Moving to PBL is a challenging (but worthy) task for teachers

Changing the way we teach is hard. At times, almost overwhelmingly hard. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was invited to sit in with a terrific group of New Richmond, Wisconsin, teachers who are using my book (Beat Boredom) for a book study. The 20 teachers in the book study are meeting for…

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Let’s stop teaching like it’s 1899

Have you seen the picture? You know, the sepia-toned one with all of the kids sitting in desks in straight rows, representing American public schools 100 years ago? Or the newer version, the stock photo that got many of us riled up at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos? Because no, of course we don’t teach like…

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Let’s get real about financial literacy

  11% of 18- to 25-year-olds have more than 10 checking account overdrafts per year. 40% of Americans spend more than they earn. Nearly 20% of African-American and Latino households are “unbanked” — meaning they’re not part of the formal financial system in this country.   Are you surprised by these stats (from The Unbanking…

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For students, doing beats listening

A few weeks ago, I wrote about launching my experiment with “no lecture” AP Macroeconomics this spring. I should note — I didn’t start this experiment because my students were performing poorly. 61 of my 65 students passed the AP test last year, and nearly all of them were freshmen. It was a pretty successful…

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Teamwork: Annoying AND essential

Should high school students work in teams — or solo? When I was a student, we did about 90 percent of our work alone. With the exception of lab work in science and the occasional English group project, we were expected to learn independently, so we would be prepared for individual success later. Back then,…

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First, don’t embarrass anyone

One of my former students, now a sophomore, visited the other day and reminisced about last year’s econ class. It was a hard class for him, but he pulled through with a B-. Out of the blue, he said: “I wasn’t afraid of you.”  I was a little taken aback. “What do you mean?” I…

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Letting go of lecture

AP Macroeconomics is the most traditional class I teach. Still too teacher-directed, still too organized around lecture-practice-homework. I know better — yes, I’ve written an entire book on active learning strategies — but it’s been hard to let go. Macro is a difficult subject, and it’s a lot of content for high school kids to…

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Not giving up on homework yet

When I first started teaching in 1994, assigning homework was a no-brainer. It was part of the Madeline Hunter model — “independent practice” — and part of preparing high school students for independent learning in college. It’s also how I was taught. In high school in the ’80s, I spent hours each night doing math…

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Forgetting is part of our nature

You didn’t tell us to read that chapter. I didn’t know there was a test today! I was supposed to take out the garbage? How often do we share an important piece of information with our students — or children or colleagues or friends, for that matter — and find the next day, they’ve completely…

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Can’t we be just a little bit funny?

  In the past few weeks, I’ve been reviewing textbooks and educational videos for a couple of different companies. Sounds fun, right? Not really. The biggest shortcoming of most of these materials is that they aren’t funny. At all. You won’t even crack a smile looking at them. They’re so completely devoid of humor that…

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