Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Charlie Award

Whether you are a new psychology teacher or a seasoned veteran - the name "Charlie Blair-Broeker" is synonymous with high school psychology and the deadline to apply for the coveted APA TOPSS Charles T. Blair-Broeker Excellence in Teaching Awards is coming up soon (February 15th, 2017). The award features a cash prize of $500, a Worth Publishers credit of $500, and a free 2018 TOPSS membership.

The award was named so in 2015 after Blair-Broeker retired from Cedar Falls High School (Iowa) where Blair-Broeker taught psychology since 1978. Charlie's accomplishments are long and large - including being an AP reader, table leader, rubric master, and Question Leader, a College Board consultant, a past TOPSS chair, an NCSS presenter at various conferences, a winner of many teaching awards, and an all around good-guy.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, hat and indoor
Charlie in retirement. 

I caught up with Charlie, on the eve of the awards deadline and post tropical vacation, to ask him a few questions about his teaching, his retirement, and his legacy.

AR: If you had to sum up your career in six words, what would you say?
CBB: I had fun almost every day.

AR: What have you been doing in your retirement?
CBB: Well, I still teach a little at the community college and I'm still doing the AP reading and summer institutes. The biggest difference [between working and retirement] is the freedom to travel, read, sleep in, and go to the store when its not busy.

AR: How did it feel to have the APA TOPSS teaching award named after you?
CBB: The teaching award was a total surprise. I felt awkwardness and appreciation in equal parts.
It is enormously gratifying that people who know me well think so much of my efforts, but I know many excellent teachers have not had the recognition that I have been so fortunate to receive.

AR: What does it take to be a good teacher?
CBB: It would be nice if there was a single trait that made a good teacher, but I don't think there is. Among the most important are knowledge of content, passion for both subject matter and the educational process, the ability to motivate and inspire students, a sense of humor, and tolerance for bureaucratic BS.

And that, people, is why we all love Charlie. 👊

If you're a great psychology teacher, or know one, consider nominating them or apply for this award.

----Posted by Amy Ramponi

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Hey, everyone! Happy Valentine's Day, Groundhog Day, and Fettuccine Alfredo Day. (That is a real thing, by the way.)

There is A LOT of information out from the APA/TOPSS (Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools) for high school teachers this month. Here's a run down:

2016 APA/Clark University workshop participants and presenters.

Clark Workshop for High School Teachers  Clark Applications are being accepted NOW for the June 28-30th conference at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Not only is this conference AMAZING, it is FREE to those selected to participate and will feature two spectacular high school psychology teachers, Dr. Joe Swope and Dr. Nancy Diehl. Application information can be found here. I have personally attended the Clark Workshop and it was a great opportunity to learn, network, and talk Psychology. ANYONE can apply and IB, general psychology, and AP Psychology teachers are eligible. If you've been teaching two years or twenty - anyone is welcome! Deadline is March 15th.

High School Outreach Grants - want to start a Psychology Club? An AP Psychology Review Day in your region? Is your state woefully lacking in professional development for high school psych teachers - START. A. TOPSS. GROUP. Seriously, there is $$$MONEY$$$ available for you to do this in your region, state, or city! $5000 is available through the generosity of Dr. Lee Gurel. Deadline is April 15th. 

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Standing room only at the Fox Valley Review Day! 

Topss Essay Competition for Students:  Your students can win $250 and serious bragging rights in this essay competition on aging. FOUR winners will be selected. Deadline is March 15th.

APA Convention Pre-Convention Workshop: The APA Convention (in Washington D.C. this year) is a big deal - even BIGGER is the Pre-Convention Workshop that TOPSS hosts! The speakers are usually AMAZING and it is a great way to get into convention-mode.

Have a spectacular February, everyone!

Peace & Vitality,

----Amy Ramponi

Thursday, February 2, 2017

David Myers on Neurocore - let's think about the science

This post from the wonderful David Myers is a good read, and a potentially important one. If you are following the debate about the confirmation hearings for the nominee for Education Secretary, you may already know about her connections to Neurocore. Dr. Myers does a great job, I think, discussing what it might mean for a nominee to have connections to a therapuetic practice that makes claims without evidence.


posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Stress and Music Assignment

Hi All,

A couple of you noticed that I had a regular psychology assignment embedded as an option in my Emotions/Stress Hyperdoc. I forgot I had put that in there. I believe that music can be a wonderful way to connect with students. We share and they share. Of course, we all experience stress. At the end of this assignment, I ask the students to share other songs that make the stress connection.

My regular psychology class is project-based and I wanted to show my kids that love and sex are not the only things singers croon and rap about.

So here is the link to my stress and music assignment:

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, January 23, 2017

FRQ Preparation Activity by Jen Schlicht

Jen Schlicht is a fellow AP Psych teacher in Olathe Kansas as well as a friend of the blog. This past weekend, she shared a method she uses for FRQ preparation with her students. Below is her excellent contribution.

One of my favorite activities to do once my students have quite a few FRQ's under their belt is "Build your own FRQ." I come up with a bunch of really generic scenarios that give them just enough information to build a real prompt. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • your dog gets sprayed by a skunk 
  • possum trapping 
  • babysitting 
  • a surprise party 
  • meeting your celebrity crush 
  • teaching your grandparent how to text 
  • oversleeping on your ACT test date 

I usually put 15 or so in each round. I have a little bucket where I place the scenarios. Then I choose about 50 vocabulary terms and put those on separate slips of paper. Examples would be:

  • amygdala 
  • avoidance-avoidance conflict 
  • encoding 
  • punishment 
  • Big Five trait of openness 
  • fundamental attribution error 

or just include terms that maybe your students need more practice with.

The beauty of this is that it takes very little prep time and you can tailor it to your classroom needs.

My students are in families of 5-6 students so each family is divided into 2 groups and would draw a scenario and then 3-5 terms. In some cases I have them draw one more term than they would be using so they have one term they can toss out. I have them write a prompt and then a rubric to define and apply their terms.

Then each group shares their prompt and we answer come up with our responses as a class. I love this activity because it provides them an opportunity to think critically about how to apply terms to a prompt and allows for quite a bit of laughter because they get pretty creative with their prompts!

Thank you Jen!

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hyperdoc for Emotions/Stress Unit

Hi All,

Previously, I told you I would post the hyperdoc I created for the Emotions/Stress portion of the Motivation and Emotions unit. I finally have a chance to do that. FYI, this doc is created for my textbook Myers for AP, 2nd edition. Myers does not include everything and has some materials that I find to be superfluous. Careful reading will show where I have added and omitted questions.

As always, I appreciate feedback and constructive criticism.

Happy emotions!

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Ultimate Portable Brain Model

Back in the day, that is, the early 90s, I learned from Professor Suzi Shapiro, of Indiana University East, about her Ultimate Portable Brain Model. Somewhere, in the intervening years between then and now, I lost the idea. Fortunately, Dr. Ali Mattu had discovered it and created a wonderful video to show our students how to use it. Simply put, it is a fantastic learning tool. So check this out and share it with your students!!!

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Louis Schmier: A Student-Centered Teacher

Have you ever heard of Louis Schmier? He was a history professor whose "Random Thoughts" I used to read on some listservs. Newer teachers would likely not have heard about him. I have found him to be an incredibly valuable resource in my teaching.
He was an old-time hard/demanding lecturer/teacher/professor. Then his epiphany came in the form of a health issue. As he discusses, he changed his approach to teaching. His views have been influential in my approach to students. It's the person first, then the content. He asks many questions about his teaching and reflects on these questions, along with conversations he has with colleagues and students. If you are a person who values students and are a risk-taker, you will enjoy his writing. He took chances on both his teaching and on the humanity of his students. 

You can find his complete collection here:

I find going back and reading one or two (takes less than 5 minutes) helps me recenter when I get away from my preferred approach to teaching.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Blended Learning: Caveats, Cautions, and Adjustments

The Move From Sage to Guide

I currently teach at a school (Mountain House High School, California) that has implemented a 1 to 1 method, with Chromebooks being the tool of choice. We are a Google (Google Apps for Education-GAFE) campus--all students have a school-issued Gmail account which enables access to Google Drive, Docs, Spreadsheets, Drawing, Slides, etc. This basic suite of tools alone can make your life so much easier. There are some shortcuts and tips to using these tools which Alice Keeler has demonstrated. Be sure to follow her on twitter and/or on her email list. I will make another post about things to definitely do and things to avoid while using the GAFE tools.

One of the biggest things to become accustomed to in the blended learning environment is no longer being the person at the front of the room with something to do all the time. You will experience some cognitive dissonance. They key is how you will resolve that internal conflict. How will you overcome the old habits and expectations that have become engrained in your schemas about the education process?

Over the years, I had created many daily lessons that involved me at the heart of the classroom asking questions, being the primary reviewer, going at my pace, doing what I wanted/needed to do. What students did I leave behind? What advanced students did I slow down in order to keep them in lock step with my calendar and pacing? How can I use the tools at my disposal to expose them to a variety of psychological content? How can I use those extras to enhance primary content without losing the primary content? How can I leverage what I've learned from other teachers

As adults, when we are learners, we are busy, occupied with reading or solving problems or thinking of ways to address various issues we encounter. We may be deep in thought one moment, though ready to converse or ask a question at another. When we allow students to take the time to learn in class, there can be periods of silence where there is nothing immediately for teachers to do. This can make many of us very uncomfortable. This could be down time or sit at the computer time, but I see that as a waste. In my opinion that "down time" can be incredibly valuable.

The teacher can walk around to:

  • make oneself available for questions as they arise
  • make sure students are on-task
  • ask questions of students--have them explain what they are reading or HOW they are solving a problem, depending on the work being done by students
  • identify students who complete the work early or quickly and ask to check out their work and question what they have learned--often, students overlook key feature/aspects of an assignment when it is done too quickly
  • get their ten thousand steps in
  • identify classroom relationships and interactions

When a teacher is freed up to allow the students to work, something potentially magical can happen. Rather than 30+ teenagers looking bored, falling asleep, or using their phones, we treat them like adults, let them know what they are responsible for and allow them to live up to expectations.

One Tough Change

Let go of your ego. Many of us who have been teaching in the traditional style see ourselves as an actor, entertainer, laugh maker, steward of knowledge, and more. We need to change from being the focal point of the classroom to being "only" another important part of the classroom. This switch is more difficult for some than others. Instead of preparing lectures to be delivered at our pace, we will be creating learning experiences that students can follow at their own pace.

You must reexamine what you want students to get out of your classroom and your subject matter. Do you want them to "know things" or do you want them to be able to "do things"? What is more important, that students know about Ghrelin and Peptide YY and be able to recall the difference in a multiple choice question? Or is it more important that they learn about the hormonal processes about hunger and take that knowledge and be able to use it while explaining eating disorders to a wider audience in a student-led TED-style talk/presentation? Goals may change with blended learning.


If you are anything like me, you will love getting out from under the literal mountain of paperwork that comes with traditional teaching.

  • It will take time to become accustomed to not having handouts all the time
  • Get used to asking students for technology help
  • Learn to be comfortable with the potential chaos and the unknown
  • As my principal, Ben Fobert says, "embrace the ambiguity"
  • The more you get used to the internet as your best friend, the happier you will become
  • The more you get used to the internet, the more frustrating it will become if it does not work
  • The internet will not always work
  • I repeat, the internet will not always work
  • As with other methods, become knowledgeable enough to have backup plans in case your primary ones do not work

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hyperdocs: A Key Part of Blended Learning

My first experience with the internet goes back to roughly 1992 and my TA Eric. I purchased a 14400 baud modem from him to use with my Macintosh Classic. He told me about bulletin boards online and I had recently learned about this strange new thing called AOL. They had been sending 3.5 inch floppy disks to my apartment. Later it was CDs. I must have received at least 50 of those over the years. Thanks to that student, I began learning about the internet, email, TCP/IP, modems, handshakes, FTP, and so much more. He became my teacher. For those of you not old enough to remember this, 1992 was before the World Wide Web had been "invented." The Web was born in 1989, but the general public was not using it until 1994 or later. At that time, many teachers were wondering how to use their Apple IIe or Apple IIgs, the one with a color screen and a mouse.

I digress.

Frontloading Content

If done well, the most work/effort will go into creating learning opportunities that allow students to think and grow at their own pace. Yes, we usually want them to grow so we can assess at the same time, especially true for those of us who teach Advanced Placement courses. At this early point, I like to create study guides that hit upon key ideas.

  • I review the text
  • I create a google doc as a study guide; questions/terms in the left column--student responses in the right column--this format makes grading so much easier than traditionally formatted documents.
  • I may add video links with questions
  • I may add memes and ask the kids to interpret them within the reading
  • I may add songs/lyrics for the students to interpret within the current unit
  • I definitely add multiple choice questions for practice AND short answer for FRQ practice
  • FRQ practice is done in class
In class, I ask the students to be done with a particular reading by certain dates so we can discuss and do activities/demonstrations in class that can extend the book learning. My first hyperdoc is for motivation for my AP Psych course using Myers for AP 2nd Ed. (the online version). Any feedback and suggestions are quite welcome. I will be the first to admit that my first attempt falls short of the goals in the image above.
I must confess that I had not heard the term "Hyperdoc" until this most recent winter break when I was doing some research and purchasing. That said, I've created various kinds of hyperdocs without realizing it before.

Creating hyperdocs, planning projects, and creating anything resembling blended learning will require a great deal of planning, perhaps even more so than lecture since we want to ask questions and elicit particular kinds of thinking and responses. After developing the initial lessons for your units, you can make changes each semester, or even class period to class period--there are no master copies to fix--just edit your primary document!

The Internet

Become very familiar with resources on the internet. They will be your best friend. You will need to give up the control I gave up when showing videos to class. I would pause the videos, asking questions, pointing out subtleties, making arcane (and sometimes irrelevant) references to ideas the students would never need or remember. I would go for the easy laugh. I learned I can still be a good teacher, perhaps even a better, without showing off some obscure thing I happened to recall in the moment.

Creativity in assessment will allow you to use assessments that can be evaluated without relying on multiple choice exams

posted by Chuck Schallhorn