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.
img_0519
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”

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.


Objective:

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
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?

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! 

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?

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Pacificus and Helvidius– or Why Hamilton and Madison broke up.

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of being on the Bill of Rights Teacher Council. It’s a fun gig and I highly recommend working with this organization.

With that being said, I was able to attend a colloquium on Liberty and Executive Power. The group of teachers was amazing and I had such a great time. The best part is, I learned SO MUCH!

I never really knew what made Madison and Hamilton “break up”. I always just brushed over it and figured Jefferson somehow convinced Madison to become a Democratic Republican and they all lived politically ever after.

Enter Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation, April 22, 1793.

Madison was a member of the House at this time, and Hamilton was Treasury Secretary so we can see how this will start out.

To start with this, we will look at the powers vested in the Executive, as well as enumerated in the Legislative. After we have a good read on that, we look at the Neutrality Proclamation and ask “Can he do that? Where does the power to declare neutrality lie?” (Spoiler alert: there’s no straight answer yet)

*Please note that I’ve already gone over Federalist 70 with students and will be asking them to refer back to it

Then, I’ll ask the following {straight from my reader} to keep students focused during their research time:

Does the general grant of executive power in Article II imply more than the enumerated powers that follow in the article? Are Congress’s powers to declare war and its participation in the making of treaties simply exceptions out of the general executive power vested in the President? How does the enumeration of powers in Article II differ from Article I?

The most important part of this is not telling students who did the writing. One group will get Pacificus and the other will get Helvidius. You can use the excerpts from TAH.org and break up the pieces of it. I’ll be honest, Hamilton is WORDY, but what he says matters. Personally, I like reading Madison because he’s much more organized.

This can be done at home or in class, depending on what works best for your class.

And magically, this can turn into argumentative writing!

Defend or refute the claim that the Executive has the power to declare neutrality. Use evidence from the documents to back your thesis. 

What made this so great for me was that I was an actual participant in the learning. I had never read these pieces before, so becoming the student made it more meaningful for me.

The Bill of Rights Institute updates their seminars here and I strongly urge you to check them out AND to take a look the Founder’s Fellowship for next year once it comes out. To keep updated sign up for the Bill of Rights Newsletter here! Don’t miss out!

Guest Post, Interactions Among Branches of Government

{Guest Post} Socratic Seminar and the Electoral College

I love teaching for the simple fact that most teachers are givers. Need help? They have a solution. Today, I welcome Lauren Donnenfeld Ivey, a 9th grade AP Government teacher at Alpharetta High School in Alpharetta, GA. She shares how she uses Socratic seminars with her freshmen!

One of the great things about being in my fifth year teaching AP Government is that I am at the point where I am mostly tweaking old lessons rather than creating. It is much more efficient and productive. I am also fortunate to have a great colleague to bounce ideas off of. The lesson below I have used similar versions of in other classes and on other topics. However, this was the first time I had used it in AP Government.

Yesterday, I spent about 20 minutes talking about the Electoral College. I tried to stick to mostly the facts, such as the following:

  • You need 270 votes to win the presidency
  • It was designed by the Framers to give less control to the common people, and more control to the educated elite
  • The role of faithless electors

I also showed them the CGP Gray clip online about the Electoral College, which mentions its problems, notably the fact that people in the territories are the only people in the world who can’t vote for President.

I explained that the next day we would do a fishbowl discussion. In a fishbowl, a small group of students sit in the middle at a group of tables, and when a student wants to talk they “tap out” someone in the middle and can talk. Students in the outside group cannot talk. I also explained that they had to make three intelligent comments to earn 100. For example, “yeah the Electoral College is cool” is not an intelligent comment. The comments needed to show understanding or higher-order thinking.

For homework, students read 2 articles of their choice on the electoral college. I listed three for them but gave them the opportunity to choose others to read if they desired.

The next day, students began the fishbowl. I reminded them of the rules and that if I saw anyone talking in the outer circle I would take off a point each time. I also gave them a simple handout for them to list pros and cons of the electoral college. I prompted students with questions that I both thought of and pulled from websites. These included some of the following:

  • How does the Electoral College increase or decrease democracy? Why?
  • What are two ways the Electoral College system makes people feel like their votes don’t count?
  • Should faithless electors be abolished and required to vote how the people wanted them to vote? Why or why not?
  • Is the popular vote better than the Electoral College? Why or why not?

In some classes, if I felt like students were getting redundant I also introduced other topics such as voter ID laws which we had previously studied.

While students were speaking, I wrote down who was saying what. Occasionally I reminded them who needed to make intelligent comments to earn credit.

Overall the lesson went well. If I were doing it again I’d probably require students to turn in their reading notes because I don’t think all students actually read the articles on the Electoral College.

I love this idea! Socratic seminars and discussions are so great for students to really process information. It allows them to explore ideas, ask questions, and look at the documents in a more in-depth way. When you develop an environment that allows students to openly admit they don’t know and ask the good questions, it opens a lot of doors! How do you accomplish this? Admit you don’t know everything. 

 

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

Wrapping Up with Lessons in the Judiciary

It’s been 9 weeks since we started school and I am half way through the semester and the redesign. I’m tired and unsure, but after giving the FRQ and the unit test, I’m feeling a bit better about how I’ve taught this quarter. If you are struggling or doubting yourself, chances are you are doing an amazing job and putting way too much stress on yourself. We all do it. We are teachers and want to do what is best for our students.

This past few weeks, the Judiciary Committee has given us plenty to discuss in the way of their power of “advice and consent” One of the reasons I love/despise teaching AP Government is because each day is something new. We watched the hearing a bit to see the interaction of Congressional committees the executive pick for the judiciary and discussed how politics plays into the questions the Senators act, or who we think will run for President in 2020 based on their mini speeches they give before they ask the questions for the nominee.

harris
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP

Within my week of the judiciary, we also had our Congressman come and talk to the students, leaving me with 4 days to teach my favorite branch of government. I gave the usual notes and carried on because after my time at Street Law’s Summer Institute I feel like I could go on forever, but I wanted to focus on the interactions of the branches, so I turned to FDR for help.

Federalist 78 is one of our required documents. I didn’t have students read this one because they are burnt out on documents. We did a quick video before moving on to FDR’s Fireside Chat on the Plan for Reorganization of the Judiciary

Because we were short on time, I let the students know that they needed to read this on their own as it would be a part of their FRQ. Next semester, I plan to make this a Socratic discussion because it ties the two branches in very nicely.

Concept Analysis FRQ:

“What is my proposal? It is simply this: whenever a Judge or Justice of any Federal Court has reached the age of seventy and does not avail himself of the opportunity to retire on a pension, a new member shall be appointed by the President then in office, with the approval, as required by the Constitution, of the Senate of the United States.
That plan has two chief purposes. By bringing into the judicial system a steady and continuing stream of new and younger blood, I hope, first, to make the administration of all Federal justice speedier and, therefore, less costly; secondly, to bring to the decision of social and economic problems younger men who have had personal experience and contact with modern facts and circumstances under which average men have to live and work. This plan will save our national Constitution from hardening of the judicial arteries.
The number of Judges to be appointed would depend wholly on the decision of present Judges now over seventy, or those who would subsequently reach the age of seventy.”
Fireside Chat Discussing the Plan for Reorganization of the Judiciary, President Franklin D. Roosevelt; March 9, 1937
 After reading the above, respond to the questions below.
  1. Explain Hamilton’s view of the judiciary in Federalist 78. (1 points)
  2. Compare your answers in Part A with FDR’s view of the judiciary from the above reading. (2 points)
  3. Using your knowledge of the Constitution, evaluate the constitutionality of FDR’s plan. (2 points)

Students had a harder time on the second FRQ, so on Monday {we are testing this week} we are going to go over it again, just in a different way, together. We are going to talk about this as a class so they understand what was expected of them on the original. I did give three different questions, as I have three different classes.

05dc-kavanaughbriefing-superJumbo-v3.jpg
Doug Mills/The New York Times

I am looking forward to doing this again next semester, but changing it up a bit to better use my time!

What is your favorite lesson on the judiciary?

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.

img_9660
Our directions for the day

img_9658
Students had notes with them to help them remember and this student was the FBI

img_9657
The National Weather Service discusses what they do. 

img_9661
Room set up for 1st hour that we ended up changing for the rest of the day thanks to the advice of the kids!

img_9665
New room set up for 2nd hour

img_9662
Extra points for students who dressed as their agency

img_9664
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!

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

The New York Times Op-Ed in AP Government

Over the last few days {years}, most AP Government teachers have steeled themselves, taken a deep breath, and walked into their classrooms. This is one of the best jobs because, regardless of the administration, we have a lot of current things happening that marry nicely with our curriculum. However, sometimes you really wonder if it’s something that you want to or should discuss.

This morning, I came to work early because I knew it was going to be a topic the students wanted to talk about and I wanted to be prepared.

Enter the New York Times Op-Ed. *Note: my students have just finished The Presidency, and are half way through the bureaucracy. I feel this is important because they have an understanding of the two pieces of government that are discussed.

I’ve read it a few times and listened to today’s installment of The Daily I’ve hemmed and hawked over whether or not to discuss it, as we haven’t hit our media unit yet.

But, I decided to go for it. Just not today. I’d like for it all to percolate over the weekend. I want my students to read it and do further research on their own so they can develop their own opinions. There is mention of the bureaucracy insulating themselves from the administration. And I want them to brush up on the 25th amendment because of it’s mention in the article.

Not to mention, we have a lot to do today.

img_9645

Basically, I’m taking something that is controversial and getting very medical with it. Meaning, we are dissecting it for examples, but not getting into a debate about it or throwing out opinions that have yet to be formed. I want to give them all the information I can and let them decide. There is no right and wrong way to teach this (ok, maybe there are lots of wrong ways) and YOU know YOUR students best.

Prompt: (Writing or Class Discussion)

Using the information in the article:

A. Identify two expressed powers of the President.

B. Explain how the bureaucracy  implements policy and how they are checked by Congress and the President.

C. Explain how the check on the President from the executive branch is illustrated via the 25th amendment. Here is another article from NPR.

I am going to do C as a class discussion as to better guide the students. I do not want this to turn into a bashing of the administration or the President. It’s not a productive use of my class time. I believe it’s my job to teach them HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Since my students are only at where they are, I do not feel they are ready to adequately discuss the media aspect, but that will come in the next unit.

 

 

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development, Writing for AP Gov

The American Presidency

On August 28, I had the pleasure of attending a Teaching American History Seminar on Executive Powers. I always appreciate going to these because it opens my eyes to new documents to use. (Full Document of Readings)

img_9553

These were the readings we were required to complete beforehand. I appreciated this because it forced me to look at documents I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Documents I will use in my AP class:

  • Federalist 70
  • FDR “Fireside Chat Reorganizing the Judiciary” *I will use this to bridge between the Presidency and the Judiciary
  • War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto

I actually came back to school the next day and was just starting the executive powers. This was a great way to start off the roles and powers of the executive. The students read through the War Powers Resolution the day I was gone, and came back and read Nixon’s Veto with me. We had a brief discussion on what the president’s power was and how this evolved through the 20th century to dealing with ideologies as opposed to just countries.

I decided to use these documents for an argumentative essay. I plan to have a Socratic seminar first to really allow students to develop their ideas. I don’t plan to give them the prompt per se, but I will let them know they need to make sure they reference these documents. I often take for granted that my students need help to really develop ideas.  find I get much better writing when

Prompt: Using your knowledge of the War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto, develop an argument that explains the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution as it relates to the roles of the Executive and Legislative branches.

In your essay you must:

  • Articulate a defensible claim or thesis that responds to the prompt and establishes a line of reasoning.
  • Support your claim with at least TWO pieces of accurate and relevant information
    • At least ONE piece of evidence must be from one of the following foundational documents:
      • US Constitution
      • Federalist 51
      • Federalist 70
    • Use a second piece of evidence from another foundation document from the list or from your study of the Constitution.
  • Use reasoning to explain why your evidence supports your claim/thesis.
  • Respond to an opposing or alternative perspective using refutation, concession, or rebuttal.

I really enjoy these seminars because it requires me to learn more about the documents and it gives me more insight for my class. I can’t even count how many I’ve been to at this point!

TAH has webinars and explores Documents in Detail. I use these to help my students but also to make me a better teacher!

This year, I will focus on the following:

  • Federalist and Antifederalist (Saturday webinar- September 8)
  • Brutus I (October 24)

There are many others both upcoming and past that are super helpful for our class! Registration is free, and even if you can’t make the time, they will send you a copy of it. There is a podcast as well! Just search Teaching American History.

img_9554

 

You just have to love PD that you can turn around to use in your classroom immediately!