Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Senate - Where Will it Land?

The NYTimes has a 67% and the 538 blog, a 61% chance of the US Senate going to the Republican side with the midterm elections.   Use the links to look at each site's extensive look at the upcoming elections.

If you want House forecasts, go to 270towin.

Monday, September 29, 2014

463 Amendment Proposals Since 2003

Since 2003 there have been 463 amendments to the US Constitution proposed by members of the US Congress.  The last one to get past 2/3s of both houses was for voting rights in the District of Columbia.  Here is more from Pew.  I found out about this from Mr. Cummings on Twitter

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another Continuing Resolution, Naturally!

Above is a short video explaining what is meant by a CR (continuing resolution) and right below it is a chart detailing the number of CRs each year since 1977.  Here is a nice article from my dissertation chair, Sarah Binder, giving a number of details on the recent history and telling us that, as usual, the 12 budget bills will not be passed by Wednesday (end of the month) and instead we have a CR until December 11th.  

Flipping, flipping, flipping!

All three of my preps this year are being flipped so I am really getting into it which is good after four years of practicing the "craft."  Today we are having a tech in-service at Hayfield Secondary where I teach and I am teaching two sections of how to flip one's classroom.  If you aren't a teacher at Hayfield and want to watch how to do flip, above is an eight minute video detailing all of the steps and what to do in the classroom after you have done your flipped lecture.

Here is an example of a flipped video, the actual Google form we used and the interactive assignment that followed in class

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Free Government "Textbooks" for Your Students

While I love our ebook for US government, this year I have been particularly bothered by Pearson's whose servers have been closed at times during the school day.  That being said, I strongly believe the textbook should just be one source of information and not the only place where students learn.  Indeed, if I were a textbook executive I would be scared to death of sites such as CitizenU which has all the videos and short readings to replace the traditional government textbooks.  It even includes thoughtful AP type questions.  In fact the two founders, Andrew Conneen and Dan Larsen are both question leaders at the AP US Government and AP Comparative readings so really know their topics.  Above is one of their videos.

There is also a group I used to work with in Philadelphia which has a great standard government textbook which you can find here.   

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How a Bill Really Becomes a Law Assignment

So I know I put up the bottom one in July, but so many more people come to the blogs during the school year, so here it goes again.  My students still love the Schoolhouse Rock videos.  Most, of course, know the top one, but the bottom one on how a bill really becomes a law is awesome and a must to show your students.   My students will watch it and then write down and explain the real steps of making a bill into a law using this assignment which has lots of other links. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Use Preferences & Make Your Own Short Cuts in Google Docs

This comes from Caitlin Tucker who has made the short video above to show you pre-set preferences in Google Docs and how to additional ones of your own.  This comes in handy when you are grading papers and don't want to write the same comment over and over. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Medicaid Expansion Deliberation

Deliberations allow students to be presented with new information and then have discussions as part of the learning process.  Thanks to Dee Thompson for this deliberation on Medicaid expansion.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Article & Student Questions on Scotland for AP Comp

Here is a great article, complete with videos and here are the questions I am asking my students along with it.  Call it a mini-flipped lesson as there is a nice video with David Cameron.  Generally I have my AP Comp students research "issues" and add them to my "conceptual terms," but since Scotland has been so in the news, I thought I would jump on it early.

By the way, I have long put images on my assignments and this year two of my students started doing it themselves.  I liked it so much that if my students complete any reading assignments - or notes for a flipped video, then they too have to put in images.  Since we think in images and not words, it really is a good technique to remember something.   

Book Recommendation: How We Learn by Benedict Carey

There aren't many books about teaching that truly excite me, but I just finished reading a book that every educator should read. How We Lean: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey details several techniques that teachers and students can employ to increase student learning. Teachers may have heard of or even used a couple of the techniques, but Carey provides the background and details that will allow teachers to say "here's what I'm doing, and here's why it works" to themselves, their students, colleagues, and administrators.
Why will I give chapter pre-tests from now on? To see how much students know? No. To have students see what they know before beginning a new unit? No. I'm going to give chapter pre-tests because studies have shown that even when students fail to answer the pre-test questions correctly, a seed is planted that changes the way a student interacts with the content of the upcoming chapter, with students who took pre-tests performing better on assessments than those students who did not take the pre-tests.
One other technique described in How We Learn relates to those of us who have year-end exams, such as state assessments, Advanced Placement Exams, and course final exams. Carey describes the "spacing effect," which calls for students to space out their studying in a unique way. He's not recommending that students study several days in a row leading up to their test, which many teachers have probably recommended to their students. Carey suggests that non-study days be inserted between study days leading up to a test. Research has shown that retention of information for the long term increases using this method, thus student performance on cumulative tests, such as year-end tests, increases.

Read How We Learn so you can apply the rest of what Carey presents in order for your students to learn more effectively.
Frank Franz
Madison High School
Vienna, Virginia

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Free Market vs Repression in China

I am not yet sure how I am going to do it, but I always have my AP Comp students work on "issues" relating to each of the six comp countries and couple them with terms that the kids have to learn. One of the issues I am thinking of doing is the fact that they have both incredibly big and successful companies coupled with repression of freedoms.  Part of that might include using the short above on China's most successful company - Alibaba - which went public today.  While it is not a household name here, it is as large or larger than any US based Internet company than Google. 

My Book Now Can be Pre-Ordered!

We now have a definitive early January release date for my book, whose name has changed to "Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction."  The name pretty much says it all as I relate research, examples and explanatory tutorials to show you how to effectively use technology for both primary (technology being used in ways similar to paper and secondary (more of the book and ways to allow you to do things you cannot do without technology).   There are also five "teacher challenges" per chapter so that you and your PLCs could set goals for your teams to integrate the techniques into your classrooms and school.    

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Creating a Poll

My doctorate is in political science so this article is particularly appealing to me as my dissertation was steeped in statistics and quantitative research which is exactly what is in involved in polls.  So, while, this article from the 538 blog might be too much information for your students, it would be a great background for you to explain some of the nuisances of how statisticians know who might win an election.  In this case, the author, Nate Silver discusses the fact that the US Senate now has a 53% chance of going Republican - a number that has been going down.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lesson on Writing a FRQ in AP Government

My students are watching this video over the weekend as a precursor for learning how to write for AP free response questions.  I will do an informal quiz to make they know the key words and then we will read an actual FRQ that my students can partially answer with the knowledge they now have. Then I will show them the rubric and they will have to grade each one.  In true AP grader style I will make them tell the class what they have chosen for each FRQ and then we will discuss why it received the grade it did.

During the year I have the kids "grade" their DBQs as they go along, meaning if it is six point response they have to show me where each of the points go.  Then, on the right side I put my points (with a 1 for the first point, 2 for the second, etc.)  So that means if they have a ID and an explain and only get the first 1.  If the second part has an ID and an explain and they got both points, I would give them 1, 3 and 4 for a total of 3 points as in (1+1+1=3).  So each point has a specific meaning.  This also saves in writing explanations since we go over it in class and they have to correct their mistakes.

The Rise of Xi

I'll get something up shortly on the no vote in Scotland, but first here is a nice article on what Xi has been doing in China.  It comes from the Economist.  By the way if you go to that site too often and it starts blocking part of your article, just put the title in a search engine and you will be able to see it in its entirety.

The article on Xi is great as it covers a large number of terms you are teaching your students such as: Cultural Revolution, collectivist consensus, Mao, Deng, Communist Party, corruption,  free market, one child per family policy, the plight of the migrant workers and the Central Committee.  About the only major thing not dealt with is human rights.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014


One of the questions that is lingering with our newer front against terrorism is what to call our newish enemy.  Here is a succinct article describing why Obama is using ISIL and others are using ISIS.  Basically Obama sees the groups as a greater threat than to just Iraq and Syria (as in "IL) and rather is using Levant to refer to the former French and British colonial areas.   So this is where we see if the "Bully Pulpit" is stronger than the collective press.  Already a slight majority of members of Congress, but certainly not all, on both sides of the aisle are starting to use ISIL.    Also in the link above, you can see the chart above and see the dates of when members of Congress started changing their terminology.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hashtagging Obama's Speech

A number of teachers have asked me about how we use Twitter to conduct a class.  First off you can see our discussion by going to Twitter and putting "#hayfieldgovclass" into the search engine.  To conduct the class, as you can see in the video above, I split my screen to watch the president and use TweetChat to put in comments as well as see what our (three teachers involved) students are saying.   For the students who do not have a Twitter account, we created an editable Google Drive document where they wrote their comments.

By the way we trended for the third straight time.   Wouldn't it be great if some of the readers of this blog copied our idea and during the State of the Union we ended up seeing 3-4 classes trending at once!  Remember we did it with just 150 or so students.  Each student was required to give three comments, but most wrote a great deal more.
While we are at it, below is a video I will show my students tomorrow on the powers of the president relating to war.  

Flipping Your Back to School Night

For the second year in a row I am flipping my Back to School night so that I will have my students come to class tomorrow and text their parents a tinyurl (http://tinyurl.com/btsnapcompfor the video above.  I actually found that most of my parents watched the video AND came to class.  In class I will answer questions and tell them a bit about me and my motivations.  If you go to my World History Teachers blog tomorrow I will have what I am doing with my non AP students.

If you want to create your own flipped back to school night presentation, here is how to do it. 

Economics Teachers Blog

If you are an econ teacher and haven't heard about my Economics Teachers Blog, you might want to check it out as I already have over 100 posts since it debuted in April.  I new teach two different economics courses (among my four preps) and, as with this blog, am documenting all the resources that I am finding and using.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Remind Now Allows You To Record Homework Reminders

This is a pretty cool addition for those of you who have Remind on your smartphone (iTunes, Android).  You can, as the video shows, record your student assignments for your kids to hear rather than read.  You can also attach assignments if you like.  If you look at this video you can set up and use Remind with your students.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Free Online US Government eTextbook

We are in our fifth year of using an online textbook with our students and so it never ceases to amaze me that Pearson still isn't ready for prime time.  Every year at this point, when everyone is logging in their books, they can't handle the traffic.  Or the one that was really amused with was McGraw-Hill servicing their online books from Thursday - this morning after having had the entire summer to work on their shells.

Having said all that, I still believe that online books are the way to go, but not just because they are online.  Really I hope we are moving towards the days when books will be used as a resource and not the main source.  There are so many videos, links, images, documents online that a book should fill in the gaps or be the starting point.

But if you do want a book, here is one I worked on years ago called USHistory.org/gov and it is not going to go down on your students and it is complete through about 2000.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Will the Republicans Take the Senate?

My favorite forecaster, Nate Silver, has been consistently predicting that the Republicans will take over the US Senate this fall.  Silver took a lot of flack for so overwhelming (and correctly) predicting that Obama would win the presidency (hence the name of his blog = 538 for Electoral College), so this is evening the score.  Most pollsters are making the same call.   Silver's blog is an excellent one for information on politics using quantitative research.  

The Rise of Alibaba and Chinese Commerce

If you teach AP Comparative, you might be interested in the Chinese company, Alibaba, which in a few weeks, will likely have the largest IPO ever.  Right now its value, which is somewhere around $200 billion, makes it worth more than Facebook and most Americans (and a lot of Chinese based on my informal poll) have never heard of it.  This NYTimes article does a good job of describing how Jack Ma (founder) could become a billionaire while straddling the issues of the Chinese government and working with international companies. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Remind to Text Your Students

I have been using Remind (used to be called Remind101) for the past three years (in fact their CEO even wrote a nice blurb for my book which is coming out in a few months).  Students today do not use email very often, but cannot text enough to save their lives!  So when I started using Remind I found that the amount of homework among my standard (non AP/IB) students improved dramatically.  If you have students who do not have smartphones, the service also allows emails.  Additionally you can send a message to as few as three students.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Twitter Warm-up

So I always have a meet and greet on our first day of school, but tomorrow, thanks to @dougzywiol I am going more high tech (imagine that!) and having the kids Tweet their answers.  To do that yourself you can either create your own hashtag by putting a number a hashtag symbol besides a name (make sure others are using it first) and then have your kids add it in of their Tweets which is what I am going to do.  Alternatively you could just have the students write your Twitter handle in their Tweets.  I will then have the kids go to our hashtag and we will go through them.  For the kids who don't have Twitter, we'll just do it orally.   

Amicus Curiae

One of the things you have to teach in US government is amicus curiae briefs or amici briefs for short.  They are "friends of the court briefs.  In the Hobby Lobby case, for example, 80 were sent to the US Supreme Court.  What I always tell my students is that this is a place where the justices and their clerks get many arguments to present in their decision.  Now a W&M (proud alum here) professor has done her research and found that between 2008 and 2013 there were 124 citations from amici briefs.  Considering that there are only roughly 70 cases a year - so 420 total over the period - that means there is a one and four chance of an amici brief having its facts mentioned.  Of course this doesn't forget that oft cited are also the plaintiff and defendant briefs.   More here