Friday, November 30, 2012


We had our governments quiz today.  I think it went pretty well.

If you were absent, make sure you make it up.

We took a vote on what to do next - and all the classes voted for Arab Spring: A Dictator's Game of Choices.

It went well.  I'm hoping to debrief that one Monday.

If you want the extra credit, explain the game to the adult you read the blog with.

Write down the following quote on a piece of paper and have the adult sign it: "This really small piece of paper signifies that I read and discussed social studies with _________________________."

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


No time to post today.  If you want the extra credit, read yesterday's post.

If you already read yesterday's post, choose a different article this time.

In class we did a map from Junior Scholastic.  If you were absent and need to make up the map, you'll have to make it up during the school day, as I don't have any copies to send home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

All Over the Arab Spring

Here's another easy extra credit post.  I've entitled it, "All Over the Arab Spring" because we're all over it in class, and even though it started about 2 years ago, it's all over the news today.  I'm posting 4 articles from various news sources about countries in the Middle East that have had uprisings.

Your job is to read one of them and discuss the article with a parent or adult.  Once you discuss it, write down 3 ways it ties in with what we're studying.  Have the adult sign the paper, and turn it in in the extra credit tray.

Article 1 comes from the New York Times, and discusses the country of Jordan - and their King.  (I should mention that I recently watched an appearance by King Abdullah II of Jordan on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.)

Article 2 comes from Yahoo! News, and deals with the fallout from Egypts newly elected President deciding he should be the only one in charge in that country.  I'm pretty sure Egypt will be dominating the news within the next couple of days.

Article 3 comes from Fox News, and revolves around a Saudi army official who was shot by Yemeni gunmen.  Both countries have had Arab Spring protests.

Article 4 comes from CNN, and details some more of what's going on in Syria.  As most of us know, the fighting there has been intense, and bloody.  The article states upwards of 40,000 have been killed in what may now be called a Civil War.

The instructions for how to get extra credit are above.  If you want to watch the King Abudullah II interview, I've embedded the first part below.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
King Abdullah II of Jordan Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fear Breeds Fear

The bellwork questions from today:

Why might citizens living in countries with unlimited governments want to overthrow their rulers?

What might keep them from doing this?  (What are some negative consequences if a country does depose its dictator?) 

Student responses were fantastic.  I don't know if that's because of the guest speaker, or because they were just on today.  ...I love it when my students are on.

We used those questions as a starting point to study the Arab Spring.  We watched a short video that we'd watched last year.  You can check it out below.  I'm hoping we get to play a game tomorrow, but it may have to wait.

Don't forget that you have a quiz on Friday.  I would suggest studying the government chart.  You might consider doing that tonight.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, read it and discuss it.  Then, write the following quote on a scrap piece of paper:  "I have some 'friends,' they don't know who I am - so I write quotations around the word 'friends...'  But I have a couple that have always been there for me."


Monday, November 26, 2012

Who WAS That Guy?

Last week we had a guest speaker come into our school.  He hailed from one of the most repressive countries in the world, and was visiting our class to discuss human rights, rule of law, and living life under a dictator.

The story was fantastic, intense, and needed no embellishment.

Some facts about his home country:

Government controls the media: TV, newspapers, internet, radio, etc...

People are imprisoned for no reason.

When imprisoned, they are detained indefinitely.

People are not given a trial.

People have to have permission to leave the country.

People have to have permission to move around within the country.

I won't tell the whole story on here.  (Parents, if you're reading this my students can tell you why.  Random reader - if you exist - you'll be left in the dark.  I'm sorry.)

If you want the extra credit today, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Discuss the following questions/ topics:

  • What did the speaker mean when he said many Americans take their freedoms for granted?
  • How can Americans protect the freedoms they have?
  • Why do you think dictators take away freedoms?
  • If the dictator were to die, would that be good, bad, or unknown?
Again, don't just answer the questions, really discuss them.  Students, after the discussion, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with write a sentence or two about the discussion.  Students, it's then up to you to write two more sentences responding to their comments.  Turn it in in the extra credit tray tomorrow.


Monday, November 19, 2012

For the Love of the Dictator

Among topics discussed today:

Why do so many dictators refer to themselves as presidents?  (For an interesting discussion on this, check out THIS LINK.)

Why are so many unlimited governments (perhaps all unlimited governments) a "One-Party State?"

Why do they call themselves a democracy?

How does fear come into play?

We watched part of a short video.  You can check it out too, if you'd like:

If you want extra credit today, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Then, write a sentence or two about the discussion and have them sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Little Lesson in Acting

The students performed their government Act-it-Outs/ Skits/ Performances/ Whatever we're calling them now.  Yep.  That was today.  I could write about it, or I could give you a little taste of a couple of them.

If there was time at the end of the class, we took a vote (*ahem* much like a Direct Democracy *ahem*)  to see which type of government we would film.  Dictatorship won in most classes, but a couple others worked their way in as well.  A couple classes ran out of time.

I apologize that the audio isn't the best on a couple of these.  I hope you enjoy them anyway.


I've never uploaded videos before, so lets hope it worked.  Great job to all the groups - those that were shown, and those that weren't shown.  Most everyone did a fantastic job.  If you want extra credit today, watch a video from a class other than your own.  Try to figure out what type of government it is.  On a scrap piece of paper, write down what happened in the video you watched, what type of government you think it is, and why.

Turn it in on Monday.  See you then.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Just Discussion

Today's blog entry calls for little reading, just discussion with an adult.

Discuss with them which government you're portraying in your Act-it-Out.  What is the government, and how are you going to show it.  You might mention who else is in your group and what roles they have.

After you're done talking about it for a couple minutes, write the following quote on a piece of scrap paper: "They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home..."  Students, then have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.  (Adults, by signing the paper you're stating that you did indeed discuss the blog entry with the student that asked you to sign the paper.)

By the way, if anybody takes the time to look up that full quote, write it down, and tell me who said it, I'll give you added extra credit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Government Pictures - Quiz Yourself

Do you have the power to do whatever you want in a limited government?  Do you have the power to do whatever you want in an unlimited government?

Students sometimes have a difficult time with pronouns - particularly the pronoun "you."  Students (and others when writing informally) use this word to indicate various pronouns...  For instance, you can mean me, or them.  So, students sometimes say - incorrectly - that in an unlimited government, you have unlimited power.

This is only true if the you in that statement refers to the government.

The citizens living in an unlimited government definitely do NOT have unlimited power.

In class, we also traded pictures.  We tried to figure out which government was being portrayed, quizzing each other.  Some were easy, some were not.  How well the students did depended both on how well the pictures were drawn - both artistically, and accurately - as well as whether or not the student looking at the picture new the answer.

Here are some examples, (Click the pictures to enlarge them):

The first quiz comes from Jana Fisher:

The second quiz comes from Eliut Ramirez:

If you want the extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Then, take the two quizzes.  (You may use your chart.)  Discuss the pictures from one of the quizzes with an adult.  Explain to them why each picture is a good representation of that type of government.  Have the adult sign your paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Government Pictures

Bellwork question: Which type of government typically has a higher standard of living for its citizens, a dictatorship, or a democracy?  Defend your answer.

As always, we had some great answers.  Some students misread the question and answered dictatorship, because the dictator has so much money.  Of course, I was asking about the citizens, so democracy was the correct answer.

A democracy cares about the people, because it's a government made up of people.  Because dictators often use fear to stay in power, they do not care about the people in the same way as a democracy.  So, the citizens in a democracy typically have a higher standard of living.

Students are working on government pictures.  If you need a copy of the paper, you can download it HERE.  (You may have to change it a little bit after downloading.  Mediafire sometimes messes with my documents.  Just delete the excess lines.  ...You'll see what I mean.)

Yes, they are homework.  Finish them if you didn't finish them in class.

If you want the extra credit today, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Then, on a scrap piece of paper, draw a quick picture representing one of the government types.  (Don't spend much time on it...)  Show it to the adult you read the blog with and see if they can guess what type of government it is.  (They can use the chart, it's on yesterday's blog.)  Then, have them sign it.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Don't forget the homework.

...Also, don't forget the homework...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Friend of a friend of a friend

It is crazy the amount of freedoms we take for granted in this country.

I had an interesting lunch on Saturday.  Parents, adults, etc...  if you'd like, you may ask my students about it.  Students, please don't comment about it on here.  You can feel free to share with your parents what I shared with you.

If you were absent, just ask me about my crazy lunch when you get back.

We're discussing types of governments, in case you were wondering.

I'm including a picture of the finished version of the chart we're filling out.  If you don't have it completed, complete it.  Seriously, it'd be a good idea.

If you want the extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Then, on a sheet of scrap paper, write 2 thoughts they have about my lunch story.  Tell me which part captivates you the most.

Put it in the extra credit tray tomorrow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Oh Snap. It's the Weekend

I am tired.  What a week, huh?

First of all, to my thousands of loyal readers out there: hi.

Second, lets talk about class.

Today we discussed the Mrs. Higley's science project: The Consumer Challenge.  Students were supposed to explain to me what it was about.  I seriously, didn't know.  I only knew it involved guys walking around with nail-polish on for a couple of days.

They were supposed to tell me what it had to do with science - you know, why Mrs. Higley gave the assignment in the first place.  And then, they had to explain to me why I was so stoked to find one in the trash can. 

*Side note* - I try to keep in contact with all the other teachers - what they're doing, how it relates to what I'm doing, etc... but there's just so little time.  I saw a Consumer Challenge in the trash and thought, "man, that's exactly what we've been studying in here...  So, I dug it out of the trash and checked it out.  Then I thought, it probably wasn't a good idea to be rooting around my trash can - what with all the dirty tissues in there and what not...  But, well... you can't win them all...  *end side note*

So, the students had to figure out why the CONSUMER challenge applied to social studies.  ...Yes, we just finished up our unit on the economy.

If you want the extra credit, read the blog and discuss it with an adult.  On a sheet of paper, write down what your parents thought of your report card.  Have them sign it.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Here's something else you could do for fun.  Look up Syria online, and tell me what's going on there.  Maybe post a link in the comments.  Maybe I'll give you extra credit for that as well.  I don't know.  That's a lot of extra credit, don't you think?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Testing Power

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Maybe you've heard that before.  In here, we're discussing unlimited governments, and what happens when someone has too much power.

A large portion of the hour was taken up by going over the tests though.  Good times.

We'll finish that up tomorrow, and then we'll get into governments in earnest.

If you want the extra credit for reading this blog with an adult, write down two sentences telling me their thoughts on that quote.  Then have them sign it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rule of Law

Maybe it's been said before, but no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, let us join together and give thanks that the yard signs will be gone, and the political commercials are over.  Now we can get back to being annoyed by that Geico pig.

The lesson today was on freedom of speech and rule of law.  We'll be introducing governments soon.  Indeed, I guess we already have...  We discussed the role of authority in our lives: to keep us safe and to get stuff done.

As a teacher, I have a responsibility to make sure my students are safe.  I also have a responsibility to teach.  As parents and care takers, we have a responsibility to keep our children safe, and provide for them.  The government has a responsibility to keep its citizens safe, and to maintain the infrastructure, and economy of the nation, etc...

Rule of law = everyone must follow the law, no matter who they are or what they do.

Limited Government = a government with limited power

Unlimited Government = a government with unlimited power

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing this blog, read it and discuss it with an adult.  Then write two sentences about our discussion of what would happen if students and teachers had the same level of authority.  Have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Moment Is Upon Us

This is the moment 57% of America has been waiting for!  I say 57%, because that's the percentage of eligible voters who voted in the last presidential election.  And it's the highest since the 1960s.  The last mid-term election turnout was 38%.  ...Yep...

Why is voter turnout so low?  As a teacher, I'm wondering if we're doing a bad job of teaching civic responsibility to our students in general.  I mean, we all understand responsibility - and I understand that people are busy, they don't care, they want to avoid conflict, they're not registered or didn't research the candidates... but what does that say about our nation?  I think it says we have better things to do than care.  (By the way, that list was compiled from some of the reasons students gave.)

Really, if we want a government of the people, the people have to partake in that government.

We discussed Australia's compulsory voting laws.  I'm not saying that we should force people to vote, or that we should try to force people to care - but there has to be a way to engage all of our citizens.

I asked the students if they thought we should make voting mandatory in the United States.  Overwhelmingly, they said no.  They said it would take away our freedom.  You know, I think I agree with them.  But isn't that the way of all laws?  You give a little freedom to gain the greater freedom?  We can't shout "fire" in a theater, because it might cause a stampede - injuring or killing others - which would take away their freedom.  We've given the government a lot more power under the Patriot Act in order to ensure our freedom and safety from the attacks on others.

We also voted today.  It went really well.  Students registered a couple weeks ago.  Today, if they didn't have their school ID, they were turned away.  I think we're going to find out who won at the end of the day.

Finally, here are a couple videos for you to watch if you want.  One explains the electoral college.  The other one explains... well... it doesn't explain anything.  It's just a song.

(Students, if you want the extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  When you're done write 3 sentences from the discussion on a piece of paper and have the adult sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.)

And the other one:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vote for Robamaney

Well, the election is tomorrow...  (In case you're unaware...)  We spent the day discussing the role of government, the candidates, the electoral college, and an issue or two.

I tried to be as accurate as possible when discussing the issues, and give the candidates own rationale for why they are in favor or oppose the issue.

*All of you reading this don't realize that I just left my class for 35 minutes to go cover another class... because of that, I'm cutting my post short again.*

To get the extra credit today, choose 2 issues on the candidates site and read over them:

Gov. Romney

President Obama

Then, discuss them with an adult.  Write down which two issues you looked at, and what you think about the stances the candidates are taking.  Have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper, and turn it in tomorrow.

Friday, November 2, 2012


It's the end of the quarter here folks.  That means that I'm working on grades, so it will be another short post.  Students today voted in a mock election.  We haven't really focused on the election too much this year; it's sometimes unfortunate how much stock is put into the ISTEP.

The students also finished up the essay portions of their test.  I will have them all graded by Monday.  We'll pass them out and go over them on Tuesday.

Have a great weekend.  I know I will.  In between grading essays and working on my Master's Degree, I get to go to the Michigan State/Nebraska football game.  Go team, go!

No extra credit today.  I'll post some on Monday.  I promise.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How'd You Do?

To get the extra credit tonight, check your test grade on STI.  Discuss how you did with whoever you're discussing the blog with.

Then, discuss the essay questions.  Tell your parents which ones you answered, and why.

To get the extra credit, write your parent's response to the grade you got on the test.  Have them sign it.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.