Creativity and Collaboration in Financial Literacy Courses

Oct 04, 2017
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Guest post from NGPF Fellow, Kayla Bousum of Johnston High School, Iowa:

While grading tests covering paystubs and earnings, I noticed that a large proportion of students were still very confused about the differences between a Form W-2 and a Form W-4. I realized then that everything we were doing—a thorough explanation of the forms, showing them the two forms, and filling out a practice W- 4—was not enough to cement in their minds the differences between these two forms.

That’s when I developed a new Financial Literacy course activity that would require creativity, collaboration, and really deepen their understanding of the W-2 and W-4.

The Assignment
In small groups, I assigned students to write and record a rap, poem, song, or cheer about one of the two forms: W-2 or W-4.

Each rap, poem, song, or cheer had to include all of the following:

  • The purpose of the form
  • When it is filled out
  • Who fills it out
  • Who keeps it
  • How long they keep it

Students were encouraged to make their productions memorable. I play examples from past semesters where the chorus or hook is very repetitive, and explain how that repetition is what will help them remember the differences between a W-2 and W-4.

Bringing the Activity to Life
My school has 1:1 iPads, so students can access GarageBand to create beats, record, and arrange their music. Other students find instrumental music for their favorite popular songs online, then write their own lyrics to go along with music. Students record in a quiet spot in the hall using their iPads, but they can also use their cell phones.

What I love About This
First and foremost, I love seeing the kids get excited about the opportunity to be creative. Let’s be honest—“financial literacy” and “creativity” rarely go hand in hand. Many students appreciate the novel opportunity to show off their creative chops.

But in every group, there are some who despise a creativity “requirement.” Creativity is a skill that’s required in many jobs, and it’s okay for students to feel uncomfortable in the safe environment of my classroom. I also love that students must lean on each other for this activity. I inevitably have a few students who ask to work alone—the answer is always “no.” Part of the challenge of this assignment is working with others, utilizing each person’s talents and skills, and meeting requirements and deadlines when you’re relying on others to do their part.

Singing on Test Day? Fine By Me!
After putting this technique to work, I noticed increased accuracy when tested on these concepts. On test day, I’m always pleased to see a student rapping or singing quietly to themselves as they answer questions about the W-2 and W-4—and that’s also a good sign that they’ll get the questions right!

Unlimited Uses
This activity isn’t confined to the topic of W-2s and W-4s. You can use it for just about any personal finance topic. You decide the requirements and let the students do the rest. It’s an effective—and very fun—way to learn personal finance in the classroom.

About the Author

Laura Matchett

After graduating with an education degree and spending 7 years in an elementary classroom, Laura made the switch to the non-profit world and loves interacting with students, educators and business professionals across the country. She is passionate about all students having access to high quality education and views personal finance education as one way to ‘level the playing field’. When Laura is not locating or creating high quality educational resources, you can find her mountain biking or searching for the best ramen in town!