This year, as teachers gear up for the start of a new school year, they may be spending more hours than usual planning for the upcoming semester. In addition to the matter-of-course prep, time-consuming in and of itself, K-12 educators in just about every state will have to find a way to meet the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
The new CCSS were designed to offer a framework for what students are expected to learn, and to be "robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers." Teaching to the CCSS requires teachers and educators to think and plan with a multi-disciplinary approach to fit these, along with state and district requirements, into each day.
The CCSS are divided into just two categories, English Language Arts and Mathematics, but they emphasize a well-rounded education beyond those two subjects, offering the opportunity to teach an array of subjects while meeting the standards. In English and reading classes, for example, CCSS focuses on including more history, arts and science, with less of the traditional emphasis on fiction.
Lessons in personal finance and economics lend themselves particularly well to this kind of integration. With financial issues dominating today's news, economics and personal finance take on a relevance and immediacy with students, while also encouraging the types of critical thinking skills that apply to all aspects of their lives and that are at the heart of the CCSS. Lessons in personal finance and economics go hand in hand with CCSS' purpose of positioning students to compete successfully in the global economy.
The good news is, financial literacy resources are already in place for teachers to use. Like Athens and Sparta -- Imagine the Possibilities, from the Council for Economic Education's Focus: Middle School World History curriculum. In this lesson, students learn about the economic concepts of scarcity, choice and opportunity cost while incorporating the important historical and sociological differences between Athens and Sparta. This provides a broader context for these early Greek cities' differences while increasing students' understanding of these important concepts in a real world context.
And literature can be used to teach key economic concepts; children's classic The Island of the Blue Dolphin tells the story of Karana, an Indian girl stranded alone on an island for 18 years. With a scarcity of resources, she must conserve and choose carefully between them in order to survive, employing decision-making skills that are also applicable a modern economic context.
Both of these lessons not only correlate to CCSS standards in ELA/Literacy and Mathematics, but also state financial and economic literacy standards. And to make it easier for teachers to find these resources, CEE offers a free Common Core Alignment Tool that correlates hundreds of lessons -- many of them free -- to CCSS. All lessons use simulations, games and discussions to give students an applied, hands-on experience.
Resources like these are going to prove essential to helping students master the skills required in the CCSS. Every year, the workload for teachers piles higher and higher, so it's important to provide educators with a way to address these mounting expectations. Education through the lens of financial literacy is a great way to incorporate the competencies in the CCSS -- plus it's a great model for teaching other subjects. And there's no better way to help students succeed than by supporting our teachers with the tools they need.