The 24 Hour Personal Finance Course Kick-Off...At Eastside Prep (East Palo Alto, CA)

Feb 02, 2016
Lesson Idea, Checking Accounts, Teaching Strategies, Schools In News, Featured Teachers, Tips for Teachers

I feel incredibly fortunate to get the opportunity to teach Personal Finance at Eastside Collegiate Prep in East Palo Alto in the winter and summer. Each course is 6 weeks long (about 24 hours of content) with the winter focused on high school seniors and the summer on incoming freshmen. It has been particularly gratifying to watch the personal growth and development that occurs as freshmen mature into seniors. The NGPF team and Anna Takahashi, the college counselor at Eastside, decided this year to “productize” this six week course (for seniors) and make it available to others interested in what an abbreviated course might look like. We will also be incorporating teacher notes to describe what happened in the classroom. I also look forward to reflecting on my own performance in the classroom as a means of improving my craft.  Expect to see this available on the Gooru platform by May.

Oh, and I prefer not to talk to myself here so feel free to comment or ping me with any ideas or thoughts (or just let me know that you are reading:)  Thanks!

So, without further adieu, teaching notes for…Day 1 of the 24 hour Personal Finance course: Intro to Personal Finance and the Basics of Checking:

Background and Set-Up


  • Walk through five slide presentation listed above in Background and Set-Up
  • Students set up accounts on Gooru (we will be loading these lessons on Gooru at the completion of the course in April) so they can complete the 25 question pre-test.
    • Process went remarkably smoothly with steps for students to follow on Gooru listed on two slides; may want to consolidate since students move at different paces (thanks to Anna for putting them on one page now!)
    • Emphasize to students that they should NOT go back and review answers. Once they answer a question, click on “Save and Next.” When finished, do NOT go back to review your answers.
    • Almost all students done within 30 minutes.
    • Went to Teacher dashboard for quiz results: High score was 64; Once students completed quiz they see their results (lots of groans) and can see correct answers.
      • I hope to provide summary stats soon
  • For those who finished the pre-test early, I sent students to the NGPF Simulation List (which has over 15 interactive exercises) at and let them select a simulation to play and complete this Simulation worksheet (Google Doc).
    • Can continue this Simulation list when students finish early; they enjoyed playing games and by letting them select from a list of 15, you can see where students’ interests lie.
    • Be sure to remind students that the links in the NGPF Simulation List will take them to blog posts and they need to find the appropriate link to the simulation IN THE BLOG POST itself.
    • Be sure to collect these next class to see where their interests are.  
  • Kicked off the Checking unit with a Poll Everywhere. Sent students here: where the question they responded to was: “What type of bank account do you currently have?”
    • Remind students NOT to clear response after they have answered.
    • Results (which automatically show up as students respond):
      • 1/3 no bank account
      • 1/3 checking and savings
      • 29% savings account ONLY
      • 6% checking account ONLY
  • Handed out Student Activity Guides (see link above in Background and Set-Up)
  • The data from the Poll Everywhere results became great springboard for students to share their experiences with checking accounts. We had a great discussion that detailed how they used their accounts:
    • Asked students who answered “no bank account” to raise their hands and then asked questions:
      • Why not?
      • Do you plan on getting a bank account before you go to college?
      • Other questions that I didn’t ask but should have:
        • Do you trust banks? Intimidated by them?
        • How do you think that you might use a bank account?
        • If you have any savings, where do you keep it?
    • Asked students who answered “checking and saving” to raise their hands and asked:
      • When did you set up your account?
        • One student provided elaborate description of her visit to the bank and all the features of a checking account that she learned about.
      • How do you use your account?
      • When you use your debit card, what happens to your balance?
      • How do you use saving account compared to checking account?
      • Have you ever overdrawn your account? What happened?
        • Opportunity to discuss pros and cons of overdraft protection
      • What tools (i.e. text alerts) do you use to manage your account?
      • Do you know the fees that your bank charges for your account? How can you find out?
    • Didn’t circle back to those with only a Savings or Checking account (come up with questions to engage them)
  • Whole class watched video (The Hub of All Transactions) which I projected on screen (only played about first 2.5 minutes of video):
    • Stopped video with the excellent chart showing all the ways that customers can access their checking accounts.  Used this as a jumping off point for a discussion about how students access their money in checking accounts:
      • Which way(s) are most common for them to access their money?
      • What didn’t they use (checks)? Why?
      • ATM vs, debit card: pros and cons of each were discussed
      • Student described how they used mobile app to deposit check
      • Should have spent more time talking about how they might use online banking, where the bank pays vendors directly.
  • Skipped resources 5-7 in lesson (this will make sense if you look at Lesson Plan above (in Background and Set-Up).
    • Given how high the energy and participation levels were, I instead relied on students who had experiences to explain prepaid cards and person-to-person payments.  Discussed pros/cons.
  • Handed out Pick a Payment Method Activity (#8 and link in Background and Set-Up); whatever not completed will be discussed in class on Wednesday.
  • Mid-course decision to use classroom discussion rather than reading articles for pros/cons of various payment types.
  • Get more students involved in discussion (call on those not raising hands)
  • Be prepared with other questions to ask at various points of the lesson
  • More thorough discussion of pros/cons of various payment types: use Elmo and Student Activity Guide


Notes from 2nd and 8th period from Anna Takahashi:

  • I changed the login instructions slide so that everything was on one slide (Tim’s note: Thanks!).
  • Similar to yesterday, logging into Gooru was seamless. I do hope they followed instructions and used their First/Last as usernames!
  • There was a lot of interest in the simulations so after the last person finished the pre-test, I gave students 6-8 minutes to play around with different simulations. Even with explicit instructions that students will need to click through the blog to reach the actual website with the simulation, there was still confusion. In general, there was a lot of interest in these simulations – it’s also interesting to see which simulations attracted which students. I collected the handouts so you can go through and tally the popularity of the different simulations (a number of students clicked on the retirement simulation, but access to the webcam was required so they weren’t able to play).
  • I followed Tim’s lead from yesterday using the Hub video as a springboard to talk about the different pieces of checking accounts. Students shared their experiences. We went through the different payment methods (adding a quick explanation of prepaid cards and person-to-person). We didn’t start the activity in either period so we will lead with that on Thursday.
  • Overall, a lot of enthusiasm and interest and good participation. Like Tim, I’ll be cold calling more students.

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.