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?

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!

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?

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.

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

Argumentative Writing for AP Gov- Thesis Statements

*Cartoon from Cagle Cartoons

When I found out that a piece of the AP Government test would be argumentative writing, I was stoked! For the last three years, our school has had argumentative writing as a school goal so I figured, “I don’t even have to spend time teaching this!”

Oh, Liz. Oh, sweet, naive Liz.

I gave an argumentative prompt for Unit One, feeling confident because of the massive document diving we’ve done. I had students peer score to help get use to the FRQ #4 Rubric I received from Dan Devitt at my APSI this summer. I often like to use peer scoring and teacher grading so that students feel comfortable with the rubric and understanding exactly what was expected of them. After grading essays, I saw a HUGE issue. The thesis that students were writing were NOT defensible. The evidence they used was mere quoting. The analysis demanded more. Back to the drawing board we go.

I always tell my students I am training them for a marathon and we don’t need to run the whole thing right now. We need to work on a 5k. I need to take that advice.

I realized that in order for the essay as a whole to be legit, a great thesis was needed. Now, when I taught APUSH {for one year because wow! I bow down to all APUSH teachers} we did a 2-1-1 for our thesis statements and it worked out. So, I needed to develop a formula for AP Government and in particular, for my students who seem to struggle. First, I developed a prewriting for the thesis:

  • Restate the prompt:
  • Choose a side:
  • Tell me why:
  • What is the other side’s claim?
  • Why is yours better?

For example:

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Congressional term limits were a topic, similar to term limits imposed on the office of the president by the 22nd amendment. Develop an argument for or against an amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress.

I don’t have documents (Federalist 53  and 57 would come to mind because we want founding documents) BECAUSE, I want students to write a thesis that can be defended.

  • Restate the prompt: An amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress
  • Choose a side: is directly opposed to the ideas of the Constitution. 
  • Tell me why: because there were no term limits written into the Constitution for any of the three branches and it would take the rights away from the voter’s to choose who they want to represent them.  
  • What is the other side’s claim? Although many critics believe that Congress is corrupt and needs term limits to bring it back to the people, 
  • Why is yours better? the people, according to James Madison, need to be vigilant. This means that the government should not have the power to impose limits on terms of Congress. 

This may or may not work for your class, but I know that for me, I had to be more specific. If you don’t have a good thesis, you don’t have a good essay. End of story.

From now on, I will require all socratic discussions to start with this formula. It’s a small thing, but ends with big results!

I plan to build using evidence during the Presidency, and analysis during the Judiciary which all happen within the next few weeks. The ultimate goal is by my Civil Rights and Liberties Unit (which I do last) is to have 90% of students writing the argumentative essay at at least a 4/6. Lofty? Maybe. Not enough? Probably. But, with the redesign and the shift in mindset away from teaching contentcontentcontent and more application, I think it’s a reasonable goal that will evolve as we move through our semester.

What is your favorite way to teach argumentative essay?