"Do you invest, Ms. Fiore?" Chris asked me as I stopped by his desk to check in with him during our math time. Before you jump to conclusions, let me assure you this was not a lesson on playing the stock market or how to safeguard one's future, rather Chris' question stemmed from a simple request for the kids to write me a letter telling me everything they know about money. I had given them the prompt and they were responding to it in their math journals. And in this case, Chris was curious about whether his knowledge of investing was something I knew about too.
It's a delicate balance when thinking about how to draw out information from a classroom of kids. Do I need only a few students to respond or do I wish to hear from all of them? If it's the latter I seek, then I have to think of a way that allows each of them an opportunity to share, all while keeping the average attention span of seven and eight year olds in mind. I have found that writing a journal response is a great option when I do want to hear from everyone. Through words and/or pictures I am able to gain insight into how a child is thinking, what they are thinking and in some cases how they are thinking about their thinking. This information is extremely valuable and informative for my teaching.
Here are a few sentences I have gleaned from the kid's letters to me about their knowledge of money:
Chris: You can buy stuff. Invest it. You work for it. You need it.
Logan: I wonder why pounds from England are more than dollar bills. I know about the story of how money was invented.
Drew: Did you know money is all over the world?
Nolan: Did you know that there is a 1$ coin? I know that 100 pennies is 1$. There are different sizes of coins.
Mirren: A 100$ bill is valuable to a person. The one dollar bill has the first president, George Washington.
Aria: I do a money app every night. I know that 25¢ + 25¢ = 50¢. Also 50¢ + 50¢ = 100¢
Finn: I cleaned the chicken house for 10 dollars. And I had 4 dollars. Now I have 14 dollars.
Bella: I love money. I collect it too.
Mick: You can use money for ATMs. You put money in and you get money. There's even gold bars.
Avalyn: Dimes are 10¢. Pennies are 1¢. I find money everywhere.
Jackson: You can basically find money anywhere.
Ellie: I know that 2 pennies is 2¢, and that 5 dollars could be five 1 dollar bills or one 5 dollar bill, and that 4 quarters is a dollar, and my tooth fairy gave me 6 coins that are worth 13 dollars each!
Sterling: I wonder what is a half dollar coin is. I like the 2$ bill. Somewhere they make them.
Chloe: I don't know that much about money. Fifty cents is half a dollar. I want to learn as much as I can. It seems to be really fun.
Sabrina: The bank has 100's of dollars. You can buy food.
Johnny: I know that you can buy things with it.
As you can see, this one writing prompt has given me a huge glimpse into what knowledge the kids already possess, what curiosities they have and what they want to know more about regarding money. I have seen changes over the years in how kids talk about money especially since my days as a child who spent a lot of time rolling coins into paper tubes. I know one day that I might even see someone write about Paypal or Venmo, but for now, their responses will serve as a starting point and guide as we delve into learning more about money this year in second grade.