pencil paradigm shift

games are great, I'm sure, but I want students to use pencils for things like budgets

I'm going to be honest here.  When I first began integrating pencils into the curriculum, I assumed it would automatically increase motivation.  After all, students constantly complain about chalk dust and every one of them hates cleaning the slates.  I figured they would enjoy pencils and paper simply because we were using pencils and  paper.

At first, I was right.  They would see a shiny new crisp yellow pencil and they were hooked.  However, I ran into a problem real quickly. Most of my students used pencils for drawing and for games or occasionally to send pen pal messages.  Few of them had ever used a pencil to graph a problem or to fill out a budget.  Thus, when we did a financial planning lesson, they complained.  "I thought I would be able to play Tic-Tac-Toe and Hang Man.  Tic-Tac-Toe is logic and Hang Man is reading, right?  Can't we play pencil games?"

Students walk into class assuming pencils are amusement devices.  It's often a rude awakening when they find that pencils are learning tools.  Sure, they are shiny and crisp and they don't leave chalk dust.  But don't be fooled by the novelty.  They are meant for thinking and not for entertainment.

So, what ultimately motivated the students?  The project was a success (and I use that term sparingly here - many students struggled, created mismatched graphs, had eraser smudges all over the places, etc.) because it was relevant to the students' lives.  In the end, authenticity triumphed over novelty.

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