Since our high-stakes testing was completed, I am having the hardest time convincing our students that we are, in fact, still in school. It's been much warmer in the past few weeks, which has contributed to our kids' idea that "school's out for summer." Several of the other teachers are still trying to get their curriculum covered before the end of the year, but for the first time, I was able to teach eveything I am required to teach before we began testing. After giving some thought to what I should teach them now that I've taught it all, I decided to let my students guide me towards one of two options: (1) go back and practice learned skills that are part of our course of study or (2) move on to concepts not on our course of study.
As a math journal entry a couple of weeks ago, I had my students write
about what math topics they would like to spend some time on. I got a few requests to go back and do some reteaching of topics my kids thought they needed more practice with (graphing for my eighth graders and proportions for my seventh graders). After revisiting those concepts, we moved on to what the majority of my students requested: "eight grade stuff" for my seventh graders and "money" for my eighth graders.
The seventh graders are tackling multi-step equations, which I could pretty much teach in my sleep at this point, but my eighth graders have started a unit on personal finance, a first for me.
Since I've never taught personal finance (and in fact, I'm still learning some things myself), I'm drawing heavily from what other teachers have done and using Money Math: Lessons For Life, a curriculum supplement developed by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and backed by the US Treasury. So far, the kids seem really interesting and are more motivated to learn than I've seen them in a while. I think it helps that personal finance somehow doesn't seem as "math-y" (their word) to them, and I feel good knowing that all of my kids can draw real-life benefits from these lessons (unlike, say, the lessons on set notation).
Thus far, we've investigated the differences between simple and compound interest and the benefits of saving and investing. Next week, my students will complete a project that teaches them how to stay within budget constraints as they (pretend to) wallpaper my classroom. We'll finish up by creating a monthly budget and adjusting it to account for some real-life dilemmas (unexpected medical bills, broken-down cars, maybe even an unplanned pregnancy).
If things continue to go well, I'm planning to make Personal Finance my standard end-of-the-eight-grade-year unit. Even though some of my kids are a little young to fully grasp the importance of these skills, I have other students who will be turning seventeen over the summer and will likely not return to school next fall. As sad as that makes me, I want to send them off with some knowledge of the real world and having practiced skills they can use immediately.