Foundations of American Democracy, Professional Development, Required Documents, Teachable Moments

I {Heart} Thomas Jefferson

This past weekend, I was granted the incredible opportunity to go to Charlottesville, VA for a weekend seminar with Teaching American History on Thomas Jefferson, which included some time at Monticello, my third favorite home of a Founder. It also didn’t hurt that UVA was in the Final Four and won that Saturday!

Let me start off with the fact that my degree is in Early Childhood Development and Education. I got a Masters in Secondary Education with a History Emphasis, but my knowledge of documents, content, and all around history knowledge has come about differently in my 16 years of teaching as opposed to a history major.

I am also a firm believer that before I assign something to my students, I need to have done my homework. It easier when you have experiences like this!

This is my second weekend seminar, the first being a few years ago at Montpelier. You can actually access the readers from the one day or weekend seminars through the site, even if you don’t go!


Reasons you NEED to apply for these seminars (weekend, one days, etc):

  • You will be exposed to readings you may have not seen before. Not only will you read them, but you will be able to discuss them!
  • Hearing from other teachers. I always think this is the best PD, knowing what other teachers are doing and thinking. This group of teachers was one of the best!
  • The ability to travel to the locations!
  • The professors that facilitate the discussions are amazing. I never feel wrong. I am able to ask questions to truly understand what I’m reading.
  • Because of these seminars, both weekend and one day, I am better at analyzing documents and creating lessons
  • I start to lesson plan in my head, or think of questions to prompt my students to think of other ways to look at documents.
  • I may have started to understand the juxtaposition of Jefferson’s stance on slavery and the fact that he owned slaves. May have being the key word there.

APPLY FOR THESE SEMINARS! I am a better learner and teacher because of them. I’ve gone to some one day seminars here in Phoenix knowing next to nothing about what I’ve read and I always learn so much. Don’t be shy!






American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Projects, Required Documents, Teachable Moments

The State of the Union Twitter Party

Article II, Section 3

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…”

Well, this State of the Union address has been mired by the government shutdown and a disinvite to the chambers by the Speaker, so at this point I wonder when and if it will happen. Regardless of this, I wanted to think of an extra assignment that students could participate in that would require them to apply their knowledge.

In my younger teacher days, I have been guilty of giving a bingo card with just words, which in it’s own right it fun, but I wanted something this year that would require them to show what they know, not just check off a box when they hear the word. I also want to keep this as scientific as possible, and less political.

In the past, my students have used Twitter and our class hashtag. So this year, I’ve decided to plan a SOTU Twitter party. You can also do this in class without technology as you watch a SOTU speech. Since the current year is up in the air, teachers can use older speeches and paper BINGO cards.


Students will watch the State of the Union (current or past) and find examples of the main concepts of the unit to show understanding of current application of the concepts from Unit One: Foundations of Democracy. {This can also be done with basically all other units from AP Government}

Warm-Up: The History of the State of the Union. Fun facts and a quick overview on what the State of the Union is.

Concepts: (You can use more or less depending on where you are in your units. I teach semester classes so we just finished Unit One) Students can fill out their own BINGO sheets.

  1. Participatory democracy
  2. Pluralist democracy
  3. Elitism
  4. Federalism
  5. Popular sovereignty
  6. Check and balances
  7. Separation of powers
  8. Limited government
  9. Enumerated powers
  10. Implied powers
  11. Inherent powers
  12. Reserved powers
  13. Fiscal federalism
  14. Mandates (funded or unfunded)
  15. Grants

Two examples of each

  1. Examples from Brutus I
  2. Examples from Federalist 10
  3. Examples from Federalist 51


On the back, reflect on observations from the speech. Where there times some people stood and some did not? Who was there and who was notably absent? What was the tone of the speech? What is important to the President and how do you know that?

During the SOTU address, students will check off boxes as they write down the example of the concept mentioned. For the Twitter Party, students will use our class hashtag and #SOTU. We will do a live tweet so as soon as they hit a BINGO, they can claim it! (for extra points) This gives students opportunities to participate in a positive social media experience. I will set guidelines for our class hashtag, as I learned my lesson last semester.

Tweets will look like this: Checks and Balances, the President mentioned his veto power over the federal budget because he ultimately approves or vetos laws Congress makes. #sotu #apschley19

*You can do this in class as they watch or with a live SOTU. The possibilities for engagement are endless!

As an assignment, I will give it the week because not every student can watch the speech live. I’d like to have a whole class discussion once this is done to ensure students see different examples from

LBJ Library

My hopes for this is it allows students to take a non-partisan look at the speech and be scientific about their observations. If you have a particularly political area you teach in, taking an old speech may help. This is the first evening televised speech by LBJ or you can have students choose their own. The main point here is to find examples that illustrate the concepts.

*** Update February 5***

Since we were able to go over the roles of the Presidency, I updated the assignment to reflect.  This can be used in class with any assignment and changed to not include social media.


How do your students interact with the State of the Union speech? What has worked for you in the past?

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Political Participation, Professional Development

My favorite podcasts for AP Government

I absolutely love podcasts! I can listen while I’m driving or out for a walk. I love having my students listen to them as well. I often assign them outside of class, but sometimes we will listen to them if they are short and meaningful. It’s also helpful for my auditory learners or for students that just need a bit of extra information to really “get it”. The green are ones I listen to in class or assign for extra knowledge on a subject! The red are for my own personal knowledge and growth. 

Here are my favorite podcasts for AP Government!

  • Constitutional– I use this one in class and for my personal knowledge.
  • We the People– I have to admit, I love Jeffrey Rosen. And when he followed me on Twitter one day, I about died. THIS is a podcast I have my students listen to because it presents both sides from a scholarly view point. It has been especially amazing for the redesign. I highly recommend this! 
  • The Daily– I listen to this daily. Each day on my way to work. Like clockwork. 
  • Teaching American History– with titles such as “How to Read Federalist #10” , many AP teachers jump for joy. Let’s be honest, we all need to brush up on some of our document knowledge. This is a great resource for teachers who don’t want to be caught unaware! 
  • More Perfect I love using this in class. More specifically, they have a great one on Citizen’s United which can be used with my lesson on the required case. There are 3 seasons and I’ve found they are easy listening. 
  • PBS News Hour- quick, easy, informative, and part of my Alexa morning routine. 
  • Ain’t No Free Lunch– I met Danielle at my Street Law summer and really loved listening to her talk. Her and her friend, Taikein look at current/past issues. I appreciate hearing different points of view because it makes me a better teacher and better citizen. Plus, I am working on expanding my resources so that all students feel represented. And my students love the back and forth. 
  • Slow Burn– Nixon’s Watergate. Clinton’s impeachment. So enthralling and something I listen to so I can strengthen my history knowledge. 
  • Up First– The news from NPR in 10 minutes. I recommend to students who want to listen to the news and keep up. They can listen to it on the way to school or work. 
  • The Wilderness– I started to listen to Pod Save America awhile ago on the recommendation of a friend, but soon found it to be not up my alley. I decided to give this a try because of it’s look at what happened to the Democratic Party in the 2016 and what they need to change. It’s like an autopsy and it’s refreshingly honest. This is a podcast I listen to for my own personal knowledge.  From the website: “The Wilderness is a documentary from Crooked Media and Two-Up about the history and future of the Democratic Party. Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau tells the story of a party finding its way out of the political wilderness through conversations with strategists, historians, policy experts, organizers, and voters. In fifteen chapters, the series explores issues like inequality, race, immigration, sexism, foreign policy, media strategy, and how Democrats can build a winning majority that lasts.”


Tell me, what are your favorite podcasts and how do you use them?

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

For Whom The Bell Tolls- John McCain

John McCain has been the Arizona senator since I have lived in the great state of Arizona. Senator McCain is one of my favorite people, not only because he has had a cameo on Parks and Recreation, or that he’s a hero in my eyes, but because he is one of the people in Congress that I truly admire. His ability to have and maintain friendships across the aisle, his humility and ability to say he’s imperfect, and his dedication to his county is second to none.

I encourage you to watch For Whom The Bell Tolls on HBO. It shows an age of politics that is slowly becoming extinct. This is evident in his speech to the Senate on July 25. John McCain gave his life for the service of this country. In my eyes, he is a true American hero.

My AP class is wrapping up Congress and as an Arizona citizen and teacher, I felt that closing it with the speech is the best tribute to our Senator. The prompt I wrote is also a good lead into the Presidency.

This speech is incredible, and it fits in with so many of our standards and a FRQ practice fits in nicely.

1. Argumentative Essay Prompt:

Senator John McCain addressed a full Senate in July of 2017. Some have compared this speech to Washington’s Farewell address. Defend or refute the statement that John McCain’s speech to the Senate was the modern day Farewell Address. (John McCain read Washington’s Farewell Address to the Senate on February 16, 1987 in a tradition that is carried out each year by a different Senator)

Use the following documents:

  • Washington’s Farewell Address
  • Federalist 10
  • US Constitution
  • Article 1, Section 8

** I am giving my students Washington’s Farewell Address and McCain’s Speech.

2. Writing prompt: Using Senator McCain’s speech, find examples of the following:

  • Checks and Balances
  • Separation of Powers (Federalist 51)
  • Roles of the Senate (Constitution)

Thank you, Senator McCain for your dedication to our state and our country.

Foundations of American Democracy

Federalism In A Week?

At my APSI this year, we talked about the importance of federalism. Even though I only have a semester, I wanted to make sure that my students had a hold on it.

This was my week.

Day One:

{after we reviewed Brutus II and Federalist 51}

We started off with the Crash Course on Federalism. Students were visibly upset that it wasn’t John Green, but quickly got over it. I like to use this video to introduce the topic because it gives them a frame of reference. Then, I set the goal.

Our goal this week: knowing and understanding the issues that divided the Federalist and Anti-Federalists, understand how the relationship and powers between the state and federal government has developed. 

We had some housekeeping stuff to do, so afterwards I assigned a reading on Federalism for them to peruse and take notes. {We still don’t have our textbooks in…} The nice thing about federalism is that I can continually touch on it throughout the course as it relates to Interactions Among Branches.

Day Two: Notes

I belong to a Facebook Group for AP Government Teachers and I love that I can grab ideas from other teachers. I found notes that worked well for me and lectured. The notes I used are NOT of my own creation, so I won’t post them. I lectured quite effectively today {thanks to a generous dose of caffeine). I expect students to already have the notes written since they are available online because the best use of our time is not waiting for students to write every.single.word down. If they do not have their notes done? It becomes evident on their assessments. I pay special attention to McCulloch v. Maryland because it’s a required case and because it’s instrumental in understanding implied powers, and the supremacy clause.

Day Three/Four (Block Day) 

We finished up notes (had a few slides left)

Then, we dug into how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause.

I like this reading because it hit the following cases/laws in just a few pages:

  • Gibbons v. Ogden
  • Hammer v. Dagenhart
  • The New Deal
  • US v. Lopez (required Supreme Court Case)
  • US v. Morrison
  • Gonzales v. Raich
  • NFIB v Sebelius

Now, you may be looking at these and wondering what some of them are. I am here to tell you, IT’s ok! I had to look up some information. It’s part of teaching… learning! This is a quick read and discussion.

I did a quick check for understanding. I had students stand up if the case expanded federal power and squat (or sit if you have room) if it rejected the expansion. Mostly, I just needed them to get up a move. Block days can be long!


Once we finished, we had time to view   Constitution USA- Episode 1 (I paid for it on YouTube) I skip to 4:30 for the sake of time. You can always forgo this, but I think it wraps federalism up nicely! There is a guide available on the website, but I like to allow my students to watch while making connections to their notes.

Day Five Writing prompt:

(A) Explain how federalism reflects the dynamic distribution of power between the national and state governments.

(B) Contrast the evolution and devolution of federalism as defined by the Supreme Court in the following cases:

  • Gibbons v. Ogden
  • Hammer v. Dagenhart


  • US v. Lopez
  • Gonzales v. Raich

NOW… I’m not actually going to have them write this. They are going to make a rubric for it in groups. In doing this, I hit two skills. One, the ability to read the question and know what it’s asking and two, to know what SHOULD be written about. I want them to get into this mind frame. I want them to see the value of being able to “see” the rubric before they write.

The reason for this is I participated in the AP Read this past year. I wrote myself notes to remember, and the one that stuck out was to have the students create rubrics based off the questions. My students need to REALLY understand WHAT they are being asked to do. I noticed a trend of students during the read who answered what they thought the questions was, and didn’t get points because they didn’t answer the question. Their answers were not wrong, they just didn’t answer the question asked.

Notes from the AP Read

In reflecting on this week, I really like how everything went. I feel like I really tied in Unit One (I spent 3 weeks on it). There were a few things I didn’t touch on, but I will tied them into Unit 2, which for me will be Interactions Among Branches. So, I will spend time on Federalism in Action (1.9) as I go through the branches as well as 1.6 Principles of American Government. I also need to cut myself a break and stop trying to be a perfectionist. One can wish…

I also think that I will do more practice on for Unit One. We spent so much time reading documents (which I have no regrets) and I needed to do more practice on content.

What is your favorite federalism lesson?

Further Resources:

Constitution Center Blog list on Supremacy Clause

Constitution Center, Interactive Constitution

Civics 101- Federalism

Learning to Love the F Word

Foundations of American Democracy

Reflecting on “Document Week”

Document Week 2018 has come to an end.

My students killed it. I am so impressed. I am also so tired! We all became best friends with the trifecta we worked with, even if some students were reluctant at first.

We capped off the week with Federalist_No._51 excerpts, and will begin next week with a comparison of a quote from Brutus 2 and Federalist 51 (listed on page 3).

A few things students noted:

  1. It was helpful for me to go over annotations AFTER they had a chance to read it. Since I already showed them how to annotate with the DeclarationofIndependence(which many were familiar with), they wanted to do it themselves and then have me review the document.
  2. They liked the progression of the documents because they saw the cause and effect.
  3. They appreciated being able to come back with questions. I did have them complete a Summary (3) on Federalist 10, but I made it due the next day at the END of class so they could ask clarifying questions.


The ultimate goal at the end of the week

Things I liked:

  1. I liked giving them a focus each day. Example, for Fed 10, I wanted them to focus on Madison’s response to Brutus and the superiority of a large republic in controlling factions (CON-1.A.1)
  2. I really liked working through the documents with them and seeing the moments of realization.
  3. I appreciated the fluid state of the week. I know where I wanted to end by Friday and it gave me more license to work to get the students to really get the messages. You can see how I progressed via my online lesson plan book.

Things I will change or look more closely at:

  1. Next semester, I will do a bit more of a background on the Federalist and Anti-federalists as homework instead of using class time.
  2. I want to develop a reader that goes along with Brutus I to help the students through the document.
  3. I also want to develop a “Call and Response” to help students compare Brutus I and Federalist 10. {Basically give a Brutus argument and then what Madison’s response was}
  4. I want to have enough time to do a Socratic seminar and really allow them to ask questions and work through it in a bigger group.
  5. I am going to make a reader for this unit with focus questions {stay tuned} so that we can have the above mentioned Socratic and I can assess them on their knowledge this way.


*As a post script, I was absolutely blown away by the response to my post about Brutus I. I love the collaborative nature of teaching and the ability to share everything and have great discussions. If there is anything you’d like to see from this blog or specific questions you may have, please feel free to comment or contact me! 


Foundations of American Democracy

Brutus I- In the Trenches

As I’ve started to work through the redesign, as we all have, I’ve noticed how document heavy the first unit is. I warned my students this week that it was Document Week {like Shark Week but less scary… and with donuts}. We are hitting the trifecta of Brutus I, Fed 10, and Fed 51.

Today is Brutus I. To be fair, I’m still working my way through this document. I have not spend as much time on the Anti-Federalists as I have the Federalist papers. I worried about giving this whole thing to my students. Once again, I was wrong. My students continually surprise me.

Prior to this, students have had their knowledge from APUSH or US History. I show them a quick graphic on the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist the day before in their notes on ratification.

We looked at Brutus_No_1. (From the Bill of Rights Institute)

It looks scary at 11 pages, but there are annotations which take up half the page. I gave the students a quick reading at the beginning of class (15 minutes) from their textbook so they have a solid background on the Anti Federalist point of view. (I used the high school We the People books, pages 92-96 because of it’s sole focus on the Anti-Federalist. I also have the 2016 Presidential Election Edwards book. That’s a quick read on page 44-45)

Students worked in groups using Brutus I and guiding questions (from Bill of Rights):

  • Which form of government (a large national republic or a confederation of small republics) is more likely to preserve and protect personal liberties and why?
  • Can a larger republic, based on the principle of consent of the governed, sufficiently protect the rights and liberties of the individual states and people, or is a confederation the only method of securing such liberty?
  • Should the federal legislature be able to repeal state laws in order to impose federal laws for the purpose of promoting the general welfare or common defense of the nation? If so, why? If not, why?
  • Brutus argues that in a republic, “the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar…if not, there will be a constant clashing of opinions and the representatives of one part will be constantly striving against the other.” Should a republic be made up of a small group of like-minded people? Or, is diversity of opinion beneficial to the success of a federal government?

I wanted them to do this in class so that they could have classmates to discuss with, and to also have the content expert (me… most days) to help guide them through it. For my students, giving this to them to take home would not have the same value as working in groups in class.

Having annotations already helped the students to further annotate and dig deeper into the document.

A few tips:

  1. Have the students preview the questions before they start to dig into the document.
  2. We had a 56 minute class period. I gave the remainder of it for homework with the caveat that any questions need to come back to class tomorrow. I want a firm understanding of what Brutus was getting at before we move on to Madison.
  3. I’ve already modeled how to annotate at this point with the Declaration of Independence, so they know what I expect from them as opposed to just highlighting the entire document. Here are my annotations that I go over for Declaration of Independence.
  4. I let my students know in advanced that this document was challenging and that we would work though it together. I don’t want my students to think that I expect them to know absolutely everything.
  5. In 2016, I attended the Founder’s Fellowship sponsored by the Bill of Rights on Liberty and the Constitution:Federalists and Anti-Federalists which allowed me to go over the documents. Teaching American History had one this year on The American Founding, which went over the Declaration, Federalist 10, and Federalist 51. They have a good stash on the Anti-Federalists. 
  6. Do your homework too. This was the first time {yikes} that I really dove into this document.

For the next day, we dove right into Federalist 10 to see Madison’s response. I’ve stressed that I want them to see the connections between Locke, the Declaration, Brutus, and Fed 10 because that will be a part of their Unit assessment.