The beginning of the school year is an important time for establishing expectations and forming relationships, both teacher-student and student-student. In my district, we teach government and civics and AP® U.S. Government and Politics to sophomores, so I used to spend a good bit of time convincing 15 year olds that government was relevant to their daily lives. Over the past few years, I find that I spend less and less time convincing students that our content is important and more and more time supporting student thinking and problem solving and encouraging positive and respectful interactions among students. Building a positive and encouraging classroom culture is always important, but it is becoming more and more imperative in AP® U.S. Government and Politics given the current state of our politics and the increasingly politicized nature of our content. We have to be willing to spend the time at the beginning of the year to build that positive culture to ensure that every student feels safe to participate and that their participation is valued by both teachers and students alike.


This lesson plan is great for establishing expectations regarding group work and thinking critically, as well as encouraging students to evolve in their thinking as they learn more about a topic and solve problems within their group. I use this lesson on the second day of class, but it would be useful at any time during the year to support the aforementioned skills. You could also swap out the data for something that is more relevant to the unit you are teaching. The data analysis piece also supports the skills on the quantitative analysis FRQ and it's never too early to build those writing skills!




Paula Franklin teaches AP® US Government and Politics at West High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has been teaching the course for nine years and has served as an AP® Reader, table leader, and early table leader at the AP® US Government and Politics Reading over the past five years. She has a B.A. in Political Science and an M.S. in Theory and Practice in Teacher Education from the University of Tennessee, and an Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. Paula is a 2017 Milken Educator, a Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes Fellow, an AP® US Government and Politics Mentor, and a member of the iCivics Educator Network.