Assessment, From the heart, Required Documents, Teaching Tips

The Gathering of Knowledge

When I was in high school {20 years ago}, my classes were lecture, worksheets, and tests. So, naturally, as a new teacher I did the same. And I hated it because I hated being a student like that.

Now, worksheets have a purpose in classes as long as they are interactive as opposed to rote memorization or regurgitation. Assessments do as well, again as long as they aren’t about regurgitation of facts and are instead about the application of skill.

As a teacher, I was always confused by what I SHOULD be doing. I was overwhelmed by all of the research, all of the resources, and all of the experts telling me. I still feel that was, even though I finished my 16th year of teaching. There is never enough time to plan. It’s exhausting. I’ve seen teachers who lecture the entire time, because they are content experts, but the teaching aspect is missing. I’ve seen teachers who are amazing teachers, but lack the content expertise. Students can learn from either of these teachers, but I know students learn best from someone who is a mixture of both.

A few years ago, I was anti-lecture. That lasted about 2 weeks until one of my students said that she needed to hear lectures because she learned best that way. And I know as a National Board Certified Teacher, that I need to teach these kids at this time in the way they learn best. I spent time considering how I was going to do this. How was I going to ensure that my students received and were able to gather the knowledge necessary to succeed in the class and as citizens, which is the ultimate goal.

I’m sharing how I plan to do it next year after much consideration, trial and error, and student feedback. Now, it’s a plan because I haven’t met and assessed my students just yet.  

Ideas for different types of learners: adapted using 4 Types of Learners in Education

Visual Learners: these learners need maps, charts, and graphs over words

This next year, I will be gone for a week. The second week of school to be clear. And it’s during Document Week, which is a big deal to me. I have a plan to use the Analytical Readings of Brutus I and Federalist 10 and then have students use Canva to create infographics. I did this 3 years ago with my College Prep Government classes and they loved it. My hope is to have student created infographics for all the required documents to hang in my classroom so students can reference them.

The hope with this is to have students create more visuals to help digest the information, especially since one of the FRQs is Quantitative Analysis. I know that I don’t do enough of that.

Auditory Learners: these are my learners who need the lecture and discussion.

Podcasts! I absolutely love podcasts and listen to a few each day. Having students listen to age appropriate podcasts either in class or on their own is a great way to meet these learners.

Lectures: I attempt to lecture and mix with discussion. I ask a lot of questions to my students regarding the content in hopes that it opens the door to ask questions in life. The one thing I won’t do this next year? Lecture the entire class period. I am guilty of doing this because I am so worried that I won’t get through the content. My goal for next year is no more than 20 minutes, unless it becomes interactive (like most of the civil rights/liberties lectures)

Readers/Writers: learners who like reading assignments and are able to process information by writing notes

Ok. This one is hard for me. I do not assign text book reading because students don’t do them. You know what they do? Read short articles with content relevance. Look at current events. I do create suggested readings for students, which do include our textbook, but there is a whole internet out there with a plethora of information. I include the links on my Planbook. They aren’t required but these learners appreciate the nod to their style of learning.

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Example of extra readings for my students.

I also use Twitter with a class hashtag to share relevant articles and information. I love using a class hashtag because it connects me with my students without having to follow them.

Kinesthetic: learners who process information by recreating and practicing, having the ability to be moving.

This is where my Moot Courts come in. I know exactly who these learners are because they are the ones who volunteer to be lawyers.

I wrote about giving students choice in their projects which was a difficult thing for me to do. I don’t identify much with this type of learner, so giving students the wheel to create was out of the box for me but made me realize how capable students are to show you what they’ve learned.


All in all, the difficulties of reaching different types of learner in AP Government has proven to be a great challenge, but one that with community isn’t impossible.

 

I am curious, what ways do you engage different learners in your class?

Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Political Participation, Professional Development, Projects, Required Documents, Teachable Moments, Teaching Tips

Teaching Controversial Topics… like abortion laws

 

Love is a much needed emotion in today’s world and it is always welcomed. It is a great way of cashing in on your own moral savings. Many people donate to charities that they are passionate about, they also donate to

 

As I scroll through social media, it’s hard to miss that Georgia and Alabama have recently passed the nation’s strictest abortion laws. So, naturally, when students walk in they want to know what I think.

I think that certain factions are trying to overturn Roe v. Wade (my standard response, which my students understand.

I’m not about to discuss my views because in my classroom, it’s not relevant.) I will not discuss this right at the beginning of my class because I need time to get to know my students. This is why I do my Civil Liberties and Civil Rights unit at the end of my class. When discussing the 2nd amendment or abortion case law as civil liberties, I need my students to know the procedures and be comfortable in the classroom. In my classroom, opinion is not relevant. You can have your opinion, but we aren’t about to debate gun rights or abortion. My job is to give you information about the Constitution, how to find relevant and trustworthy sources, and teach you how to develop an educated argument.

I’m going to assume that this issue will continue and have already started to consider how I will address it with my students next year. Here are some I have collected to help with #1 and #2 on the 5 ways to improve your practice. If you are curious about #4, I discuss it in The New York Times Op-Ed in AP Government.

  • This USA Today article gives information on the states’ abortion laws. The quantitative analysis could be a great warm up to discuss federalism (Unit 1)
    • How do states have the ability to pass laws that differ from others based on Supreme Court cases?
  • Discussing the sides of abortion in relation to factions and Federalist 10. Abortion will likely be a constant source of division because there are so many factions within the argument.
  • A great source for teachers to learn is Body Politic from Oyez. It features Roe v. Wade, Casey v. Planned Parenthood (and Justice O’Connor’s famous undue burden standard), Gonzales v. Carhart, and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
    • In my classroom, I skip over Gonzales because of the content. Roe v Wade is a required case, Casey sets a different standard, and Whole Women’s Health is the case I was at the Supreme Court for so I know a lot about it. 
  • The Future of Abortion Laws: “Two leading voices from organizations on different sides of today’s biggest debates over reproductive rights and abortion laws—Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life and Dr. Kelli Garcia of National Women’s Law Center—join host Jeffrey Rosen to explore the key cases making their way up to the Supreme Court. Garcia and Foster also share their views on landmark abortion precedent like Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the more recent case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and predict how precedent might affect the outcomes of challenges to pending abortion laws at the federal level and in states like Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi.” The Constitution Center.
    • I love the Constitution Center so much. The podcasts show both sides and have a very educated discussion based on law.
  • FiveThirtyEight Politics
    • This podcast goes through political ideology, polling, how cases go through the Court system, and the 2020 election. I would assign this to listen to at home or listen to it in class so that I am available to answer questions since I am the content expert.
  • The Words We Live By by Linda Monk
    • First of all, I love this book. Secondly, pages 222-224 has a great explanation of abortion under the 14th amendment.

 

With all controversial topic, knowing your kids and having your kids know procedures in your class is super important.

I plan for the comments that get us off track or may be inflammatory. My standard response is, “I appreciate your opinion, but we need to stick to the facts and get back on track.” I may not appreciate their opinion, but I want to keep my classroom a place where students can make mistakes and learn.

How do you navigate controversial topics in your AP Government class?

 

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Political Participation, Projects, Required Documents, Teaching Tips, Writing for AP Gov

Teaching how to write better argumentative essays in AP Government

Besides teaching AP Government, I also teach 8th grade. In one of my classes, I have 31 students and the other has 10. Every time we do class discussions, I have to really figure out how to vary the instruction to allow all students to talk and learn. This also allows me to try new techniques!

I’ve also been reviewing the year and my AP Government students just could not fully grasps really using evidence and reasoning. I loved this with my 8th graders and will incorporate it with AP next year, especially after reflecting on my practice as my students are currently sitting in their test.

The set up: We just finished our economics unit and I needed a transition to our final exam, which is a Moot Court on a current case (the students haven’t yet decided which one and yes, I do Moot Court with my 8th graders) Our DBQ is from Voices of History from the Bill of Rights Institute (requires a log in but is free and an amazing resource, including eight of the required cases). We chose to do Kelo v. New London. Let me tell you something, it’s a beast! It also lends PERFECTLY into an argumentation essay.

Day 1: read and annotate the background essay and have a small class discussion to ensure understanding

Days 2-3 (depending on time and length of documents) I split the handouts into sections for groups of 4-5 (depending on class size). In those groups, the students become ‘experts’ in those documents. They answer the questions and think about how to use that evidence to answer the question provided, in this case “Evaluate the Court’s ruling in Kelo v. New London”

Day 4- Four minute Socratic seminars:

  • Students within their groups will have a Socratic discussion regarding their assigned documents and the overall prompt. There are leading questions within the DBQ.
  • I give 4 minutes for the discussion within the group. The rest of the students are taking notes. In my classroom, I have 6 groups, but this can be adjusted for any number of students.
    • For my class of 10, I will have each of them become an expert on a set of documents and talk us through them as I record the evidence on the board.
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I took notes during their Socratic seminars

It’s very simple and can be adjusted to accommodate any classroom. I was able to sit with some groups and help them with some of the meatier pieces. After this round of Socratic discussions, students should be well equipped to write an argumentative essay. My kids killed it because we read AND discussed before they wrote.

If you are doing this with your first DBQ, it’s a great time to introduce the argumentative essay rubric and discuss what is expected of them. At this point, students will write their argumentative essays. (Oh, and the famous Brutus 1) After the first one, you can lessen the time in class needed as the process has been established. For me, the Socratic discussion is the most important part to do in class.

Here’s the clincher- Students either get all the points OR a Z. I learned about this from a college professor. Earning a Z means you aren’t quite done yet. You have the rubric and have seen what you’ve earned, but you also see what you haven’t earned and you have an opportunity to go back and adjust your writing to earn those point. The purpose for this is to get them to a point where they know they have an opportunity for feedback and revision. The end goal is to ensure they know how to write an argumentative essay and how to understand the rubric to get all of the points. Depending on your schedule, you can give up to two weeks (or for me, the end of the unit) to submit their revisions. I realize this will be a lot of front loading, so I may do it as groups to start with. Luckily, I start school in July so I will be able to test it out before many of you are in school.

Continue reading “Teaching how to write better argumentative essays in AP Government”

Assessment, Teachable Moments, Writing for AP Gov

Writing a Collaborative FRQ

Every teacher has their own ways to teach FRQ writing for AP Government. When I taught APUSH with my team of 2 other teachers, I was the writing coach. It’s just something I’m good at. The other two gentleman are crazy content experts who would come in and wow the kids with their knowledge of every.little.detail, and I gave my strength to the team with my knowledge of writing. Now, APUSH writing is so different, but I took some of it, as well as my  year of AP reading experience to determine what worked for my class. I also ask my students what works and what doesn’t, and moved on from there.

This is something that works for us and that kids really got.

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For my students, just writing FRQ’s isn’t enough. They need the practice in a setting that allow them to discuss and understand what they are doing, as well as how to fix errors. Just writing the FRQ and turning it in for grading doesn’t work for us. I don’t want mountains of papers to grade and they want immediate feedback. I adapted this from a Kagan strategy I used when I taught 8th grade.

Set-Up:

Depending on the FRQ you give, have students organize into groups of 3-5 with nothing but the following:

  • Paper
  • Blue or black ink pen (pencil smudges)

What you need to have prepared:

  • Printed copies of the FRQ ( I used to put them on the board or overhead, but the students like to have copies to write on)
  • Grading pens (different color. I used purple so I can see it)
  • A timer

I have students put phones/backpacks/etc away because our sole focus is writing FRQs in an environment that mimics a testing environment. I divide the class into “rounds” and have the direction on the overhead.

Google Slide version of FRQ Round Robin (I do change this for each class/semester/or after reflection) **You can save a copy of this and make changes!

Round 1: Take 3-5 minutes to read the FRQ to see what it’s asking of you. Underline the verbs (see below), circle any numbers, understand the question is asking of you. This is the #1 reason I saw that students didn’t get points. Their answer was right, it just didn’t answer the question.

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2018 FRQ

 

Reminders for the students before Round 2:

  • stay politically neutral, you are not writing an op-ed, you are a political scientist answering a question.
  • if a question asks for 2 examples, provide 3. Give yourself a back up or 2.
  • for any question that asks you to explain, determine what you need to show you understand prior to explaining. For example, in the 2018 example above, make sure the reader sees that you directly understand WHAT gerrymandering is before you explain how electoral competition is affected by it or WHAT a single member district is before you explain why they make it difficult for third parties to win elections.

 Round 2:

Each student answers part A without talking (4-5 minutes depending on the question) They will have plenty of time to talk once we are done. Once the timer goes off, have them trade their papers to the left.

Round 3-5 (depending on the length of the FRQ)

Continue writing and trading to the left.

Once you are finished, each member should have a completed FRQ with each piece written by a different person. You can time your students depending on their level of comfort. I usually give 4-5 minutes.

Round 6:

With the FRQ in front of the student, have them put away their pen and grab the grading pen. In this round, the individual student (still no group talking) can make ANY edits to the FRQ that is written. They can add or subtract. I like the different pen because I want to see their thinking.

Round 7:

This is when students get to talk. In this round, the group will decide which FRQ they will submit for grading. This part is the most collaborative and allows them to talk about the FRQ. This is my favorite part! I love to walk around and formatively assess students’ understanding of the FRQ. Once they decide, they staple the one to grade on TOP of the others. I do want all the FRQs turned in.

Round 8:

Grading. This is when we go through the FRQ as a class and discuss the rubric. You can do it all together OR give each group a rubric. I do have them switch with another group to allow them to see other’s writing. This is the part where we really dig into what was being asked and what acceptable answers are.

Example of FRQ rubric

**Remember, students can write down something that is correct, but doesn’t answer the question. If it doesn’t answer the question, it doesn’t get a point. Period. 

Once students are finished and all questions have been answered, I have students do a reflection because I need to see how this went and where we need to go from here.

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Using the reflections, we also did a FRQ in a group and I graded them on the spot to give immediate feedback. That’s for another post 😉

I can do one FRQ in my normal 55 minute class period without feeling stressed or pressed for time.

 

 

Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Projects, Required Documents

Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. State of Indiana… A Moot Court

It has begun. We’ve started our week of deep diving into Street Law’s Winter SCOTUS in the classroom case, Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. State of Indiana. This is the final exam for my AP Government class as well as my accelerated 8th graders. I have discussed how I do this in a previous post. This is how I’m doing it for this year!

We end our semester in AP Government with Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Since this case was argued November 28, the media is fresh and there is a lot of information out there. It’s in the news, it’s on podcasts, it’s part of our everyday lives.

This is how the last week and a half goes:

Preface: I’ve given them case and assignment before to allow them to look it over and decide what they will want to do or what they will be successful at. I’ve developed these roles because I know students show their knowledge in different ways. It’s an ever developing project as I get feedback from my students.

Day 1/2: Listening to oral arguments and discussing what we hear.  I started to write down the cases as they were mentioned, do a bit of research to see if they were worth a look by the students, and list them on the board. (I also get for graduation robes so the students can have robes and be a bit more official)

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Related cases:

  • McDonald v. Chicago (HELLO required Supreme Court case)
  • Bennis v. Michigan
  • von Hofe v. United States
  • US v. Bajakajian
  • Austin v. US
  • Kokesh v. SEC
  • US v. Halper
  • Van Oster v. Kansas

Vocabulary to Know:

  • in rem
  • in personam
  • civil forfeiture
  • stare decisis

 

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Day 3 (Block Day) Full practice exam– not related, but I want one last exam before they leave so I can see where they are at and personalize review assignments for the spring AP test.

Day 4,5: Research case, amicus briefs (example from SCOTUSblog), related cases, etc. I like to do a few days in class so they have each other and me, the content “expert”. There is also a podcast from First Mondays called “8,000 pounds of shark fins”. (Even though the actual case is called United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins. Yes, that is real. There is also a John Oliver clip, however I don’t show it in class because… well, we all know John Oliver…

Day 6: Finalize papers and turn in. Run through what to expect with Moot Court. I look through all papers that night to ensure quality before the moot court date.

Day 7: Moot Court (It’s our final exam day and we have 90 minutes)

I will update as we move forward, but wanted to give an overview of what I’ll be doing the next few weeks!

 

Update:

Man, this was fun! I even had a student come up with their own media company to live tweet the case.

 

Things I will change for next semester:

  1. As much as I trust my students, there was an issue of misuse of technology and a student tweeting something with inappropriate language tied to our class hashtag. I had it immediately removed, but it taught me a valuable lesson.  Next time, I will review appropriate use of technology as it relates to using class hashtags and have a set punishment for. It is the unfortunate byproduct of using social media in a classroom. Lesson learned.
  2. Because I had my 8th graders do this as well, they came up with the idea to write a newspaper as they watched! {Twitter wasn’t an option}5th hour
  3. One class got off topic and the Justices were asking irrelevant questions. I need to be better at preparing them as to what to ask.
  4. The Justices in a few classes were on a mission to be tough. Next semester, I will be more specific with what they need to do. I caught one class and reminded the Justices that they are to let the lawyers answer their questions and to not try to trick them.

 

All classes were unanimous in their decisions and had so much fun!

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We had to pack a Court because of class size. 
Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Projects

Supreme Court Hand Turkeys

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and our school is hosting a blood drive. This means sparse classes and excited students. Yesterday, I assigned them a Supreme Court case from the list I made so they could prepare for Supreme Court Dating next week. {My students loved the Bureaucratic Speed Dating we did and last year appreciated the Supreme Court speed dating because they were able to get a lot of info from it!} With the new cases, I want them to have a firm understanding of the case. It’s an easy assignment, it’s fun, and it’s awesome to see what they create! Hand Turkeys assignment.

To really get the cases, we will draw them, talk about them (Supreme Court speed dating), and write about them. I loved the way these turned out! 

Assessment, Interactions Among Branches of Government

Bureaucratic Speed Dating

After 3 days of learning about the bureaucracy, our last day I wanted to assess student understanding in a way that was not a multiple choice test. I’ve done speed dating to review Supreme Court cases in the past and kids loved it, so I thought {on my way to school because these ideas tend to be last minute} why not do it with the bureaucratic agencies?

The overall goal here was not to memorize each agency. I wanted an overall view of how the bureaucracy interacted with our every day lives. I made that clear to them because understanding the goals of the assignment are necessary for optimal student success.

We had read “What is Milk?” talked about iron triangles, and done the bureaucracy of pizza {which fascinating to the kids}. I assigned Bureaucracy Speed Dating on Tuesday and each student chose their agency. I didn’t let any of them have the same. I told them they only get 60 seconds so they don’t need to write me a huge essay.

I also allowed them extra point if they 1. dressed as their agency and 2. Tweeted about their agency and used our class hashtag {#apschley19} I loved how they interacted with their agencies! The dress up was an idea of one of the students and I loved it!

The day of was amazing! The energy in the room was palpable.

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Our directions for the day

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Students had notes with them to help them remember and this student was the FBI

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The National Weather Service discusses what they do. 

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Room set up for 1st hour that we ended up changing for the rest of the day thanks to the advice of the kids!

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New room set up for 2nd hour

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Extra points for students who dressed as their agency

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I used the Kagan turn timer to give the time clues to the kids. 

 

Every one in awhile, I’d stop the dating and ask student what interesting things they’ve heard. I didn’t require them to write anything down because I wanted them to listen. The rule was, you cannot interrupt. You just need to listen.

When students were finished, I had them do a reflection. {Speed Dating slides}

I have between 25 and 32 kids in my classes. The room was loud and buzzing, but it was a fun way to get students engaged and involved!

Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Moot Court Assessments…Beyond Multiple Choice

After I attended the Street Law Institute in 2016, I started to really look at how I assessed my AP Gov kids. Sure, multiple choice is important, as is learning to write FRQ’s but I wanted to really assess what they learned in my class.

Enter Moot Court and changing the way I look at AP.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely use multiple choice and writing for assessing. However, I struggled with giving a final exam that didn’t really match what I wanted to see. I wanted to see the application of the knowledge.

This will be my 3rd year doing it, and I’m already excited for it!

First, I pass out the Supreme Court Mock Trials instructions. I use current cases that I get from Street Law. Last year, we used Carpenter v. USNIFLA v. Becerra, and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I liked being able to use them in conjunction with the oral arguments because of the news stories in current times. It got the students more involved! Even though the sheet requires the lawyers to write a paper, I let them know it’s more of notes for their oral essay in front of the Court. They don’t actually turn anything in.

I give students a choice as to their role. It has worked out in the past because you have students who do not want to speak, but like the social media aspect. You have students that try new things. {I used this letter for my re-certification for National Boards and it still get me every time. As teachers, we wield a power greater than anything, the power to get kids to believe in themselves}

Throughout the course of the time I allot for this project, we listen to oral arguments {yes, we listen to the full oral argument}. I use oyez.org because as we listen, student can read the transcript and see who is talking. We watch news clips that students find. We immerse ourselves in that world and it covers everything we learned. We look at the Constitution, at the amicus briefs submitted by interest groups, and precedent cases. Each year is a bit different as each class is a bit different.

The day of is always the best. I require students to dress up for Court. I take this very seriously. We do it on a block day to allow for full time. Here is the breakdown of the roles:

Chief Justice: This person runs the show. Just like Chief Justice John Roberts, they are in charge of the introduction, the timing, and reigning in any issues. They also get to use the gavel that I got from the Supreme Court.

Justices: Are responsible for asking questions, knowing their stuff, and making sure the lawyers do too.

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The lawyer present their case in front of the Court. They have to be ready for anything, and after listening to the actual oral arguments, they are. This is the only role that does not require a written paper to be turned in because they are essentially giving an oral essay foe 20-30 minutes. Here is an example of what a lawyer wrote up to start off their case.

Lastly, we have the clerks. There are students who don’t want to speak but still want to be involved. The clerks write a paper, but they also live Tweet during the case. We use our class hashtag as well as #scotusintheclassroom to it’s easy for me to find the information. If you don’t use Twitter, it’s easy to adapt this to writing articles for newspapers. One year, I had a conservative media and liberal media. We had discussed the biases each media had on the particular case and it was their chance to apply it.

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This is my TweetDeck that I keep open during oral arguments for easy grading

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We invited our Accelerated Middle School to witness Carpenter v. US

First semester, we have the luxury of doing two because we have more time. Second semester, with the AP test, means we can only fit in one. This is the primary reason I do Civil Liberties and Civil Rights last in my units.

I have also done this with my on-level classes and my accelerated 8th grade class!

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This year NIFLA v. Becerra, lawyers presenting their case.