The first time I taught Economics (5 years ago, wow!), I was living at home saving up for my wedding. I had an abundance of student loans and so did my husband-to-be, who was just finishing up grad school. I knew nothing about mortgages, retirement, health insurance, or the wonder of meal delivery services. But I knew all about saving money for a big future expenses, being thrifty with my spending, and, of course, student loans.
So I told my students what I knew. It wasn’t fancy. I just did a Q & A session about my areas of expertise. I even told my students that I didn’t know much about those other topics. And you know what? They still learned. They asked really good questions and we researched the answers to questions I didn’t know as a class.
Here’s what I learned: you don’t have to be an expert in everything to help students. You just need to share what you know, have an open heart, and be honest when you’re not sure.
Last week, I gave ya’ll (can Californians say “ya’ll”? real question.) 4 nitty gritty steps towards implementing personal finance lessons in the Economics secondary classroom. Today, I’m going to give you some guidelines for creating mini-lessons to supplement your students’ personal finance projects or lessons. Check out my personal finance project here if you’d like an organized, engaging, research-based project laid out for you. I also want to encourage you to add your own flair to any project or lesson you implement!
Implementing Mini Lessons
Last week I laid out the steps for creating your personal finance project and/or lessons so let’s fast forward to adding in mini lessons! I use these periodically throughout the semester to give students more insight into certain topics they’re researching for their project that week. These can be simple or they can be detailed and structured. Mini lessons are 20-30 minute bonus lessons you give on certain topics before students start researching or working on their projects/budgets.
Here are some super low prep mini lesson formats that I like:
- Simple Q & A: You can write a topic like “housing” on the board and have students simply raise their hands to ask any questions they have about that topic. To get their minds thinking, you can have them write questions on post-its and then you can answer those questions in front of the class.
- Think Alouds: This is a new concept to me that was part of PD at my school this year (yes, we actually have quality PD, thank the Lord Jesus). Basically you verbalize how you go about doing something to students so hey can learn how experts think. So I plug my laptop into the projector, open a browser, and show students how I go about searching for housing. I verbalize my thought process and why some houses/apartments are desirable over others. I explain how “internet access” is different from “free wifi” because you wouldn’t really know that as a naive teenager. Students can ask questions along the way.
- Before & Afters: I show my students my first budget (in percentages, not real numbers, obviously). Things being as they were, I didn’t have a budget until my first year of teaching. I made A LOT of mistakes and students often giggle at my first attempt at a budget. Then I show them my updated budget (percentages) and we discuss the changes and how these changes helped me pay back loans.
Adding Your Own Flair
Something I really want to emphasize here is that you don’t have to be an expert in everything. It’s okay to give some topics more attention than others. For example, I spend quite a bit of class time talking about repaying student loans and living a minimalist lifestyle while in debt. This is my personal experience and I’m passionate about helping my students see that they can be hopeful about their future finances. I also teach a population of college-bound, low income students so these lessons might not apply to your students. So find out what they need, what you’ve learned, and what you care about. Bring that information into your classroom.
And most of all, be genuine. Be passionate. Be clear. Removing the mist from students’ eyes regarding personal finance can be life-changing and encouraging for them. Don’t make it a boring experience- show them that finances has everything to do with their future. So be your normal engaging teacher self and let personal finance become an area of genuine interest for your students.
Stay tuned for next week’s post, which will cover how get the help you need when it comes to the personal finance topics you know nothing about!