the League of Women Voters

Image result for league of women voters
The League of Women Voters has published a fantastic resource for understanding the presidential electoral process.
Image result for league of women voters electing the president
Its brochure ("Electing the President: A Guide to the Election Process") includes information about how the U.S. Constitution affects election rights, voter turnout in presidential elections, money and politics, the primary schedule, and the nominating conventions.  It also has a glossary of campaign terms and ideas for lessons.  The pamphlet is in pdf format so it is easy to copy or share with your students.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Digital Learning Day 2016: How will you participate?

Digital Learning Day 2016 is Wednesday, 17 February.  The event, sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, is designed to showcase successful digital teaching and learning in our classrooms, and encourage all teachers to use innovative instructional technology to improve student outcomes.  As the Alliance says, 
"Digital Learning Day is not about technology, it's about learning."
You can plan a special activity or event for that day and register it for free on the Alliance's Digital Learning Day website.  That website also has information about a contests and online resources.  You can follow Digital Learning Day on Twitter @OfficialDLDay.

This video (2:23) from 2015 would be a good introduction to Digital Learning Day to share with your colleagues and administrators.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Watch Your State Legislature Live

In Virginia we have to teach state and local government in addition to the US government.  Well what we call the General Assembly (used to be called the House of Burgesses) is the longest serving legislature in the world dating back to 1619.  If you want to see them live during their sessions (which are occurring now until mid March) you can go here.  If you Google your state legislature and type "live stream" into the search you can find yours.

Above is a short video explaining the Virginia General Assembly

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

But how did it play in the room?

This fun interactive feature in the Washington Post looks at the lines in President Obama's eight State of the Union Addresses that produced the most applause.
What drew the greatest applause?  When President Obama referred to the military.  Overall it appeared that his congressional audience tired of his appeals, as this graph demonstrates:

Analysis and Summary of the State of the Union

Above is a short NYTimes analysis of the State of the Union speech.

Here is a fact checker for the major claims he made in the speech.

Below is a three minute highlight of the speech from the WashPost and here it is in its entirety. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How would movie director Wes Anderson explain the traditions and rituals of the SOTU Address?

Yeah, no student ever asked that question.  But, if one ever does, an answer might look like this video (3:51) from CNN.

A crazy cool way to compare President Obama's SOTU Address to every other previous address

We can all read, listen to, and watch President Obama's State of the Union Address.  But to really understand the historical context of that address, we need to compare it to other Addresses by former presidents.  This site allows you to do that.

On the left half of the page is the text of President Obama's address.  On the right side is a horizontal list of former presidents.  As you click on a word or two-word phrase, a bar chart displays the frequency that a former president used that term.  For this example, I highlighted the phrase "tax cut" that President Obama used in the second paragraph of his address.  That phrase yielded this bar chart:

You can see that the former president who used that term most frequently in his SOTU Address was Bill Clinton.  Two former Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, used it less than half as frequently than either President Obama or President Clinton.

The display here is sleek and dynamic.  As you click on a term the bar chart grows to the right, and presidents are listed in the order of their frequency of using the term.

It looks hypnotically cool, but how could you use it in class with your students?  Here's one idea: Have your students go to the site and read the speech.  As they read, they should compile a list of the five words or terms most important to understanding the topics of greatest concern to President Obama.  Then click on each word/term and determine what former president also relied heavily on that topic.  Have them then research how that issue impacted that former president's agenda.

At tonight's State of the Union, Obama will feature several people as he goes through his speech.  It is a technique that was started by Reagan when he highlight Lenny Skuknik (above).  Here are some of the people who will be at the speech.

Thanks to Doug Zywiol for this very recent interview with Skuknik

Preparing for tonight's SOTU Address

Click here for a great video (2:28) preview of President Obama's State of the Union Address from Politico.  You could also follow the lesson plan here from C-SPAN to use with your students.

And here's a link to the official White House site that highlights the points what they believe are some of the successes of the Obama presidency.  Classroom Connection: Assign each asserted achievement to a student (or student group), and ask them to research data that supports or contradicts that assertion.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A little perspective: How well do front-running outsiders do once the voting starts?

How have front-running political outsiders fared in previous presidential primaries?  Not well (at least for the past two presidential campaigns), according to this feature from the Wall Street Journal, which analyzes trends from 2008 and 2012 nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire. 
Will that pattern continue during this year's contests?  A good question to discuss with your students.

What is an Executive Order and What Did Obama Do?

Thanks to Rebecca Small for these two great videos, the top of which defines executive orders and the bottom of which describes what Obama's recent executive order is all about.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Is there a "daughter effect" in this year's presidential campaign?

A fascinating story in today's Washington Post says that there is, at least as it relates to the Democratic candidates for president.  The story reports on a recently published study that aggregated recent public-opinion survey data.  The conclusion: "parents of daughters are 14 percentage points more likely to support Hillary Clinton in the primaries than parents of only sons."
It would be fun to try to see whether this "daughter effect" pattern replicates in our classrooms.  Better still, assign this as a research project.

State of the Union Address

Getting ready for next week's State of the Union Address by President Obama?
In this video (24:29), Donald Ritchie, U.S. Senate Historian, describes the history of the address from President Washington to the present.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Unbelievable Short Video on the Budget Process

This is a great video on the budget process that includes resolutions, fiscal year, discretionary and non discretionary spending, appropriations and so much more that you need to teach in government, all in just five minutes.

Thanks to Johnny Burkowski on the AP US Government Facebook page for the tip. 

Who's up and who's down in Iowa

Image result for iowa caucus
Interesting read in this post from the Iowa Starting Line website about the Feb. 1 Republican caucus.  They call it today's Monday Power Rankings.  
Image result for iowa starting line
Here's their assessment:

  1. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are 1-2.
  2. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are 3-4.
  3. Chris Christie is in 5th but surging.
  4. Ben Carson is in 6th and falling.
It would be fun to share and discuss this with your students.  Another good idea would be to find additional Iowa coverage supporting and contradicting this assessment.  Polls from RealClearPolitics and the prediction market PredictIt would be good resources.