Saturday, August 27, 2011

Financial Education - In the Middle School

I have read numerous blogs debating the most appropriate place for a financial education. Should it be in high school, middle school, or in elementary school? Should it be left to the parents? My answer is: 'All of the Above'. Therefore, I believe the best approach to a great financial education is a collective approach.

My responsibility at Reading Community City Schools is to teach Personal Finance (among other business courses). With that said, I have volunteered my time to help provide curriculum suggestions in the elementary and middle schools. We have also done an inter-disciplinary lesson between the high school and third grade students. You can read more about each of these examples by visiting our student-run financial literacy organization:

I would argue that our school board and administration has embraced the responsibility of a financial education as well as any school in the country. Our school board and administration have time and time again demonstrated their commitment to financial education, beginning with making my stand-alone personal finance course a high school graduation requirement. Our latest commitment is the development of a stand-alone middle school personal finance course. In the past few weeks, I have spent quite a bit of time putting together curriculum for the instructor who has embraced the course with open arms.

I used Jump$tart's national standards to pull together a number of resources to support the curriculum including Bizworld, NEFE, Junior Achievement, and the Dave Ramsey curriculum. I am excited about each of these resources, and most eager for the students to participate in the Council for Economic Education's Gen i Revolution. The online simulation is an ideal tool for concluding a middle school course, just as the Awesome Island Game is. (Note - because it is my game we are going to have the students first experience it with me in the high school).

As I said earlier, appropriate parental involvement is also an important path toward a well-rounded financial education. Fortunately, parents have incredible financial education teaching tools at their disposal. Personally, I prefer MoneyTrail, FamZoo, Family Mint, and Sammy the Rabbit. My favorite financial education author is Dan Kadlec. These are the resources I feel most comfortable recommending to our families to use with their own children, which we will be doing in the upcoming weeks.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thoughts on homework...

I just read a blog by Justin Tarte that George Couros passed on entitled 'Thoughts on Homework' intended to create an open dialogue between teachers. I feel compelled to respond as I put a lot of thought into my students' homework assignments because I hated homework myself. I believe that if you are going to extend, or create learning experiences through homework, there has to be a motivation beyond the grade of the assignment for the student to participate and learn from the assignment.

Next week is our first week back. Early in the week, I will introduce their semester long homework assignment Budget Challenge. This is an online bill-paying simulation that is practical, engaging, competitive, and replicates the responsibility needed to stay on top of bills. Students check their email daily for bills, manage their virtual savings, checking, and retirement accounts, and earn points in a competition against their peers and fellow schools assessing their capability of managing virtual money.

One of my first lessons is goal setting. I use imagery in the activity, a technique highlighted in the article 'Time Travel. The Key to Financial Security' written by Dan Kadlec earlier in the year. As opposed to discussing artificial goals such as graduating, going to college, getting married, etc - - my activity is designed to engage the students into imagining how they want to live their own lives in much greater detail. In this activity, I ask the students to close their eyes, imagine they are 35 years old, and I then guide them through a long series of prompts such as "You are walking into work. What does it look like? What kind of people do you work with? What do you wear to work everyday?" They consider what their home looks like, how long their work hours are, what they can afford to do for fun, etc. The intention is to guide them through every detail of a day in their life in the future that they most desire. Immediately after the exercise, the students write each detail down.

For homework, the students are to draw a picture or find a picture that best illustrates a vision of that life. The next day the picture is checked for completion. In class we learn how to establish short term, intermediate, and long term SMART goals designed to get them to that ideal day at age 35. Finally, I tell the students to take the picture home and put it somewhere in their home where they can see it everyday so they have a picture of what their life goal is, inspiring them everyday to work toward their goals.

These are just two examples of how I use homework. Stacey Roshan introduced me to flipping, which I will use from time to time, and I love the extended learning opportunities created by Khan Academy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Here we go...

Finally, August is here. For me, this means the fun is about to begin. I am ready to apply the fresh ideas from my summer reading into my lessons. I am eager to see the looks on the kids' faces when they experience a lesson that makes a difference to them, especially when it is the product of my summer learning. With that said, I am most excited about watching my students play Awesome Island, and the engaging atmosphere that comes with it.

I have to say that my favorite summer tip came from Stacey Roshan, who uses 'flipping' in her course. There are numerous possibilities that come with finding or creating Khan Academy type videos for your coursework. Downloadable video's for our students provide the opportunity for flipping, anchor activities, differentiated classroom approaches, homework, among other techniques. If you go to the Khan Academy website, you can see for yourself in the Finance Section, as well as the Valuation & Investing Section, the educational videos that are going to be helpful for Personal Finance and Economics students. For those of you who do not teach Finance or Economics, you will be pleased with the videos designed for other content areas such as math, science, and history.

Please share how you made yourself better this summer in the blog response below so you can better others, as I will pass on your learning via this blog and the Awesome_Island Twitter account.