The Top Ten Ways I Structure my AP Government Course

I recently had someone ask me how I setup my AP Government classroom. I figured I would write a post about it since it was just easier to explain. This is going to be my 7th year of teaching (wow how fast time flies) and my 5th year teaching AP Government and Politics. I finally feel comfortable with the content and preparation after my 4th year.

 

Warning: I make money off of this idea. 

 

The Top Ten Ways I Structure my AP Government and Politics Course

1. AP Government 1 Page Chapter Summaries: Last year I gave each chapter review page during the structure AP Government review time. This year I am giving these chapter summaries before every test and collecting them and placing them into a student file folder. At the end of April I will be giving the folders back to my students and they will already have the review sheets completed. The 11 chapter summaries are one page handouts that are very simple and graphically appealing, which include the most essencial information in EVERY chapter in AP Government. This would be a great supplement to do for AP review or to include as you learn each unit to make a study guide for the AP exam in May.

 

2. Free Response Essay Packet:  This is a 12 page document of all the AP Government and Politics Free Response Questions (FRQ’s) from the past 14 years. The document contains all FRQ’s from 1999-2013. FRQ’s are subdivided in unit and historical order. This is a VERY useful tool to have for an AP Government student. I plan on reviewing previous FRQ’s with my students before each unit test and during the structured AP review time.

 

3. How to Write a Free Response Essay Handout:  This is a handout on how to write a Free Response Essay on the AP Government exam. It has helpful tips and suggestions to write the essay.

 

4. AP Government Vocabulary List: This is a list of over 300 vocabulary words that are essential when learning AP Government and Politics. The vocabulary words are organized by unit (9 units total). The vocabulary words and definition are organized in alphabetical order. I give this packet out at the beginning of the year to help my students study and learn the material. We also play bingo before every unit test. My students fill in the words for the chapter to the blank bingo card and I read the definitions from the vocabulary list.

 

5. Socratic Seminar Handout: This is a handout to encourage students to have rules and expectations with socratic seminars. This handout is very useful when introducing the socratic seminar as a form of discussion in any class. I usually assign a controversial article related to AP Government and students must generate three socratic style questions for homework. My students then come to class ready to discuss the article through the socratic method.

 

6. Government Chapter Reading Questions: This is a list of 3-5 essential critical reading questions for each unit of government. This handout can be modified for any book or government course since the content is the same. I usually give this handout out at the beginning of the year and have my students read the chapter and respond to the questions in an extended response format.

 

7. Student Self-Evaluation for Classroom Participation: This is a student self-evaluation on their own level of classroom participation. I joke with my student’s that I have the final VETO say in their grade for participate but I do let them self-reflect and evaluate their own behavior.

 

8. Debate Assignment:  This is a debate assignment for six separate government debates. The debate structure, rubric, audience rubric, audience evaluation guide, and guidelines are included. My class does these debates in two teams of two for each topic. The rest of the class is the audience. These debates were specifically planned for one debate for each unit.

Debate topics:

1. Voting should be compulsory in our democracy
2. The American two-party system is so strong that voting for third party candidates cannot effectively influence public policy.
3. There should be term limits for members of Congress.
4. Direct popular vote should replace the Electoral College.
5. Americans would be safer without a constitutional right to carry a weapon.
6. Affirmative action programs are necessary to safeguard the opportunities of underrepresented minorities.

 

9. Participation in Government: Ever wish your students were more involved in politics in the community. This assignment requires them to attend one political event out of a list of events in the community. They also need to write a paper response with a series of question prompts. There is a grading rubric provided as well as sample community event options to participate with.

 

10. Current Event Blog Post:  This is the detailed assignment, rubric, and schedule for the current event blog post assignment. Students are assigned one week each marking period to write one current event blog post and give an in class presentation. Students must include a summary, analysis, visual, and MLA citation, and connection to the course.

 

Teach Civics: Use Project Vote Smart

Project Vote Smart is a wonderful website for any civic or government teacher. The website is designed to be practical informative, and useful when teaching about Congress, political parties, campaign finance, the Constitution, elections, state government and much more. There are lessons, interactive activities, and so many other resources. 

 

The Voter’s Self-Defense System

Every candidate and elected official from President to local government can be easily and instantly accessed through the Voter’s Self-Defense System:

  • Voting Records – Project Vote Smart digests key legislation in Congress and all 50 states into easy-to-understand summaries, making it easy to compare what your representatives said during the campaign with how they actually voted on the record.
  • Biographical & Contact InformationBiographical & Contact Information — From their previous professions, education, family life, and organizational memberships, to their latest e-mail address; we gather it all.
  • Issue Positions (Political Courage Test) – We test thousands of candidates for President, Congress, Governor and State Legislature with our Political Courage Test. The Test accurately measures candidates’ willingness to provide voters with their positions on the issues they will most likely face if elected.
  • Interest Group Ratings– See how over 150 competing special interest groups evaluate your representatives. Despite their bias, special interest group ratings can help indicate where an incumbent has stood on a particular set of issues.
  • Public Statements – Vote Smart is constantly collecting speeches and public comments made by the president, governors, and congressional representatives. Just type in a word, say; ‘immigration’ and all public utterances containing the word ‘immigration’ will appear. Compare what they said while campaigning in California a few years ago to what they are saying now in New Hampshire.
  • Campaign FinancesCampaign Finances — How much money did your representatives raise and from whom?

 

Share My Lesson: 228,000+ Free Teaching Resources

Share My Lesson is an interesting resource for any educator to collaborate, connect, and share with our teachers. It is a FREE website that gives teachers access to teaching resources such as worksheets, learning materials, lesson ideas, activiities, and lesson plans. The lessons are divided by grade level, subject, and unit.

 

Start using the site today with your TES login. Simply enter your TES username and password and then accept the Share My Lesson terms. Do so before 31 July and you’ll be entered automatically into a prize draw to win the new iPad!*

The website also connects teachers to an online community to build your PLC. Share My Lesson was developed by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect, the largest network of teachers in the world. Check it out today and improve your teaching repertoire!

 

As a US educator Share My Lesson offers you:

Gilder Lehrman and 9/11 Memorial Resources

I attended the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on 9/11 and American Memory.  The seminar was absolutely amazing! We learned from experts  about how the United States and the world have dealt with tragedy and loss with events such as the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Vietnam, and 9/11. We worked with the amazing team of 9/11 memorial experts who are involved in the planning of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Fire Chief and 9/11 survivor Jay Jonas, and experts in the field of memory such as  the seminar leader David Blight.

 

Our seminar took a personal tour of the 9/11 museum that is NOT open to the public. Even though it is still under construction, we could instantly observe the beauty, sacredness, and careful planning involved in creating the museum.  I am so impressed with the planning and extensive collection the 9/11 historic site, website, and museum will offer to visitors and generations to honor the victims of September 11th, 2001.

 

9/11/01 Online Resources 

The 9/11 memorial has a wonderful collection of online resources for teachers to educate our students about September 11th, 2001. The website has an extensive collection of multimedia orientated resources such as an interactive timeline, audio, webcasts, video, images, primary documents, and essential artifacts and collections.  Each lesson is tied to the Common Core Standards and based on the 9/11 collections that can be used throughout the school year and across all subjects and divided into different themes. 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilder Lehrman K–12 EDUCATOR PROGRAMS 

Gilder Lehrman ONLINE RESOURCES 

For more information visit: Gilder Lehrman Institute  and 9/11 Memorial 

 

 

Bring the World into your Classroom with World Wonders Project

I recently discovered the Google World Wonders Project  which is a website that brings historical sites online.  The website is very interesting and educational because it uses Google’s Street View technology, 3D modelling, photos, videos and information to deliver an interesting medium to go on a virtual field trip. You and your students can truly explore the world from your classroom!

 

There are many interesting historical locations available to explore on the site, including the Palace of Versailles, the Historic Centre of Cordoba, Stonehenge and Hiroshima. I recently explored Independence Hall and was amazed at the collection of resources: videos, google maps, images, and in depth information about the location. I can’t think of a better way to learn about history, other than actually visiting the historic site!
Google also offers free, easy-to-use, and downloadable history resources which are designed in support and engage students in the study of history. The resources are clear, very well organized and FREE. I already found myself bookmarking specific historical sites to use for next school year.  Check it out today!

Increase Student Engagement with Deliberation

I learned about Deliberation Lessons at the NCSS Conference Presentation in Washington D.C. on December 2nd, 2011.  The workshop was really interesting and provided me with a plethora of new resources to engage students in the 21st century classroom. The website contains primary documents about controversial issues in our society, which can engage students in the content and create meaningful classroom discussions. Regardless of what you teach these materials and the style of instruction is powerful.  For more information visit: Deliberation in a Democracy in the Americas

Deliberation is the focused exchange of ideas and the analysis of multiple views with the aim of making a personal decision and finding areas of agreement within a group.

Why Are We Deliberating?
People must be able and willing to express and exchange ideas among themselves, with community leaders, and with their representatives in government. People and public officials in a democracy need skills and opportunities to engage in civil public discussion of controversial issues in order to make informed policy decisions. Deliberation requires keeping an open mind, as this skill enables people to reconsider a decision based on new information or changing circumstances.

Online US History and Government Textbook

Next year I plan on supplementing my outdated textbook with some online resources. I discovered this website called ushistory.org, which has so many wonderful resources. I plan on using this online US Government website for my AP government class and supplementing it with a reader, primary documents, and plenty of articles. I think it will be a lot more practical in the 21st century.

Online Textbook

First Presidential Ad of 2012 – Courage to Stand

Wow this is one of the most moving political advertisement’s I have seen in a very long time. This is a political ad for the 2012 presidential race – in this case – by Tim Pawlenty who used to be the governor of Minnesota. It goes with his book, Courage to Stand. Even though he will not will the Republican nomination he sure makes a good video that hits every American Ideal and value.

It hits us with every American value. I plan to use this in the classroom when I talk about American values. I may have them try to guess what American values they “see” in this presidential advertisement.