This is part three of our Financial Literacy Month K-12 feature series. Celebrate with EVERFI this Financial Literacy Month!

Edtech can come with a learning curve, for both teachers and students. Hear from EVERFI Teacher Ambassador, Teresa Commerford, about her experience using the EVERFI – Financial Literacy for High School digital resource and how her implementation has evolved over the years.

How It All Started…

I “inherited” the EVERFI – Financial Literacy  program four years ago as a new teacher from my school’s previous business instructor. I had zero knowledge of EVERFI or this curriculum but was invited to attend a meeting with a local bank president to discuss the program.

In that first year, I basically let the program teach itself. Students were provided a login instruction sheet, self-created accounts, and got to work. I allowed students to take quizzes as many times as needed to reach a 70% passing grade for each lesson, and offered help when someone “got stuck.” I allowed them to completely self-pace, which led to five of 17 students completing lessons way before everyone else and a couple of stragglers that were just never going to catch up. In that year I learned that the supplemental resources provided in the EVERFI Teacher Resource Center are absolutely invaluable for taking EVERFI programs to the next level! If you are not yet using these resources to build on the digital lessons, you are truly missing out! (Disclaimer: I fully admit that I do not totally follow the lesson plans provided, but I do extract and adjust things that work in my classroom for my students.)

Here are my 7 Top Tips for Using EVERFI Effectively:

1. Discussion Questions

Provided in the Teacher Resource Center, the EVERFI Discussion Questions work well with K-W-L organizers. I have students identify what they already know, what the want to know, and following the lessons, what they have learned.

2. Hook

Launch activities help spark engagement! My favorite launch activity is the “Bank vs. Room” savings method in the Banking module. The “pros and cons” chart is simple yet engaging for all students, and generates interesting discussion prior to beginning the lesson. This activity is also important, because a large percentage of students do not have bank accounts.

3. Time Management

Let students self-pace through lessons, but be mindful to set clear deadlines. Consider assigning a lesson with a deadline, and have fun enrichment activities for those finishing early. When I’ve allowed total self-pacing, I found it difficult to keep track of everyone.

4. Assessment Alternatives

Offer an option of completing paper versions of quizzes versus online. Some students experience higher stress levels with online quizzes, while others love online over classic hard copies. I typically have students send me an email if they prefer the paper version, and have them ready to go in a basket for students to pick up when needed. The assessment questions are listed in the Teacher Resource Center.

5. Benchmark

Use the cumulative exam as a pre- and post-test for the program. I have students complete paper versions of the cumulative exam before introducing the EVERFI program. Students are given completion points, and I only give them their initial scores while keeping the pre-test in my file. Upon successful completion of all modules, I hand out the same exam as a post-test. Once the post-test is graded, I let students see both the pre- and post- versions to help understand their progress from beginning to end.

6. Assume Nothing

Review reports to get a feel for which lessons were more difficult for students. I have found the struggles vary from class section to class section, so assume nothing and rely on the data! For those more difficult modules, consider enrichment activities and/or group work to reinforce and deepen learning.

7. Differentiate

My classes tend to be mixed-ability which means that EVERFI (intended for high school) can be difficult and frustrating for some of my students. A great workaround that I’ve found is to use the Vault – Understanding Money course with those who find the high school program to be too challenging. Vault is geared towards late elementary [and middle school] students and is a great alternative for providing materials better suited to their needs and abilities.

Teresa is a business teacher at Bucklin High School USD 459 in rural, southwest Kansas. Her courses fall into the Business Management & Entrepreneurship CTE pathway. She is a “transition teacher” with a Master of Science in Education and four years of teaching experience. Prior to teaching, Teresa was a Product Marketing Manager for brands such as Spot Shot Carpet Stain Remover®, Dolly Madison™ and Drake’s® snack cakes, and Willow Tree® angels & gifts. She is an EVERFI Certified Teacher. Upon completion of her Kansas Performance Teaching Portfolio (KPTP) in 2016, Teresa earned an award for achieving a portfolio score within the top ten-percent of all portfolios submitted for licensure from Fort Hays State University. Her edtech areas of specialty support a variety of blended and flipped learning tools.