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How-To: Get Started

Getting Students to Take School Seriously Ed Clement

Sometimes I find it really difficult to get my middle school students to take school seriously, particularly when it comes to standardized tests. 

This year I've been trying to compare school learning to earning money. I begin with a discussion about how adults earn money for the work they do and then put some of that money into the bank to pay their electric bill, gas bill, etc. We discuss the consequences of adults not paying bills. Then I compare adult jobs to the students' job of attending school, and I compare bill-paying to test-taking. In order to pay those bills (tests), I tell my students, you must store up enough knowledge, just like adults store money in a bank. If you have not stored up enough knowledge by year's end, you cannot pay the "bills" to get you to the next grade. 

I also like to point out that if an adult drops his or her paycheck and doesn't pick it up, it gets lost, and then he or she will not have the money to pay bills. I then ask my students to look around the room and try to visualize any knowledge that has come to them during class time that they have let fall to the ground to be wasted.

Of all the discussions I've had with my students, I've found that using this idea of comparing a brain to a bank and knowledge to money to pay bills is the most effective. I only have to mention that there are "bills" to be paid or ask if what I just said has fallen to the ground, and my students usually become more attentive to the classroom activity at hand.
Of course there is no magic bullet to ensure student attentiveness, but I find the money/testing analogy to be a very effective tool.


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