Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Politics round up

Happy Election Day!! Or as I like to call it in Iowa, happy election campaigns reprieve day! As a former politics major, this day was always important to me. Being informed and being active in our own government is something I try to advocate for in all of my classes.

Today's post is going to look a bit different than my typical ones. I'm going to do a round up of some of my favorite government and political resources and tools. Knowing most of my students don't come in with much background in politics, government or civics, my favorites balance content with context.


  • iCivics.org--iCivics is a non-profit started by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner to teach students about the political process, usually through games. It covers drafting bills, the Supreme Court arguments, the Bill of Rights, immigration, the race to the White House and more. Free accounts are easy to create and the games are both informative and fun to play. Teaching resources are also available.
  • Constitution Center--If you can get to the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, go! It's amazing. In the meantime, check out the interactive Constitution on their website. Their educational resources are located here. They also have a goldmine of Constitution Day activities.
  • Our Documents--An actual government site that hosts great quality scans of 100 milestone documents important to American history. They also have text transcripts for each document. 
  • DocsTeach--Aimed more at history teachers, this site can also be useful when trying to find primary documents on political topics. It looks at how to engage students in historical documents.


  • OpenCongress--A non-partisan website that bring together information about bills in Congress and Congress members. It provides funding and spending data as well.
  • GovTrack--Another non-partisan site that provides summaries of bills, tracks the likelihood of passage as well as provides rationale for why it may or may not succeed. Sometimes a little slow to update, the overall content makes up for that delay.
  • Congress.gov--The legislative process videos cover the entire process and rational of how a bill becomes a law. Not quite as entertaining as "SchoolHouse Rock," it does a decent job of covering the content.
  • Countable--Summarizes both sides of popular bills in Congress. It doesn't have search function if you're looking for a particular bill.

Supreme Court:

  • ScotusBlog--SCOTUSblog does the best, accessible and easily readable coverage of Supreme Court cases I have seen. They not only link to all the relevant court documents for each case, but they include their own coverage like argument previews and recaps, as well as opinion recaps explaining the future implications of the decision. While many SCOTUS websites have a legalese tone, SCOTUSblog has an entire staff position dedicated to writing "In Plain English" articles for their site, breaking down important cases without all the legal jargon. Coverage goes back to 2007.
  • Oyez--This site provides links to the Supreme Court audio in a much easier to find format than the Supreme Court website itself.
  • CourtListener--This allows users to search ALL of the federal courts opinions and cases in one box. This is particularly helpful when trying to find the opinion of a case before it hits the Supreme Court. The highest state court decisions are also available.

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