Assessment, Foundations of American Democracy, Required Documents, Teaching Tips

Creating infographics using Brutus I and Federalist 10

Last week, I was in Philadelphia for NCC First Amendment Summer Teacher Institute. It was incredible, however I also had to miss my second week of school. I do hate being gone, especially when we are trying to establish our community. I’ve been so lucky this year because my students are engaged, interested, and incredible.

As I was gone for a week (and the week I teach Fed 10 and Brutus I). Since I wasn’t going to be there for my normal Document Week, and only have a semester I had to get creative.

I used a few days for students to go over the Analytical Reading (available on your AP account) that goes over Brutus I and Federalist 10. (Which I’ve appreciated!)

Then I gave them their Unit One Project and let them go.

Here is what I got: (shared with student permission)

Fed10

Brutus I

Brutus 1

 

This was a great way for me to assess their knowledge on the documents while I was gone and adjust instruction for my return!

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”

Professional Development, Teachable Moments, Teaching Tips

8 Tips for Teacher Interviews from a Seasoned Interviewer

As someone who has been a department chair for over 12 years, I have interviewed a lot of different candidates for jobs ranging from 6th -12th grade. I love the interview process because it fills a bit of my teacher bucket, exposes me to new people, and reminds me how lucky I am to work with such incredible people that so many want to be a part of our team! Throughout this process, I have often thought to myself how people prepare and have a few tips from the other side of the table.

  • First, you have to land the interview. I look through every social studies application that comes through our system. I immediately put ones that misspell, forget to capitalize, or leave questions blank in a discard pile. Answer each question! Double check everything! Make sure you have a professional sounding email. (This one gets me every time. I’ve had some pretty awful and unprofessional ones come across my desk. That’s an automatic no, thank you.) Have a professional, easy-to-read resume. Be someone on paper we want to meet in person. And make sure your online profile is something you want your potential employers to see.

 

  • One you land the interview, know the school that you are applying to and why you want to work THERE. This is a question I often ask people. I want to see that your genuine interest is to work at MY school, not in the district or because it’s close to your home. Do your research! Saying, “Because it’s a great school” is like saying that ice cream is good. It’s not the answer your interviewers want to hear. I know I work at a good school.

 

  • Be precise with your answers. DO NOT drone on or lose focus because then we stop listening. Use the jargon you are most comfortable with. Be passionate about your work!

 

  • Vary your answers. I have been in a lot of interviews where the candidate gave me the same answer for a few questions, just formed in different ways.

 

  • Sell yourself. Show them what you have to offer them and what your plan is. If you plan to go get a graduate degree or a National Board Certification, let your interviewers know. It’s key to show that you are willing to continue to grow and adapt to new educational ways of thinking! Don’t be afraid to show them what you can offer and how passionate you are about education! Confidence is key! Don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person and be comfortable with that. Teaching isn’t a profession you perfect, so we want to see that continual strive to be better, no matter how long you’ve been teaching.
    • And on that, dress in something that makes you feel good. That goes a long way in confidence!

 

  • Never, ever say “I don’t know.” If you get stuck, take a deep breath and say, “That’s a good question.” If you don’t understand what they are asking, ask them to repeat,rephrase, or clarify. It’s ok! We work with students all day who need the same thing. I want to make sure you understand the question I am asking you!

 

  • Be prepared for anything. You never know what you are going to be asked, but a cool, calm demeanor can get you far. Things at a education change and I appreciate someone who can go with the flow and do what is best for students. Practice with a colleague,  a friend, or a mentor.

 

  • Ask questions. My favorite part! I LOVE talking about my school, ways to be involved, how great it is to be a part of my department. I feel very turned off if the candidate has no questions. It makes them seem unprepared or uninterested. One of your questions should be about the timeline for hiring.

 

Each situation will be different. Every admin and department chair has what they want, so don’t be discouraged if you aren’t a good fit. I did leave out bringing a teaching portfolio. If you want to bring one, it never hurts. For me, I am more interested in who you are as a person rather than who you are on paper. It tells me more.

Regardless, as we move into the summer and interviews, I wish you the best of luck!