I really enjoy creating infographics using Piktochart.com. My 2014 edition was great fun to make and a good lesson in infographics. I would love to implement these more into my class and have students visually depict geographic data. At first glance, good infographics are very clean, effective in their message, and visually appealing. After some thought and attempts, they are not so easy after all. People get degrees in this stuff! A lesson plan on using infographics requires a vision and even maybe some tutelage from an art teacher. Design and color, combined with information can be beautiful. While I am artistically inclined, I am not formally trained. I am sure that a professional would put me to shame, but here is my best attempt at my second edition of the FRQ and Exam Score infographic. Some features are interactive so accessing from the URL link attached is a bit better for the eye. Piktochart also made a “presentation mode” where you can present sections of an infographic a section at a time which is nice. Unfortunately, they changed the high-resolution saving option to a paid version of Piktochart, which I don’t own.
Another year passed and I feel that I am a better teacher than I was before. After some evaluation, there a few exercises that I feel really help me become better than before. Here is my short list:
- AP Grading in June: This is by far the best professional development that any teacher can get. We work hard, but we also collaborate, shoot ideas across the table, and engage in the nerdiest geography conversations that I can’t get anywhere else. I can’t imagine missing this event and I look forward to it every year. This was the first year that I went to the “meet the test committee” night and I actually really enjoyed it. While I think some people would take this as an opportunity to vent their frustrations, it is good to see the logic behind what makes our course run. One thing that I do wish AP would consider is to create a defined set of guidelines for how to write for an FRQ, LEQ, Short Answer, and DBQ for all of the AP humanity classes. With all of the redesigns going on, there is some ambiguity between a short answer and an FRQ. While a short answer is currently irrelevant for Human Geography, it DOES make a difference for the kids who move from one social science course to the next. A common vernacular is most useful and it is less confusing for teachers and students alike. Hopefully this is something we will see in the future.
- Instructional reports: I read my instructional reports after the AP scores are posted to see my weakest areas in relation to my other colleagues. When we have school meetings, it gives me an opportunity to discuss with the other teachers what they are doing in class, that I am not.
- Teaching Verb Prompts: Now that I am a veteran grader, I am definitely better at giving FRQ instructions. I use my FRQ verb prompt handout that I created after scouring all previous FRQ’s and seeing where students get the most points. When students know how many points they are going to get for a “define” vs. an “explain” question, it can be a mental edge. It is also important for students to know the difference between “describe” and “discuss.” Here is the link to the PDF file: FRQ Writing Command Protocols
- AP HuGe Facebook Group: WHAT A RESOURCE! Not only do I feel this is better than the AP Central website threads, if my students have a question and they want an immediate answer, I post it and can expect a response before the end of class. The other professionals on the site are so knowledgable and helpful. We are all teaching the same thing, but with different resources and it is fascinating to see the creativity that comes from this group. I dropped my personal Facebook page about 4 years ago, and it wasn’t until someone from the reading convinced me to join the group that I made the decision to join back. While I still do not have a personal Facebook page, geography is the only reason that I keep coming back. I believe it is the single best resource outside of the AP grading for professional development.
- Write Test Questions: The more test questions and hypothetical FRQ questions that I create for my students, the better I am at helping my kids know what to expect on “game-day.” I know that there is a lot of upset teachers who find test banks leaked online and there are issues with test security. But cheating has always existed and it will never go away, the best we can do is keep being creative and trying to adapt to the situations we are dealt. After all, we are teachers, I think we are the most flexible, creative, and hard-working group of people on the planet. I know it takes time, but writing my own questions has been one of the most rewarding exercises for my professional growth. A group of teachers started to write a question bank through the Facebook group and is in the form of a Google Doc. Let me know if you would like to contribute. Unless a teacher gives the URL to a student, there is no reason anyone but those who have access should be able to view it.