econclassHere we are. The middle of the year.

The students you had hooked ever since your first week of activities are now starting to feel the grind of the school year. Economics is equipped to be the “dismal science,” and this helps feed everyone’s feelings this time of year. Your fun activities now seem ordinary. You have already done the online quizzes, live trivia, and group projects, used your whiteboards, and assigned those fun YouTube videos for homework. Your class has gotten “used to you.”

 

At this time of year, the weight of the end of the semester is upon everyone. Students are asking more and more about grades, parents too. Now is the perfect time to try something new to give your students and you the little pep you need to push through the end of the year. But what to do? I am glad I asked that question!

 

Ideas for this time of year:

  1. Make it meaningful. Do a project about students’ families. Get students to talk with their families. Whatever topic/unit you are in, assign a conversation/interview with a family member. For example, if you are in the role of government in the microeconomics unit, then create a 10-question interview (carefully) for a student to interview a family member about their thoughts about local government. If you are teaching macroeconomics, maybe you are in a macro policy unit, create the same interview assignment.

Hint: I put at the top of these assignments that a student need not write anything down for the answers to the questions. The assignment is assessed by the reflection question at the end. What I care about is that each student had a meaningful conversation with an adult and reflected on what they had to say. I make sure to put the disclaimer at the top of the assignment in big, bold font.

  1. Make it applicable. Make it about what economics can do in their lives. We teach students a lot about opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is pretty much applicable to any and all units in economics. Ask students to complete a task. For example, you can pick a list of “typical” grocery items (one loaf of bread, a 12-pack of pop, a dozen eggs, a pound of bologna, etc.) and have students look up the items at different stores. Have students compare the totals from each store. Students will reflect on each store and see that prices might vary. However, the real kicker is when they multiply by 52 weeks. The savings become more real as the number is larger. (Another easy task is to have them build a coffee drink from their favorite coffee shop. They have to love this drink. Their favorite. They want to drink it every day. Now, let’s use $3.50 as a price. If a student were to buy that coffee drink every day of the year, that would amount to almost $1,300! What could they do with an extra $1,300 per year? Answer: A LOT!) If students have a job, they can calculate how many hours of work they would need to complete to buy something.
  2. Make it honest. Tell them stories about your life. Some might be shy to share stories about their own lives. I know that I am. As the year goes on, I get more comfortable sharing with classes. Students need to learn about credit. They love to hear about buying your first car. Students love your stories. Give your fans what they want!
  3. Make time for break time. Give your students a break. Go ahead. Every school has different feelings about this. During the pandemic, we came to understand just how important breaks were for students. Take 10 minutes out of class to bolster students’ mental well-being (or, as one of my favorite children’s books tells its readers, “fill up their bucket”). You can decide to take a brain break, debate their favorite milkshake flavor, or just give them the 10 minutes to organize themselves. It is important that this time not be used for screen time. Their brain needs a chance to recharge, even if it is 10 minutes.

 

Good luck and let me know which strategy you tried or your own strategy for this time of year in the comments.