8th – Thesis Creation on Immigration

It has been a long journey for our 8th graders and their study of immigration patterns to the United States; comparing the early 1900’s trends to today.  Students are now working on answering the question of comparing how immigrants were treated in the 1900’s compared to today.  We worked on citation of sources, creating a thesis, and soon; how to create an introductory paragraph of an essay.


Ask your student their opinion on immigration and how people were treated and I am sure you will get non-stop answers!

7th – Classroom Economy, Health Care

Some of our students are in trouble.  They have massive health care bills pilling up and some just don’t have the means to afford to pay for those bills.  One student even came up to me and said she would not pay for her medical bills because she could not afford it whereas another student asked what would happen if she did not pay her bills.  All of this information transitioned us into our next area of focus: health care.


Students spent a good deal of time in class learning the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.  This conversation led to many other conversations around health care, especially about health care coverage for those less wealthy.  We then discussed current health care laws in this country, broaching the topic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the newer American Health Care Act.  We wanted to figure out what health care coverage looked like for millions of Americans and why.


Certainly feel free to discuss with your child at any point about the fairness and responsibility of others as it relates to health care in our country.  Get those conversations started.



7th – Classroom Economy; Evictions, Health issues, and Financial Crimes

What a tough day for our class!  After about a month of participating in our classroom economy, the IRS finally came to town to audit the books.  Each student has been recording income and expenses for the last month on their own spread sheet.  When the IRS came to audit, they noticed a few discrepancies.  Some students were reporting more or less income than they actually had, which in Wisconsin is a financial crime.  Those students responsible for financial crimes have been penalized: they earned a financial penalty, as well as jail time (which is just a silent lunch in my room, but there is a chance of early release).

In addition to financial crimes being discovered, some students had a negative balance in their bank account.  They have since become unable to pay their rent at their desks and chairs.  Those students were handed an eviction notice and have but a few days to either pay their overdue balance or to find alternative housing (likely in less desirable areas).

Additionally, we made headway into our next area of focus as it relates to poverty: health and food.  We began reading about health ailments that predominately afflict people living in low income situations; such as hypertension and Type II diabetes (that is not to say people with wealth do not experience these health issues, but research has shown low income populations struggle with these health issues at a higher rate).

Lastly, one of our students faced termination from their employment today.  They had been under-performing their job and were let go from their place of employment.  They are going to receive a small, but fair severance package; giving them some time until they hopefully land on their feet.

Life in class today was tough.  Hopefully we can survive and get past the difficulties.


7th – Classroom Economy, Making Connections

We had a wonderful class yesterday; one in which our talent Shin Shin Khen came in to teach us about poverty in Israel.  Her class was amazing in that it connected to the content and themes we have already studied, and shed light on a country (Israel) we know so much about already, but long to learn more.  She even developed a Candy Land type game.  When students landed on an action spot, they drew a card which represented real-life scenarios related to their health.  From there, they either moved forward or backward.


Every kid walked out of class pumped about the day.  Admittedly, I was a bit jealous.  Thanks Khen.


7th – Classroom Economy, Minimum Wage

Some of my students were still smarting over my actions prior to break (where I gave two students, who were CEO’s of their jobs, raises equal to roughly 300 times the average worker’s pay because in America, that is roughly how much more CEO’s make than average employees).  They demanded that people (the hard working students with not so good jobs) get paid more.


Immediately, my mind raced to the idea of minimum wages.  What is a minimum wage?  Should we have them in class (and our country)?  What should it be?


So we set off on our journey to read about and better understand the minimum wage and how it impacts our society.  Students began reading yesterday the December 9 edition of the New York Times Upfront Magazine.  The article they read is titled “The Teens Fighting For $15 An Hour,” which explores the pro’s and con’s of enacting a higher minimum wage.


Each student has a copy of the magazine so feel free to ask them about their thoughts as it relates to the minimum wage.  Should we have one in our country?  If so, what should it be?

8th – Thesis Creation

We have spent the better part of a month before winter break looking at primary source evidence related to how immigrants were treated when coming to America in the 1900’s.  Students continually analysed those documents and recorded information that would be relevant to that topic.


Since returning from break, we are picking up where we left off.  Now, students are researching primary source evidence as it relates to how immigrants are treated today when coming to America.  Students will analyze documents, record relevant information, and use that to inform their thesis, which will be developed soon thereafter.


Ultimately, students are working on the skill of creating a thesis statement, which is just a fancy way of say “claim, evidence, and reasoning.”  Students are nearing the completion of their research.  Soon, they will develop a claim, answering the driving question of “how were immigrants treated differently in the 1900’s compared to today.”  They will then use the evidence they gathered over a month of researching to support their claim.


Feel free to ask your student how they have come along on this activity thus far.

7th – Classroom Economy, Equal Pay

What an amazing set of conversations over the last two days.  Yesterday, lots of gripes and grievances.  The general complaint was students not getting paid enough, even though they work so hard at their job.  They could not understand why things were so expensive in class, they did not make much money, and everyone else seemed to be making more money than them without doing as much hard work.  It is exhausting being a 7th grader in my class!  From that conversation turned into the very interesting (and for me, controversial) conversation about people who don’t have enough money getting a second job to be able to afford basic living expenses.  The students demanded a change!


This conversation transitioned perfectly into today.  We started class by reading an article about unequal pay in society (basically shedding a light on CEO pay vs. normal worker pay).  From there, I awarded two members of our class with an improved paycheck compared to previous weeks (the average student in my class makes $233 per week.  I gave a raise to two students of $84,000 – which is 360 times more; what the average CEO of a large company makes compared to their employees).  This alone sparked indignation among the rank and file.  From it though were some amazing conversations about unequal pay, our obligation as citizens to each other, and what role those with wealth/the government should have on financial equality.


Even after class, students have been up in arms by the mistakes I have made.  Feel free to share with them some of your stories of working hard without just compensation or when inequality strikes.

7th – Eviction Questioning Prompt

Our work today was focused on how to ask questions and what value of asking lots of questions.  We started class off with a visual prompt.  Students then had to write down all the questions they had.  From there, we shared the questions with classmates and categorized whatever we wanted to know.  We then selected the best questions from our group; allowing us to see which questions were our best one.

visual prompt we used to ask questions

The coolest part of our activity was on average, a student’s 4th question was their best one.  Additionally, it was nice to see/hear students collaborating, talking about a topic we are just getting into, and sharing their ideas in a safe environment.


individual questions being written

questions being sorted into categories

top questions being identified

additional questions being written after discussion

7th – Classroom Economy…Evicted

Unfortunately, we had our first eviction notice placed today in class.  Someone overdrew their account drastically and they are being forced from their seat.

The fortunate part of this is that it transitioned so well into our next area of focus: reading the wonderful book Evicted.  Evicted is a non-fiction book focusing on families in the City of Milwaukee experiencing eviction.  This book sheds light onto many problems people have while living in poverty; which is the types of insights we want to have access to.

We started to read the book today; focusing on just the prologue.  Within that section of the book and throughout, we will focus not just on the impact of poverty, but also the geographic areas the book encompasses so as to better understand what areas poverty impacts and how we do eventually do our part to help the situation.

7th – Classroom Economy…new job

We have a new job opening up soon; that of financial adviser.  This person will help ensure everyone’s checks are up to order so as to help avoid any financial fraud from occurring.  Students interested in the job must answer the basic application questions below:

1. What are your biggest weaknesses?
2. Out of all the other candidates, why should we hire you?
3. Why do you want this job?
4. Why do you want to leave your current job?
5. Tell me how you think other people would describe you.


It has been fascinating reading their answers thus far!  For those that want the job and complete the basic application process, their is an in-person interview process on Friday during lunch.  Our Chief Executive and Judge will be hosting the interview of our candidates, asking them a series of questions relates to their skills, interests, and how they envision success in their new position.


What a thrill to be involved with this process!