I don't even know how I made it this far without talking about Edmodo. Srsly.
Studying for tests. Such a drag... But in college I figured it out. I did a lot better in my ecology class when I walked around at midnight with my buddy Theresa and recited the Krebs cycle or lake stratification and seasonal overturn. It was COLLABORATION. We taught each other and learned in the process. So I have tried to replicate that in my classroom. I've done it all, too...
Jeopardy review games online. Games in class. Study Guides. Quizzes. Tests that I took myself and purposefully got wrong, and handed it over to the students to grade. Twitter. Blackboard. But nothing has had as much success as Edmodo. And it's simple.
Edmodo is like Twitter for teachers. No kids slaying each other in subtweets 'cause they know classroom norms are enforced. So when I post test questions open ended, the kids take turns answering them, and then when questions are debatable, they debate! When questions are wrong, they correct! I put essays up there and essays improve! So do test grades! It's great, and takes little effort on my part.
It's an app. It's free. Ta. da.
I also love socrative. This is also an app, also free, also beautiful. I verbally give open ended prompts at the beginning of class as a formative assessment, usually reviewing the previous lesson or homework. The kids work in pairs (less likely to give me answers from Tosh.0 the previous night) to answer. I get right answers. I get wrong answers. We talk about them; sometimes rate them. It's anonymous, so kids are less hesitant. They have all sorts of other awesomeness, like modules for you to build MC quizzes, etc. It's all good stuff.
Ta. Da. Again.
I was grading my first essay of the year the other day, and ran across this rather ingenious proposal from a student. Why can't we send our own bills in to Congress? (Totally!) So, we know we can do that, right? But how can we do this in a way that is "closer to the people?" Taking out that nebulus layer of partisanship in Congress... which is often just a barrier of getting legislation to the hopper....
I stumbled on this last year. I have still do anything super cool with this (like maybe an extra credit assignment), but it is still a fantastic website.
The White House allows you to put your proposals up on this website, and commoners like you and I can vote on it! If it is really popular, the WHO sends it on up the legislative pipeline to Congress (where it inevitably dies a slow death in committee, on a good day).
My favorite to date: A proposal where members of Congress have to wear patches on their suits of campaign sponsors just like they do in Nascar; the larger the patch, the bigger the donor. AWESOME!!!
I shudder to mention YLI, because I know that this website is like manna to the Gov teacher's soul. But, whatever... Maybe you don't know... so here is the glittering goodness of this website.
When I don't know what to do, or need some where to start, I go here. They have really great lesson plans that you can use as is, or modify to the needs of your class. I have used many of the websites, particularly the one on Federalism, to give kids activities and discussion points that really get things moving. The dynamic duo that run this website do a great job of getting back to you when you are in need... And are totally enthusiastic about their craft.
There is a model Congress that you can either participate in solo or with a virtual community of schools nationwide. I use the model Congress AFTER we cover Congress, because it does a great job addressing the FUNDING of initiatives; how laws are crafted, etc. However, I have NOT done the nationwide activity because of time constraints.
I have used the virtual voting module, which you can tailor to your home district's ballot... (although I do have the kids visit Project Vote Smart's VoteEasy module to learn more about the candidates before they vote. WARNING: VoteEasy is updated for National Elections, only. Boo.) Anywho, there you have it. Where to do when in doubt.
I sit in front of my wall of learning. (You know, a bookshelf filled with books that one day will make a learned backdrop for my tv spots.) I have read (most of) them... but they are so specialized that they don't get to come out in heavy rotation day to day.
There are some books I have in front of me, on my desk, for me to oogle over daily. And I do. Here are two of them. The appropriately named The Politics Book and The Economics Book.
They are both by DK publishing, and cover political and economic theory. I use them frequently. When I need a quick brush up on Pinochet & Hayek... they are my saviors.
They are conscise; they are interconnected. They give theory, and then site real world application. They have great visuals. They are written in text that is accessible to students. They are FUN! (as fun as this stuff can be).
It is probably uncool for me to start off recommending a video I haven't seen yet, but too bad. I will.
One of my favorite movies to show around the time of the federal budget movie is I.O.U.S.A. You can get it on netflix, and it holds up to the stand of time. If anything, it really shows how bad things have gotten since it's release in 2007.
I.O.U.S.A. really focuses in on the federal side of our budget woes. This lovely film highlights the inequity between the classes, picking up where the teapartiers and Occupy Wallstreet left off. Except, it's an academic who is doing the talking. Which sounds great to me.
So, I am always trolling for something a little bit more... relevant. And I found it. And now I have to go to the movie theater.
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan