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Showcasing Jeff Hart and "Two Cents Worth"

Students in Jeff Hart's social studies classes at Kittson Central High School in Hallock, Minnesota, can be found sharing their "two cents" worth about many topics -- literally! Hart's history, world geography, economics, and American government students range from seventh graders to seniors, but when it comes to class discussions, each student receives exactly two pennies -- and a warning to spend it wisely.

It all started when Hart visited a classroom in Red River High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. "I observed several teachers in several different courses and grade levels," Hart told Education World, "but the two cents worth activity that really caught my attention was conducted by an economics teacher.

As part of a unit on investments, students in the economics class had viewed a video on the Enron accounting scandal. They were about to discuss public confidence in accounting procedures and whether investors had been defrauded and ought to get their money back. The teacher gave each student two pennies, and asked for each student's 'two cents worth' on Enron."

In the discussion that followed, students either could ask questions or respond to other students' questions, but they had to pay for each question or comment with one penny. Every student had to use both pennies, and no student could use more than two pennies.

"The pennies seemed to encourage reluctant students to participate and prevent others from monopolizing the discussion," said Hart. "The teacher cautioned that they should think carefully about what they wanted to say, as they would get only two chances."

The "two cents worth" lesson so impressed Hart that he adopted the practice in his own classroom. It is an activity he wants to use even more often.

"Giving students two cents forces everyone to take part, and helps limit those who like to control discussions," Hart observed. "The technique sparks student interest, and makes them think a bit before they spend their two cents worth!"

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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