The Career Game For Elementary School Students- A Lesson Plan in Life
A Lesson In Life
One day as I was teaching a group of fifth graders many years ago, a young lady named Stephanie decided that she did not want to do her work. It wasn’t anything too difficult for her – she was completely capable of doing it, she just didn’t want to do it. I tried many ways to coax her into doing the work – promises of missing recess and extra homework – as well as promises for extra class “bucks” for getting it done – fell on deaf ears. Finally, in desperation, I asked her “So what do you want out of life? What kind of job do you want?”
She laughed. “I’ll just go to work at McDonald’s! I don’t need school for that!”
This made me think. She had a couple of misconceptions. The first is that she didn’t need school to work at a fast food restaurant. Never mind the fact that she needed to know how to read and do at least simple calculations – she could do the job without education. The second misconception was that working at a fast food restaurant would allow her to make a living and be able to live on her own. I decided to try to show her that these things just were not true…
I sent the students to lunch and got busy. They wouldn’t be back for an hour and a half – after lunch they had specials. I got on the internet to find average wages for jobs of all kinds. I went into the lounge and grabbed all of the newspapers I could find and then went from teacher to teacher to see if I could get more. I called utility companies, car dealerships and landlords. Then, with all my research, I sat down and made a “game” that might help my students realize that school was indeed important to them.
When the students returned, I was ready. Desks were cleared and pushed up against the walls. Bookshelves were turned into store shelves with ads showing different products they would need to live on their own along with the prices. I had a table set up at the back of the room with several decks of cards laid out. I had visors that had different occupations written on them.
“What’s going on?” the students asked. I showed them.
One deck of cards had just about every household bill that I could think of: electricity, gas, water, cable, telephone, car payments, house payments, insurance, medical bills, etc. Another deck had every possibility I could think of that would either give people extra money (won the lottery, income tax refunds came in, etc.) and take money away (car broke down, broke an arm, etc.) A third deck had life events that could happen – getting married, having children, moving for your job, purchasing vehicles or homes…The fourth deck had education levels – high school dropout, high school graduate, some college, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate, vocational technical school, etc. That deck led to another series of decks that had jobs and careers that would go with that particular education level and monthly salaries that went along with that job.
As the students sat down in the middle of the floor, I had them draw cards from each of the decks. I gave them class bucks that equaled the amount that they would have each month. I gave them extra money if their cards dictated that I do so, and took money from them when needed. I then passed out the cards with the unexpected happenings that would get them money or take money away. After that, I had the students look through the classified ads to find homes, cars, and groceries. They had to find out how many groceries they needed for the month and how much it would cost. Basically, they were given a job, bills and money much like you would get as an adult. And see if they could make a living with the jobs they were given.
Interestingly, Stephanie and drawn the “High school dropout” and “fast food worker” as two of her cards. It was entertaining to see her struggle to make her money provide all the necessities in her new life. We played the game for the remainder of the day – another hour and a half. The students wanted to keep going until they could make all their bills with the money they were making.
The students discovered that the better the education they had, the more they could do and the less they had to struggle. By the end of the day, most of the students had decided that it would be in their best interest to get at least a bachelor’s degree and some had decided that they wanted to continue their education more than that. Stephanie decided she wanted to pursue her doctorate and become a doctor specializing in heart disease. (It was the occupation that we had that made the most money!) After that, she worked harder. When she did have a time that she wanted to refuse to work, I would remind her of the game. She always decided that she needed to work harder…
Several years later, I got a graduation invitation from Stephanie. She was graduating from college with her bachelor’s degree…in nursing….