By Gina Kennedy

By Gina Kennedy

Even Santa Claus Has A Financial Planner! Personal Finance Holiday Math Activity

Now that personal finance math standards have been added to our math curriculum, I thought why not mix the holidays into our financial literacy fun!  My students have learned how to calculate net and gross income by subtracting deductions, create budgets with fixed and variable expenses and determine which investment plan is most suitable to them.

With that knowledge, my students were told that they would become financial planners for a holiday character.  I only allowed one student to become the financial planner for Santa Claus and we brainstormed a list of other holiday characters that would need financial planning as well. The list of holiday characters we brainstormed is included with the product.  

After they determined who their first client would be, they were assigned to develop a financial plan for their client which included determining their gross and net income by creating deductions on their paycheck.  We had to be creative on the gross salary; for example, Rudolph might make $30,000 a year as head reindeer, but once we created the gross salary; we were able to begin calculating the monthly net income from there.

The students were also asked to create a budget for their client that included their fixed and variable expenses that they might incur.  Last, I asked them to create an investment plan for their client's future.  Once they had planned and calculated all the numbers, they placed their data on poster board, added a decorative touch and prepared to present their plan to their client (or the class for that matter.)

This lesson is available free in my store for a limited time, I've included the link below:

Example of a Financial Plan for Santa Claus that one of my students completed:

Thanksgiving Lessons that Focus on the REAL History of Thanksgiving!

     I can still remember tracing my hand in elementary school and making the most marvelous colorful turkey.  I also have fond memories of the construction paper headbands we constructed and wore the day before Thanksgiving break.  I can remember my teachers talking about the story of Thanksgiving and how the Pilgrims and Native Americans shared an amazing meal and began a friendship that would last many years.
     But looking back, it was clear that we most likely didn't get the whole story and what we were taught was misleading and inaccurate.  
     Many educators today have chosen to sway away from the traditional teachings of the "Thanksgiving Story" and focus on the "being thankful" aspect of the holiday.  They lean more towards Thanksgiving is a time for family and being grateful for all that we have.
     In order to really understand the celebration of Thanksgiving, students would need to have a better understanding of the history of Native Americans in our country including the culture of Wampanoag people and the civilizations that lived in the Plymouth area before the colonists arrived.  
     Most teachers don't want to tread on water so they keep their Thanksgiving lessons simple. I've created one lesson that invites students to take an in depth look at how Native Americans view Thanksgiving in our country.  Students utilize higher level thinking skills as they read several editorials with different viewpoints from Native Americans and Americans from other cultural backgrounds.  Students are introduced to different viewpoints of the traditional Thanksgiving and are asked to answer thought provoking questions to analyze each response.
    With this activity, students will also be asked to determine the meaning of vocabulary words and what context clues were used to determine the meaning.  At the end of the lesson several opinions are given by different people stating their viewpoint as to whether or not the settlers were right or wrong to do what they did. The students respond to each opinion.
     I have used this activity for the past two years and my students have left this lesson with a new understanding of what the traditional Thanksgiving means to different cultures in our country.  Most of my students developed a new type of empathy for the treatment of Native Americans during the time of the original Thanksgiving.
     This resource is available in my store and I've included a link below if you'd like to purchase it:

     In my store I also offer a differentiated menu of Native American research and writing projects that provide an opportunity for students to develop a deeper understanding of the Native American culture.
     This resource is available in my store and I've included a link below if you'd like to purchase it:


The week before Thanksgiving doesn't have to be all humdrum or even "humdrumsticks"! There are plenty of fun, creative Thanksgiving themed educational resources to engage your students in.

Here are a few Thanksgiving Educational Resources from my store:

Do Students Who Make the Most Noise, Receive the Most Attention?

 By Gina Kennedy

      Last weekend I was at a local retailer and I heard someone say in a faint voice, "Ms. Kennedy".  I looked around and I heard the unsure voice repeat my name again.  As educators we know that hearing our name in "teacher form" during our personal time causes a bit of stress as we start to feel as though our cover as a real human being as just been blown and now we need to take on a new professional personality during our "off" hours.  As my mind started to wonder who might be calling my name I turned around and saw a beautiful young lady who had been in my fifth grade classroom eight years ago, Zakiya.  I couldn't remember her name for the life of me and before anything uncomforable blurted out of my mouth, I was extremely elated to hear her say, "It's me Zakiya."  
     Zakiya and I chit chatted about the classes she was taking in high school, her future plans and some of the classmates she had the same year she was in my fifth grade classroom.  For some reason I had no problem remembering the names of a few of her classmates, but as far as Zakiya's name, I had no recollection as all.  Zakiya's parents were born in Kenya and had settled into the New Orleans area when they first moved to the United States and then relocated to the Austin area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for a fresh start.  Zakiya was an extremely sweet girl who had a difficult time making friends because she was so reserved.  I remembered her as a good student who was always eager to please and rarely did anything wrong.   Her parents were amazingly strong individuals and it was apparent that she had inherited their strength.
     There have been a multitude of  times through the years that I've been out and about and experienced the same thing with students from previous years; however, remembering almost three decades of names has always been a challenge.  Some names I had no problem remembering and many I did. If the student was more needy and required day to day redirection, remembering their name over the years seemed quite easy; if the student was more charismatic and full of personality remembering their name didn't seem to be a problem.   However, the quieter students who went about their day to day business and required little intervention apparently didn't place a personal stamp in my memory.  As I thought about why I remember some names and not others; it saddened me to think that there are so many students out there that I taught who followed the rules; did everything they were supposed to do and years down the road I could only remember the names of their counterparts.  I began to think about all of the relationships that I might have missed out on.  I wondered if teachers would remember my child's name from year's past.
     In classrooms today many students go unnoticed for doing the right thing, making the right choices, and doing what is socially correct.  Teachers are told to develop relationships with all their students; but especially with those students who continue to make the wrong choices in order to turn those behaviors around.  How difficult it must be to be a student in today's world in over-sized classrooms full classmates who are on an endless mission to have the attention of others?
     While working next door to several different classroom teachers through the years it was quite apparent which students were receiving the most attention without stepping foot in their classroom.  I've read several articles lately where teachers report that they spend almost 25% of their day redirecting students who choose inappropriate behaviors.
     There will be instances in anyone's career in education in which something that was said by a coworker, administrator or student resonates for years on end.  Many years ago at a parent meeting I had a mother say this to me in regards to  her daughter, "I know that she is not going to be the best that you will have this year, but she is the best part of me, please treat her as if she is your best even if you don't think she is."  Words like that are not easily forgotten.
     Years ago, I set one standard for myself as an educator: treat every student as I'd like my child to be treated and do everything in my classroom just as I'd like to see things done in my child's classroom.  As a single mother in Dallas I worked long hours and had little time to be active in my son's school, I went on blind faith that his teachers would treat him with the respect and kindness that he deserved and they would see the beautiful unique qualities that I knew he possessed.
     Teachers need to remember that parents are trusting them to treat their child with the same daily compassion, attentiveness and diligence as they do all of the students in their classroom.  In an ideal world we wouldn't remember only those that spoke loudly in our classrooms; but also those who chose to "speak softly and carry big sticks".  
     Educators today should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do I know at least one thing that is special and noteworthy about all of my students?
  • Have I reached out to all of my students today?
  • Can I remember something unique or special that every student in my classroom did today?
  • Has my management of inappropriate behaviors prevented me from allowing those students with good behaviors to shine?
  • Would I want my child to be a student in my classroom?