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”

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Political Participation, Writing for AP Gov

Discussing Citizens United

Oh campaign finance.

The wonderful world.

{take a deep breath and continues to pretend it’s super fun!}

money

*I take 2 regular and 1 block day for this.

On Friday, I assigned Citizens United v. FEC. They are not writing the DBQ, but using the documents (including Federalist 10) to prepare for a Socratic discussion on their block day (Wednesday/Thursday).  This is out of classwork and I like giving them a weekend to look over it and ask questions if needed on Monday during the lecture.

On Monday, I give notes on Elections and Campaign Finance. I use Edward’s 2016 Presidential Election Edition for notes, or find some via a group, friend, or other teacher. Because the notes I use are from a group, I don’t share them here since they are not mine to share.

On Tuesday, we use Bill of Rights Institute Homework Help video as well as Money Unlimited from a 2012 issue of the New Yorker and a campaign finance cheat sheet. Students are instructed to ‘draw’ campaign finance reform as a map and prepare for their Socratic discussion. I generally walk around during this time to ensure everyone “has it”.

The day of their Socratic discussion I write the question up on the board so students have a focus: Assess whether the Supreme Court ruled correctly in Citizens United v. FEC in light of constitutional principles including republican government and freedom of speech. 

How I run Socratic:

  1. Students are familiar with how Socratic Seminar- How am I graded_. Often times students get stuck with how many times they need to talk. I care about what they say, not how many times they talk. Noting that, taking up too much of the discussion gets you points taken away. For some classes, I give them 3 sticky notes. Once those are gone, they are gone. It also helps them to regulate who hasn’t been able to speak yet with a visual that doesn’t disturb the discussion.
  2. Because I have larger classes, I do the inside-outside circle. Each group gets 2 sets of 15 minutes. Students in the outside circle are listening and filling out Socratic Seminar Observations They can use them when they are in the inside circle. Below are examples from my 8th grade class.

Group A goes first on the inside for 15 minutes while Group B writes. Then they switch, but this time Group B goes for 30 minutes while Group A writes. The final switch happens and Group A is given their remaining 15 minutes. These times can be readjusted to fit your class period. This works well for two topic Socratics (Federalist/AntiFederalist). I change it up depending on the class.

You can also use an argumentative writing rubric and give points based on that. I record my observations using Socratic Seminar Observations. I can change up what I’m grading them on easily. This is the one I use most often.

At this point, after the discussion, you can have them do a piece of writing using the focus question. I love writing after a Lecture-Reading-Discussion train because they really have the ability to look at it from all angle and engage with the material.

If you have time and a class that this would work for, watch “The Kid is All Right“. This Simpson’s episode. It’s a quick 20 minutes and the kids always get a kick out of it because they actually get it after learning about political parties, interest groups, campaigns, and campaign finance. I bought the copy on YouTube for $2 and have shown it each semester.

simpsons.jpg

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

Federalist 10

Factions.

What are they?

Why do we care? (ohmygoddoyouliveunderarock)

Well, you should care. Even George Washington cared. I mean, not all factions are political parties, but all political parties are factions. And let’s be honest. Factions are a huge source of discontent in our nation today.

Faction: a small, organized, dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics.

{Can we swoon over G’s writing for a second?}

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Let’s all take a second with that. George knew his stuff (or whomever wrote it for him since he was SUPER insecure about his “smarts”. He was military, most of the people he knew were University) September 19, 1796 was far from November 23, 1787 but he saw the discontent in his cabinet. Famously between Hamilton and Jefferson. (SHEG has a great lesson on this, check it out)

I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s go back to the Federalist 10 argument.

This is a highly quoted piece of the 85 essays. Most notably, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires,” {God, I love James Madison… so much}.

Usually, when I teach this, there is a short video to go through the basics of the piece. It helps students to know what they are going into. It’s helpful to have them try to digest it outside of class. Giving the students an introduction to the whole of the Federalist Papers sets the scene. I give them my annotated Federalist 10. I did this when I was the Bill of Rights Institute Founders Fellowship on the Federalist and AntiFederalist Debate. I like doing this to show them that I’ve already looked at the document myself. We start with a first look, usually just a quick scan of the document, noticing the annotations or quotations that sound familiar. We write down questions and really become friends with the document. Depending on the class, you can send the document home for further annotation. The next day, a small group setting can help students share what they saw, the questions they had, and the summary of what Madison was trying to get to in this specific paper with their peers.

I don’t think going into long lessons is necessary with this document. What is necessary is an understanding that students can refer to throughout the course. What is necessary is helping students break down Madison’s argument. This can be done via jigsaw, in small groups with excerpts, or as a whole class depending on what YOU think is best for YOUR class. (You can jigsaw with Brutus 1)

The end goal is an understanding of the document so that students can move forward in the curriculum using that as a base, as well as a reference.

This can naturally spiral into debates over current divisive political issues that are current to students. At this point, it’s up to you where you let it go. I generally don’t let it go anywhere because that’s not the point of the lesson. However, this could easily transition to…

Lesson Ideas!

Writing Prompt OR Discussion-  Describe how Madison’s Federalist 10 can be explained using a modern day issue. (past 5 years)

Compare and contrast Federalist 10 with Brutus I (I like this version because it’s annotated and has guiding questions to help focus).

Documents of Freedom- Political Parties Activity: Factions and Virtue (sign in required, free resource)

**It also of note to go back around to Washington’s Farewell Address and One Last Time.. But, that’s another post entirely.

Resources:

Fact/Myth- This is a treasure trove

Documents in Detail- Teaching American History 

 

Foundations of American Democracy

Declaration of Independence… or the 1776 Version of “She’s Just Not That Into You”…

It’s July 2nd which means I’m probably deep into John Adams (HBO) and muttering to myself that the REAL Independence Day is July 2nd. I digress.

You can quote from the Declaration of Independence because, likely, your elementary school teacher made you memorize “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

This is one of my favorite primary sources as it’s a act of treason. Or an act of bravery depending on how you look at it or which side of history you are on. Piecing apart this document and making it accessible to students can be a bit much. To them, it looks like a long, drawn out letter in a world of 140 characters or less.

So how do we, as teachers, look at this document? First and foremost, this is not a governing document. And, you need to chunk it out. (I like to play Farmer Refuted here and give the students the lyrics so we can break apart what Ham and Seabury are arguing about). Doing it WITH them is helpful because not only can you model it, but sometimes the students notice things you don’t! How cool is that?

First, HBO released a documentary called The Words That Built America. It’s free without HBO! It’s a reading of the founding documents including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I like this because it helps out our auditory learners. I love to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, so this is right up my learning alley. It’s roughly 11 minutes long and has a short summary at the end of the war. (Side note: The American Revolution and the Revolutionary War are TWO separate things).

Then let’s take this piece by piece. The first two paragraphs can be read aloud in class, with the teacher taking the role of breaking it apart to decipher meaning. I LOVE this lesson from the Bill of Rights Institute. Handout F has John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government which is a suggested document in the course framework from College Board. This lesson has modifications for our second language learners and can be easily adapted for 8-12. In the same token, Teaching American History has some great stuff. It is important, as educators, that we’ve already unpacked the document for ourselves (and maybe shared that with our students who struggle) so that we can effectively help them unpack it.

Now, what?

Well, it’s fun to bring in Hamilton because most students are familiar with it, it’s relevant, and it’s fun. And don’t you really wonder how King George took this? Because it was NOT lying down. You know homeboy was very unhappy. He addresses Parliament in October of 1775. {Perfect time to play You’ll Be Back}

As an extension, students can create a Twitter feed between King George and Thomas Jefferson using the list of grievances. Anytime I use Twitter in class, students use a class hashtag. This way, I don’t need to follow them and they don’t need to follow me. It’s been a fun way to engage outside of school. (We use #apschley{thegraduationyear} as our yearlong hashtag) For more engagement, students can create their own. This requires them to look at the sources in a different way and engage in a way that makes sense to them. They can create them on paper or in Twitter itself.

Or memes:

GW

And random story about my main man, James Madison. He died on June 28th. Just shy of July 4th. Rumor has it (this is from my weekend studying at Montpelier) that the doctor asked if he wanted to be kept alive, and Madison declined. We all get it Jefferson, Adams, and Monroe. You died July 4th. Way to be super eery.

Lesson Ideas for Ideals of Democracy:

Discussion: Compare and Contrast the draft of the Declaration of Independence to the published copy. Discuss why changes were made. How have those changes shaped our government?

Writing: Explain how the Declaration of Independence has grown with the US. {Student should reference parts of history, preferably from AP US History, in their explanation}

 

Resources:

Teaching American History

Declaration of Independence 

Button! on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

You”ll Be Back- King George Responds

Hamilton Lyrics Book (this is a lifesaver)

Why Did Jefferson Draft the Declaration?

What You Might Not Know About The Declaration of Independence 

Declaration of Independence Draft v. Final- Lesson Plan from Colonial Williamsburg