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.

Moving to New Digital Challenges

This may come as a surprise to many of my readers, but today is the first day in almost 25 years that I won't be in a brick and mortar classroom.  It was a bittersweet last two days with my students as I have an amazing bunch of kids (two classes of which are above), but was offered a great job to head up my county's online campus.  I am excited about the transformation to a new setting as I love learning new things and meeting new people, but saying goodbye to my students and fellow teachers wasn't easy.

So what does that mean for this blog?  I will continue to post, but the daily posts will be led by
  • Jeff Feinstein who teaches nearby at West Potomac High School will take over the blogging on a regular basis for the US History and US Government Teachers blog, but since I am going to teach that subject online for the rest of the school year I will continue on that blog as well.
  • George Coe, whose work many of you know will take control of the World History Teachers blog
  • Rich Hoppock will be blogging on the US government, economics and US history sites
  • Summer Johnson who is a special ed teacher and will be adding a new twist to the US Government blog
My new position is officially titled "eLearning Coordinator" so guess what - I have started a blog called appropriately enough the "eLearning Blog."  It will be useful to both my online and brick and mortar friends as you can see from the early posts.  But as with my other blogs, it will grow as I do in my new job and I hope you will want to stay around and learn.

What this also means is that I am looking for people to join us on all four of the content blogs as I'd like to open this to regular posters who are committed to posting 3x weekly on pedagogy, content and technology.  What I am not looking for is someone who wants to vent.  My focus (I hope) has always been on the positive and I would like to continue in that vein. If you are interested in talking to me, I'd need a few potential posts and then I'd be happy to give qualified people a trial period to see how it works for you and us.  Email me at if you are interested. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Will the GOP see record turnout at its Feb. 1 Iowa caucus?

Image result for iowa caucus 2016
This post from the Des Moines Register says that the answer is YES, and lists six reasons to back up its prediction.  Those reasons include Ted Cruz's support among conservative evangelicals, Donald Trump's support among newcomers, increased use of technology to organize caucus-goers, and the large number of candidates.

T/H @JenniferJJacobs