Games to Teach Financial Literacy


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


Financial Literacy Month is April — just around the corner — and it’s never too early to prepare. Personally, I believe this is a great opportunity to use games in an intentional way to teach students financial literacy skills. Games can be used as a “hook” or anchor activity, as well an instructional activity that is revisited throughout a unit of instruction. A game can help scaffold the learning of important content as well as providing context for application of content. If you really trust the design of the game, it can also be an excellent assessment tool!

Fellow Edutopia member Brian Page (on Twitter @FinEdChat) has long been an advocate for financial literacy education and innovative ways for students to engage in it. He was the 2011 Milken National Educator recipient in Ohio, and co-creator of an EIFLE award-winning financial education game of the year, Awesome Island Game. He’s also a Money magazine “Money Hero”. Brian has a huge database of games that can help teach financial literacy skills to students of all ages. In addition, each game is aligned to commonly accepted personal finance national standards. Although the database is extensive, Brian has selected his favorite games and explained how they might be used intentionally in classroom instruction.

Bite Club
In Bite Club, players manage a “day club” for vampires. Players experience the familiar tension between servicing debt, spending money and saving for the future. By featuring vampires, who live forever, the game highlights the impact of long-term savings over a 45-year span in a 15-round game. The game aims to instill three learning objectives:
Save for retirement
Pay down debt
Manage current consumption

Brian says, “I prefer Bite Club as a game-based learning day alternative, and as an anchor activity. It is clearly the online game of choice of my female students. I recommend the game for high school age students.”

Gen i Revolution
Gen i Revolution was developed for middle school and high school students and is managed by the Council for Economic Education. The game gives students a chance to compete against each other while learning important personal finance skills. It includes fifteen financial rescue missions.

“I believe Gen i Revolution is best for middle school students,” Brian tells us. “The game is accompanied with 21 lessons that correlate with each mission. The lessons add value, but they are not necessary for an engaging and exciting learning experience.”

Financial Football
Financial Football is a fast-paced, interactive game that engages students while teaching them money management skills. Teams compete by answering financial questions to earn yardage and score touchdowns. The questions are primarily scenario-based, which is appropriate for the coursework. There are three levels: Rookie (ages 11-14), Pro (ages 14-18), and Hall of Fame (ages 18+). The various levels make it easy to differentiate and provide an avenue for participation by elementary, middle and high school students. Financial Football also has an iPad and an iPhone application.

Brian says, “I prefer to use Financial Football in a tournament format. I provide the game as an optional anchor activity as well. For educators who want correlating lessons, Practical Money Skills provides them here.

In addition to these great games, you can see a list of Brian’s 30 favorite game- and scenario-based learning programs. If you are still unconvinced about using games for financial literacy instruction, or if you need research and data to convince stakeholders, Brian recommends reading D2D‘s research report on how casual financial literacy video games can lead to improvements in financial capability.

Yes, You Can Teach and Assess Creativity!


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >



A recent blog by Grant Wiggins affirmed what I have long believed about creativity: it is a 21st-century skill we can teach and assess. Creativity fosters deeper learning, builds confidence and creates a student ready for college and career.

However, many teachers don’t know how to implement the teaching and assessment of creativity in their classrooms. While we may have the tools to teach and assess content, creativity is another matter, especially if we want to be intentional about teaching it as a 21st-century skill. In a PBL project, some teachers focus on just one skill, while others focus on many. Here are some strategies educators can use tomorrow to get started teaching and assessing creativity — just one more highly necessary skill in that 21st-century toolkit.

Quality Indicators
If you and your students don’t unpack and understand what creativity looks like, then teaching and assessing it will be very difficult. Here are some quality indicators to look at:

Synthesize ideas in original and surprising ways.
Ask new questions to build upon an idea.
Brainstorm multiple ideas and solutions to problems.
Communicate ideas in new and innovative ways.

Now, these are just some of the quality indicators you might create or use. Don’t forget to make them age- or grade-level appropriate so that students can understand the targets and how they are being assessed. You might create a rubric from these quality indicators or keep them as overall goals for the students to work on throughout the year. Wiggins mentioned this rubric as a start. The February 2013 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership also has an article that includes a rubric.

Activities Targeted to Quality Indicators
We have all used activities for students to brainstorm solutions to problems, be artistically creative and more. Now is a chance to be very intentional with these exercises. In addition to just “doing” them, pick the activities that specifically work on quality indicators of creativity. They can occur at varying stages of a PBL project, whenever the timing is appropriate to where students are in the PBL process.

Voice and Choice in Products
We know that students can show knowledge in different ways. In a PBL project, for example, public audience is an essential component, and students must present their work. PBL teachers offer voice and choice in how they spend their time and what they create. This is a great opportunity to foster the creative process. Students can collaborate on how to best present their information, what to include, and perhaps even a target audience. Coupled with the other strategies mentioned in this piece, voice and choice can build creative thinkers.

Model Thinking Skills
There are some specific thinking skills that creative people use. You will often find these in the quality indicators of creative people and embedded in the language. One example is synthesis. In synthesis, people combine sources, ideas, etc. to solve problems, address an issue or make something new. Being able to synthesize well can be a challenge. If we want our students to do well with this creative skill, we need to model the thinking of synthesis in a low-stakes, scaffolding activity that they can translate into a more academic pursuit. I find that the more I help students understand and practice these thinking skills, the better prepared they are to be creative! These mini-lessons and activities occur within the context of a PBL project to support student learning.

Reflection and Goal Setting
Whether you are using S.M.A.R.T Goals or short reflective activities, this is a critical component of teaching and assessing creativity. Students need time to look at the quality indicators and reflect on how they are doing when it comes to mastery. They can also set goals on one or more these quality indicators and how they will go about doing it. This reflective process and metacognition also helps build critical thinking skills, and should be used throughout the process of a PBL project, curriculum unit or marking period. Let’s provide opportunities for students to think critically about creativity.

If we want our students to be creative, we must give them not only the opportunity to do so, but also the finite skills and targets to be able to do so. When you combine these strategies, creativity can become part of the culture of a PBL project and classroom in general. You may or may not “grade” creativity, but you can certainly assess it.

How do you intentionally teach and assess creativity in your classroom?

Presentation Assessment Best Practices


This post originally appeared on Success At The Core blog, an organization that focuses on strengthening leadership teams’ ability to define quality instruction and advocate for it in their schools, as well as offering teachers practical methods to implement a shared vision of quality instruction in their classrooms. View Original >


Student Presentation

As you unpack the Common Core Standards, one trend you will notice is that of Presentation. A valuable 21st century skill, we want our students to leave our classrooms with effective presentation skills. In addition, the Common Core literacy strategies are to be used across content areas. It is every teacher’s job to support students in learning valuable presentation skills, and assessing their work.

However, not every teacher has truly taught assessed presentations before. Many teachers use presentations as assessment tools, but often the focus is on the content and not the skills of presenting, or the assessment is muddled where both the skills and content are “lumped” into a category. As all teachers engage in teaching and assessing presentations, they must adhere to some best practices.

Effective Rubrics – As mentioned in this video, rubrics must be used throughout the process of teaching and assessing presentations. Students must use rubrics to internalize the language, and to self- and peer-assess their progress. These rubrics must be designed so that students understand what is expected of them and thus must be student-friendly in terms of language. Learning targets should be dis-aggregated so that science content, for example, is not confused with presentation skills.

Quality Summative Assessment – One of my favorite types of summative presentations is the Ignite presentation. In it, students have 10-15 slides that automatically transition after one minute or so. The slides have very few words, and are usually a series of images. Because of this, students must be well prepared to speak and appropriately pace their ideas, as they cannot rely on the PowerPoint slides as a “crutch.” This can lead to a quality presentation that avoids the monotone a traditional PowerPoint presentation can become.

Ongoing Formative Assessment – One shot is not enough: students must be given multiple opportunities to revise and reflect on their presentation skills. If students are to be successful at the Ignite presentation above, they must receive targeted feedback on many pieces of their presentations. Choice of images, speaking tone, pacing, volume; all of these must be formatively assessed multiple times before it is time for the summative presentation. This will ensure that the work students do is manageable and purposeful. Students learn to rely on the process of learning and avoid the fear of failing.

Obviously, there are further best practices teachers must adhere to when it comes to teaching 21st century skills, such as scaffolding and modeling. These best practices can also be transferred to other learning targets. Presentation skills must be taught and assessed to ensure career and college readiness for our students.

School Safety: Ideas for PBL Projects


This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >



Creating a safe and supportive learning environment is a critical to a whole child approach to education. Usually when we reflect and work on implementing the Whole Child Tenets in our schools, we forgot one critical component in making them manifest: the students. Students are as important as actors in creating a safe school as teachers. They can be actors in helping to create a safe learning environment, and project-based learning (PBL) projects can be a way in which we harness that service and target learning in the content areas. Here are some project ideas I have done, or have seen other school educators create.

School Norms: Often we create norms for students, or co-create them at the beginning of the year. However, you can take this up a notch and have a class or even a grade level create school norms where they address the needs of all stakeholders, including other students, parents, teachers, and even community members. Here students engage in in-depth research for an authentic reason, and engage in revision and reflection to make sure the norms created meet the needs of the entire school community.

Guns And Schools: This is obviously a controversial topic, but what better way to engage students than controversy? Through debatable driving questions, students create written products as well as digital media projects to examine the issue. They conduct in-depth research to support their ideas and present the information to a city council or the superintendent to ensure authenticity. Students also rely on community experts like police officers and lawmakers to make sure their work is accurate and well-developed.

Safety Audit: Instead of focusing on safety in just one project, allow students to evaluate the safety of the school and make recommendations. Students can create surveys, analyze data, and also research important related information. This prevents “death by presentation,” where all the presentations are the same and therefore bore the audience. In addition, it allows for student voice in topics that interest them and in their opinions and recommendations.

Digital Citizenship: School safety isn’t just at the brick-and-mortar facility, it’s also in the digital world. Even if you do not teach at a blended or online school, students need the skills to be safe online, and this type of PBL project can help them do that. Students create awareness around the issue or even give recommendations to other students about their “digital footprints.” Students have access to choice in products that show their learning, but more importantly have an authentic audience to receive it. From websites to letters, there is an opportunity for students to help each other and their community create safe digital learning spaces.

There are many more school safety projects out there, but these are just some of my favorites. Feel free to take these ideas and use them in the classroom. Now is the time for students to be active in not only examining the topic of safety, but creating safe schools themselves. PBL can be the key to that work!

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