Author: Jacqui

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

15+ Websites to Teach Financial Literacy

Financial Literacy Month is recognized annually in Canada in November,[1] and National Financial Literacy Month was recognized in the United States in April 2004,[2] in an effort to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach citizens how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.

When kids read that America’s $28 trillion+ debt is accepted by many experts as ‘business as usual’, I wonder how that news will affect their future personal finance decisions. Do they understand the consequences of unbalanced budgets? The quandary of infinite wants vs. finite dollars? Or do they think money grows on some fiscal tree that always blooms? The good news is: Half of the nation’s schools require a financial literacy course. The bad new is: Only half require a financial literacy course.

If your school doesn’t teach a course about personal economics, there are many online sites that address the topic as mini-lessons. Some are narrative; others games. Here are fifteen I like. See if one suits you (check here for updates on links):

  1. Banzai–financial literacy (free) online program
  2. Bartleby Economics Q&A
  3. BizKids–games to teach business and finance
  4. Budget Challenge–for HS and college
  5. Cash Crunch–games for youngers and olders (HS and college)
  6. Financial Football–as fun as it sounds
  7. Financial Literacy Quizzes–in a variety of financial topics for high schoolers
  8. Gen I Revolution
  9. H&R Block Budget Challenge game
  10. Life on Minimum Wage (a game–through TpT but free)
  11. Living Wage–what’s it cost to survive–by state, cities, counties
  12. Own vs Rent Calculator–plug in the numbers; see the results
  13. Personal Finance for MS
  14. Personal Finance Lab–stock market game
  15. Practical Money Skills
  16. Spent

Curriculum

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Resources to Teach Taxes

As a passionate Economics major in college (which grew into an MBA), I find Econ at the root of much of the world around us. It starts with counting coins in first and second grade and grows up to a peek into NASDAQ and other adult subjects in middle school.

In the US, tax day is April 15th. Here are some good websites to discuss what is probably a popular topic in families:

Taxes

  1. BrainPOP | Taxes
  2. A history of US taxes
  3. Taxes–from Crash Course Economics
  4. Where does your money go? — lesson plan from PBS

After April 15th, there are great ways to teach about economics, financial literacy, and prepare students for managing their lives fiscally once they’re launched into the world:

  1. Bankaroo–a virtual bank for kids
  2. ECommerce Links for Kids–a collection of ecommerce links for kids
  3. Motion Math–make your own pizza and make money
  4. Rate-zip–how to teach financial topics to K-12
  5. Teaching kids economics and finance–lots of varied resources
  6. Time is Money–this Chrome add-on converts prices on a webpage to hours worked

More on teaching economics and finance

15 Websites to Teach Financial Literacy

April is Financial Literacy Month

Lots of websites for economics and finance

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5 Ways Ed-tech Can Enhance Social Studies Lessons

As is my habit, I spend a lot of time exploring new ways to teach old subjects. Lately, I’ve concentrated on social studies. I chatted with my PLN, browsed forums where I knew efriends hung out, and taught a slew of online grad school classes to teachers who always are willing the discuss their newest favorite social studies tech tool. I picked everyone’s brains and came up with a list of five webtools you definitely must look at:

Classcraft

Some call Classcraft a classroom management tool but really, it’s more about injecting excitement in your teaching and touching on the important social-emotional learning that sometimes gets forgotten. Here’s a great quote I heard in a sponsored video:

“It might sound crazy to you and me but the kids love it.” — Sarah Murphy

The more I dug into Classcraft, the more I understood why Sarah Murphy said what she did. It’s pretty simple. Kids have a passion for learning and playing games. You incorporate that into your passion for teaching by gamifying your middle- or high school classroom. When students and teachers work together, toward the same goals, everyone wins.

The free (fee for Premium) Classcraft doesn’t teach standards or curricula for academic subjects. Instead, it focuses on core SEL (social-emotional learning) skills fundamental to the fullness of the education journey. That means it’s easy to apply to your social studies class. It uses tools already popular in your school — Google Classroom or MS Office 365, a browser, and an app (iOS or Android). You set up different tasks and customize rules to fit class needs.  Students work individually or in teams, becoming accountable for their behavior to themselves and their teams. When they achieve goals and/or abide by rules, they earn stuff they want (that you’ve organized beforehand). You can blend Classcraft activities into your existing lesson plans or use those available on the website. Robust analytics (included in the Premium package) allow you to track student behavior over time and compare it with the class average.

Also available: a timer, a class volume meter, and parent features — great basic tools for every class.

ClassroomScreen

ClassroomScreen is probably one of the most robust, versatile, and useful classroom tools to cross education’s “free” landscape in a long time. It will make your social studies lessons run smoother, make them more responsive to needs, and keep students focused on the lesson. When you click on ClassroomScreen.com, it opens a blank screen that is a digital board ready to be displayed on your class smart screen. You personalize it with the most popular tools desired in classroom, all lined up at the bottom of the screen. These include preferred language (you pick from about a hundred languages), customized background, sound level, QR code (for the classroom screen; students scan it in and it displays on any mobile device — isn’t that cool?), a whiteboard, a text tool, a start-stop traffic light, a timer, a clock, a random name picker (for teams), an exit poll, Work Symbols (four options for collaborative student work — work together, ask a neighbor, whisper, and silence), and more.  There’s no download, no login, no registration. Simply click the link and get started.

Commonsense Media calls it:

“…the Swiss Army Knife of the classroom…”

I agree. Here’s a video that decodes this already-simple class tool.

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Random Acts of Kindness Day. How Will You Celebrate?

I’ll never forget the day years ago when I stood in a donut shop, half asleep, bed head, with a monster sugar deficit. As I got to the front of the line, the man before me said, “I’ll pay for hers, too.” I didn’t know him. We hadn’t commiserated over how Krispy Kreme was always crowded. I’d just slogged onward, waiting my turn, eager to taste my apple fritter. His simple act of paying for my donut made me feel special, brought a smile to my face all day, and lightened the load of whatever happened after that.

That was one of my first Random Acts of Kindness, the feel-good event started in 1995. Now, February 17th in America is called the Random Acts of Kindness Day (September 1st in New Zealand) and is when everyone encourages acts of kindness without any expectation of consideration in return.

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” — Mark Twain

What is Random Acts of Kindness Day?

February 17th — Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Day — is twenty-four hours when anyone who chooses to participate agrees to perform unexpected acts of kindness to pay it forward for that time they need a little bit of unexpected care.  We flaunt our altruistic side by doing something nice for another without a thought for the consequences.

Why is Kindness important?

Why kindness is important seems obvious but really, it isn’t. I can name a whole lot of people who have succeeded despite being, well, jerks so why should we think there’s merit in a gentler approach?

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Math Word Problems

Looking for a more interesting way to teach math in these unusual times? Here are a variety of sites that share Math Word Problems–the real-world way to teach what some see as a daunting subject:

  1. Expii Solve–math word problems and puzzles, lots of them
  2. IXL Word Problems–by grade
  3. Math and Logic Problems
  4. Math Pickle–puzzles, games, and mini competitions
  5. Prodigy Math Word Problems–about 120
  6. Thinking Blocks–free (app)
  7. Word problems–type them in, Wolfram/Alpha provides the answer and the how-to. Amazing.
  8. Word Problems from Math Playground
  9. Would You Rather–more like a justification for decisions using math

Click for more online math resources.

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Why Kindergartners Must Learn Technology

Thank you so much to Norah Colvin for inviting me as a guest on her wonderful education blog, Norah Colvin. Norah covers so many great topics, I’ve been a long-time subscriber, always coming away a little smarter and up-to-date on teaching our youngest learners. A topic dear to me–and one I get lots of questions about–is teaching Kindergartners to Tech. I’m reposting this article for my readers.

Teachers: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments.

When I started teaching technology almost twenty years ago, I taught K-8, three classes in each grade every week. I was buried under lesson plans, grades, and parent meetings. I remember suggesting to my principal that he ease my schedule by eliminating tech for kindergartners. They wouldn’t miss anything if I started them in first or second grade would they?

And back then, that was true. Even a decade ago, technology was an extra class in student schedules where now, it is a life skill. Today, my teacher colleagues tell me kids arrive at school already comfortable in the use of iPads and smartphones, doing movements like swipe, squeeze, and flick better than most adults. Many teachers, even administrators, use that as the reason why technology training isn’t needed for them, arguing, “They’re digital natives.”

In fact, because they arrive at school thinking they know what they’re doing on a digital device is exactly why teaching them technology, starting in kindergarten, is critical.

I see a few of you shaking your heads. Does your school think kindergartners don’t need tech classes? Or, if you’re a remote learning school, do your youngers struggle with tech because they didn’t start to learn it early enough (like Kindergarten)? Let me give you four good reasons why Kindergartners need tech lessons–whether you teach remotely or in person. These will arm you the next time you have to defend a strategy you know works.

They arrive with bad habits

Parents love encouraging their kids to play with iPads and iPhones but it’s not their job to teach them how to do it right. And I’m fine with that. I’ll do it but I need to warn everyone: Bad tech habits are much (much) easier to break if I catch them in kindergarten than third grade. Here are a few that these digital natives arrive to my kindergarten classes with:

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#WorldReadAloudDay February 5

On Feb. 5, 2020, World Read Aloud Day celebrates the pure joy of oral reading with kids of all ages. Created by LitWorld, past years have found over 1 million people in 100 countries joining together to enjoy the power and wonder of reading aloud in groups or individually, at school or home, and discovering what it means to listen to a story told through the voice of another. For many, this is a rare opportunity to hear the passion of a well-told story and fall in love with tales where hearing them reaches listeners on a level nothing else can. Think back to your experiences. You probably sat with an adult, in their lap or curled up in bed. The way they mimicked the voices in the story, built drama, and enthused with you over the story and characters made you want to read more stories like that on your own. This is a favorite activity not just for pre-readers, but beginning and accomplished readers because it’s not about reading the book; it’s about experiencing it through the eyes of a storyteller.

Somehow, as lives for both the adults and children have gotten busier, as digital devices have taken over, as parents turned to TVs or iPads to babysit kids while they do something else, we’ve gotten away from this most companionable of activities. World Read Aloud Day is an opportunity to get back to it.

Importance of reading aloud

There is no more powerful way to develop a love of reading than being read to. Hearing pronunciations, decoding words in context, experiencing the development and completion of a well-plotted story as though you were there are reason enough to read aloud but there’s more. Reading in general and reading aloud specifically is positively correlated to literacy and success in school. It builds foundational learning skills, introduces and reinforces vocabulary, and provides a joyful activity that’s mostly free, cooperative, and often collaborative. Did you know reading aloud:

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100th Day of School — Make it about Learning

Before becoming a teacher, I didn’t understand why the 100th day of school was a big deal. At first, I thought it had to do with finding something exciting about the dreariness of post-Christmas January but when I counted school days from Labor Day to the hundred-day mark (skipping weekends, two weeks at Christmas and a week at Thanksgiving), that put me in the second week of February. Some colleagues say the 100th Day is a rich teachable moment that revolves around math. One efriend told me it occurs about the time when most kindergarten curricula cover how to count to 100. Others tell me it’s simply a milestone, important to young children and passe to olders.

How to celebrate

Turns out, the reason doesn’t really matter because celebrating isn’t a problem with kids. They love parties. So I decided to accommodate the 100th Day fever by wrapping it in learning. Here are thirteen activities I like that blend learning into a celebration of the 100th Day of School:

Geography

As a class, come up with two locations in each state, to total 100. One will be oriented around geography and one around history (such as “Kansas became a state January 29, 1861”). Include a brief description and a picture and then share the collection with parents and schoolmates in the class newsletter or another vehicle.

History

Research what happened the hundredth year of your home country’s existence.  What was the country like a hundred years ago? What caused it to change? Who was president? What has been invented since then? Divide the class into groups so the project can be completed in one class period. Then, have everyone copy their information to a digital magazine (like you can create in Canva or Adobe) and share it with everyone.

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