Tag Archives: teach different

Pre-writing activity for AP gov Argument Essay FRQ: Executive Orders

Here’s an idea for how to combine a good classroom conversation with the writing of an argumentative essay FRQ on executive orders.

(The conversation method and example shown here come from Teach Different.)


  1. Tell students to submit answers to this Google form 2-3 days before the conversation. On the form students analyze a quote from John Adams: Power can never be trusted without a check. They write the claim Adams is making and then explore the counterclaim to the quote by referencing their personal experiences and how these experiences affirm or contradict what Adams is saying. They then answer an essential question which provokes them to take a stand: Should we trust people with power? This activity fills their heads with ideas to talk about.
  2. Review the Google spreadsheet of student responses.
  3. Have the conversation (any format works- online, hybrid, face-to-face). Students can talk about any part they want (claim, counterclaim or EQ). Your role is to guide and push the conversation along. I like to highlight interesting remarks right on the spreadsheet so I can bring them up if the conversation stalls. It could last anywhere from 15 minutes to an entire period. Totally flexible.

4. Hand out the argumentative essay FRQ on Executive Orders

By having this conversation before the writing activity, you are getting the students to think about power as it relates to their own personal experiences and you are giving them valuable skill practice making claims and counterclaims. This positions them for success when they write about power in the context of executive orders and checks and balances.

Do you use any other pre-writing activities with this FRQ?

Other posts you may like:

Sample prompts for the argument essay FRQ

AP Government Test Prep in the Age of Coronavirus

Make meaningful SEL conversations a ROUTINE during remote learning

“Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it.”

I’m trying out a routine this fall called “Conversation Monday“. It’s my attempt to get students thinking and talking about things that matter in life, above and beyond the curriculum. It’s what we all need. This idea is inspired by SEL curriculum I helped develop for Teach Different.

Starting with a famous quote like this one from Einstein, students have a conversation about the claim and counterclaim to the quote by referencing their personal experiences and how these experiences affirm or contradict what Einstein is saying. They also answer an essential question which provokes them to take a stand.

That’s it. It’s the marriage of curiosity, critical thinking and the expression of social-emotional intelligence— all fueled by students’ shared personal experiences. This is true SEL learning.

Here’s the routine

  1. Have students fill out this Google form to organize their thinking before the conversation. Edit the form as you wish and email it or post it for your students. (If you aren’t logged into a Gmail account, you might have to request access to the form)
  2. Review the Google spreadsheet of student responses that is automatically created. As you’re having the conversation, use the students’ prepared remarks as prompts to draw out their personal experiences.
  3. Evaluate using this rubric. (You could also have them answer the essential question after the conversation.)

If you try this, tell me how it goes and share sample student responses!

If you want more of these conversations, email me at dmfsocrates@gmail.com and I’ll send you other ones to keep the momentum.

Good luck!

Other posts you may like:

Socrates: “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”

Essential questions and the power of storytelling

“Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of men’s desires, but by the removal of desire.” Epictetus

EpicSeems counter-intuitive to me.

But maybe I’m missing something.

Inspired by stoic philosopher Epictetus, I worked through the 3-Step conversation technique from Teach Different to create an essential question for a US history unit on imperialism.

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