Here is a copy of my 1st Year February exam. This was my first attempt at setting a 'significant' exam for this course and students had 90 minutes to complete the assessment. It was a real challenge to work out both the content and the timing and I had to reassure students that I would bear that in mind when correcting their work. The fact that it was a common level exam for a mixed ability class added to my difficulties and there is always a balance to be drawn between challenging the most able students, while also being fair those with less ability. That balance applies not only to the content, but also to the timing of the assessment. In the end I added a crossword to the exam and told students to attempt this activity only after all other questions had been completed. I took the crossword from the student activity book, but have not included it here.
At this point I can say that most students completed all questions and activities in the 90 minute timeframe. A few students did not get the crossword completed, so I did not include that when scoring the assessment. All in all, the material included here could be completed by most students in 60 minutes.
I tried to create an assessment which had a 'storyline' running through it... though on reflection, maybe this worked against students with poor literacy skills? I also attempted to assess a range of knowledge, understanding, skill and values.
As I said at the outset, this was my first attempt, I'm sure there are improvements to be made in the future, but as with everything associated with this new specification it's a work in progress. I hope by sharing it with teachers it will provide you with some food for thought.
Click here to download a copy of the test
Co-author of Time for Business Joe Stafford teaches Junior Cycle Business Studies in a mixed ability setting in a co-educational school with four 40 minute classes per week. He is currently sharing his experiences of teaching the new Junior Cycle Business Studies specification for the first time.
(Chapter 8 of Time for Business)
This topic has strong links to LO 1.8 and is also relevant for LO’s 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1 and 2.6. The material dealt with in the chapter provides students with knowledge and understanding of the role and importance of financial institutions. It outlines the array of financial services on offer to households and individuals and should provide students with a strong foundation for further study of related topics including savings and borrowing.
Yet again this is a familiar topic for those of us who have been teaching the ‘old’ Junior Cert Business Studies syllabus and I don’t think I changed my teaching approach too much from what I’d done in the past. I did however make a lot more use of the activities in the textbook and student activity book and felt this helped to dilute what can be an ‘information heavy’ topic. As ever students enjoyed the ‘doing’ aspects associated with filling forms and foreign exchange calculations, though a small number of students found the numeracy element challenging. It was a big advantage that so many of my students already had personal experience of financial institutions. The vast majority had at least one account in at least one financial institution.
I made a particular point of examining the impact of digital technology on personal banking (links with LO 2.6 and TFB chapter 21). Students undertook some research and prepared posters and infographics outlining the how to use an ATM and the importance of PIN security. This was the first time that we made a concerted effort to develop infographics and the standard of the work varied widely. I think it was partly my fault and in future I will make sure to discuss and agree the success criteria with students in advance of the activity. I hope this will provide them with greater clarity and will lead to better quality infographics.
I also made use of the following link (a UK website) in order to enable students to practice using an ATM:
This worked really well on the interactive white board and students were able to explore a range of services on offer.
Finally I focused quite a bit of attention on the bank statement. I think the ability to analyse this document is a very important skill for students to acquire.
Below is a mind map for Chapter 4: Financial Planning for Your Future, made with GoConqr. Copy and edit this mind map or encourage students to create their own to revise.
As mentioned in a previous post, students can be encouraged to create their own mind maps either by hand or by using online tools such as GoConqr.
Below is a sample mind map for Chapter 2, Household Income.
Have you ever played Bingo? You may have played it at your local bingo hall or have even played Telly Bingo from the National Lottery. However, did you know that playing Bingo with students is an excellent way to develop their subject-specific vocabulary and improve their oral and written literacy? Given the huge amount of new terms that students encounter when they begin to study Business Studies, it can be a great way to learn new words in a fun way.
Teachers can create Bingo cards using online tools such as My Free Bingo Cards. Teacher bingo calling cards are created as well as student cards. Students will start with a grid filled with terms. The game can then be played in a variety of ways:
Below are links to some pre-generated bingo cards for chapters in 'Time for Business'. When you click on the links below, select the 'Print 30 Free Cards' link. If you plan on playing Bingo with students each year, you might consider laminating the student cards so they can be reused in the future.
Chapter 1: Making the most of your resources
Chapter 2: Household Income
Chapter 3: Household Expenditure
Chapter 4: Financial Planning for Your Future
Chapter 5: Household Budgets
Chapter 6: Recording Income and Expenditure
Having studied Household Budgeting (Learning Outcome 1.12) and Analysed Cash Books I deviated a little from the scheme of work outlined in the Teacher Resource Book.
I had always felt that the ‘personal financial lifecycle’ (see Time for Business Chapter 4 and LO 1.3) represented something of a capstone element for Strand 1. To me at least, it seemed more appropriate to provide students with a detailed insight into to each of the individual elements (budgeting, taxation, pensions, insurance etc.) before finally connecting all of them at the end through the creation of a realistic and comprehensive personal financial life cycle.
During most of the writing process for the textbook, this had been my intention and approach but I later decided to reorder the chapters so as to follow the Learning Outcomes’s (LO's) more sequentially. It should be pointed out that there is absolutely no requirement to follow the chapters, or indeed the LO’s, in any specific order. Having said that, there are clearly some concepts that are more fundamental than others and also some related chapters that make up distinct ‘units of learning’.
As I reviewed the material again in preparation for my class, I began to feel that my initial instincts had been valid and in some sense this LO was misplaced. It strengthened my conviction to deal with each element in turn before tying the whole lot up with the life cycle later in the year. At the same time I still wanted to reinforce the idea of making plans to suit changing personal circumstances and aspirations (see household budgeting), so I spent just one class outlining the concept of a personal financial life cycle to students.
I really just used the infographic on page 30 of TFB textbook to start a discussion on changing financial needs. I put the diagram on the whiteboard and we had a ‘chat’ about what it meant. We also looked at the case studies for Emily and Priyal on page 33 of TFB textbook. The students contributed really well to this discussion although their knowledge and understanding was superficial in some areas. Overall though they really seemed to grasp the basic premise that financial needs change over time and planning should reflect those changes. We did not however get into any detailed discussion of issues like taxation, insurance or pension planning.
If the intention of the new specification is to “meet the students where they are”, it was clear to me that some of them at least were not quite at a stage where pension planning or taxation was on their radar. I only spent a single 40 minute class on this topic. I will return to it at a later date, having completed the chapters on household finance, insurance and taxation. I feel students will have a better understanding of the issues at that point and should be in a better position to prepare a realistic personal financial life cycle.
Chapter 5: Household Budgets
Having completed the previous chapters on household income and expenditure I decided to move straight to the section on household budgeting. It just seemed more logical to tackle the chapters in this order…or maybe it was just force of habit.
Learning Outcome 1.12 appears the most relevant here: “prepare and analyse a budget, determine the financial position, recommend appropriate action and present the analysis in tabular and graphic formats." (See the separate blog on LO. 1.12 for further discussion of this topic)
For those who’ve been teaching the previous, pre-2016 Business Studies syllabus, there is plenty of familiar material here, but the new specification has a distinct change of emphasis when it comes to the topic of household budgeting. While the ability to prepare a budget is an important skill, there seems to be a much greater focus on analysis and interpretation of the financial plan. A capacity to critically analyse and ‘make sense of’ the figures is much more in keeping with the spirit of the new specification. The references to ‘determining the financial position’ and ‘recommending appropriate action” provide strong and obvious clues to the shift in emphasis. There is also a requirement to use appropriate tables and/or charts to illustrate key patterns and findings and this is certainly a new departure from the more numerate approach of old.
I began by sticking to the ‘old stuff’ and consolidating the material from previous income and expenditure chapters. Students again seemed to enjoy the ‘doing’ and ‘calculating’ part of this topic and most were soon able to complete the question templates with both speed and accuracy. The Student Activity Book (SAB) provided plenty of questions for students to practise and develop their skills. As ever, the final three lines of the ‘traditional’ household budget cause a few problems... both with understanding and with application, but a step-by step walk-through of one question resolved most issues. Further practice and a handful of one-to-one explanations helped clear up the rest.
I made a point of focusing on the ‘budget outcomes’ for each activity. After a few unsuccessful and ‘experimental ad lib’ attempts in class (that’s code for winging it!), I retrospectively generated a worksheet to guide student thinking for budget analysis. In hindsight it might have been helpful to include this in the SAB or Teacher Resource Book (TRB), but the need wasn’t as obvious at time of writing and really only became more apparent as students began to engage with the material. I suppose that reflects a major benefit of being both an author and a practicing teacher and having learned from the experience I am at least in a position to pass on my insight.
When analysing the household budgets I used the worksheet to focus student thinking on the key issues and insisted that they provide evidence to support all of their answers. A copy of this worksheet is available to download at the end of this post.
We next tackled some revised budget questions. We made a decision to include these in the book because they reflect the dynamic nature of household financial planning. They enable students to clearly see the need to adapt household planning in order to produce a budget which is appropriate to the changing financial circumstances of a household. Similar thinking can be applied to the inclusion of budget comparison statements which again reflects the link between planning and the financial reality facing a household. In the context of the learning outcome, having analysed the financial position and found the budget to be unrealistic the recommended course of action must surely be to prepare a revised budget which is more in keeping with the households financial circumstances.
Introducing a digital element…
In the past I would never have used ICT to teach this topic; let’s face it, there was never any need or encouragement to… but this new specification sometimes requires, and often promotes the use of digital elements. So, I took the class to the computer room for two forty minute periods. I prepared for the class by pre-saving a blank budget template in the dropbox on the school server. I used the Morgan budget on page 36 of the SAB. All students were able to access this file and I showed them how to enter data and to create formulas in order to calculate totals, net cash, opening cash and closing cash etc. Most students were excellent at this and I really was pleasantly surprised as how quickly they mastered the technology (only two had used Microsoft Excel previously). Many students were able to work ahead of my explanations, which I delivered via digital projector, and this allowed me to engage in small group work with the remainder. By the end of the classes all students were capable of correctly completing a digital version of the Morgan and El Masri budgets. Had time (and computer room access) allowed I would certainly have availed of this technology to help with the section on revised budgets. The fact that the digital version updates all the calculations whenever a number is changed makes it ideal for revised budgets, but at least students were able to engage with the technology and appreciate its benefits. I will definitely make more use of this approach when teaching this topic next time round.
* I am aware that there is a digital resource which can be used to generate pie charts from a given set of figures. It was developed for use with an Edco maths book. I had an opportunity to try it out while writing the textbook. I will enquire again about having it added to our digital resources. There may also be some free resources available online.
Business Studies Blog
Chapter 2 : Household Income
Having completed the chapter on ‘resources’ I began to teach my students about the complementary topics of household income and household expenditure. From a teacher perspective this is very familiar material, but I used the anticipation exercises to establish the level of prior knowledge amongst my students. At the outset they had a relatively limited appreciation of the sources of household income, but this is hardly surprising given their age. Inevitably most students cited examples based on their personal or household circumstances.
We discussed a range of income sources for households, including employment income, pensions and other social protection payments. The only element of controversy in our discussion was the suggestion (by some students) that social protection payments should not be a long term source of household income and reliance on this form of income should not be a lifestyle choice. I assumed this was a case of students repeating some of the things they have heard at home and I used the opportunity to focus student’s thoughts on the purpose of taxation and the role of government in income redistribution.
I only dealt with this issue at a very simple and superficial level and some students showed greater levels of engagement with the discussion than others. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear how clearly and passionately they were able to express their views. Overall, I was happy with the debate and accepted it was really just an opportunity for sowing seeds which can hopefully be harvested in future (Strand 3) discussions. On this occasion I felt however that the blending involved in these topics was too much of a detour for my students so I returned to the core topic of household income. In hindsight perhaps it was just too much of a detour for ME personally and maybe I should have allowed the discussion to explore those other avenues. I know I was concerned about the time involved and worried that we would drift too far from the lesson objectives. After all ‘time’ is a scarce resource, and I’m not exactly sure how best to use it on this first encounter with the new specification. The whole issue of time allocation has been a concern of mine ever since I started to write the textbook, but I’ll save that issue for a separate blog piece in the very near future.
Benefit in kind income proved to be a little confusing for some students while others found the calculation of wages to be problematic. This section illustrated perfectly the challenges associated with teaching a mixed ability group and there was a huge variation in the ability of my students to deal with calculations. For this reason it may be advisable to adopt a step by step approach to these questions and have some extra material available for those students who are particularly adept at numeracy.
Students understood the difference between statutory and voluntary deductions and were able to provide relevant examples of both. The distinction between disposable and discretionary income was not so easily understood, and on reflection I feel I could have explained it more clearly first time round. When the end of chapter self-assessment highlighted this confusion, I made a point of revisiting the topic, thankfully with more success.
The family income plans (in the student activity book) were completed with little difficulty and these are important steps in the household budgeting process (see Time for Business chapter 5).
Co-author of Time for Business, Joe Stafford has previously written about teaching learning outcome 1.1. In this latest blog post he discusses assessment and reflection.
Assessment and Reflection.
As already indicated in a previous blog post I made use of the traffic light self-assessment activity at the end of the Student Activity Book chapter and it was a useful and worthwhile exercise for both myself and the students. Many students were familiar with this type of formative assessment and they had no difficulty carrying out the task. There were no red lights amongst the group, which was pleasing! The most common orange lights related to Statement 7: I am able to make choices to make the best use of resources, and also Statement 9: I am able to understand the effect of my use of resources on other people’s lives.
Based on the feedback I briefly revisited these issues and was able to clarify most of the misunderstanding through the use of further examples. I am also conscious that future chapters should improve understanding and abilities in these areas. Yet more layering!
Students also reviewed the questions in the anticipation guide and there were some changes of opinion which reflected increased knowledge and understanding. Since this was my first interaction with the new teaching resources I felt it was necessary to try everything out. This was especially true of the mind map for which an exemplar is provided on page 7 of the activity book. For subsequent chapters, students are encouraged to create their own mind maps, so I think it’s a good idea to look at the exemplar in this chapter. My co-author, Siobhan O'Sullivan has previously written a blog post which shows the evolution of the mind-map for Chapter 1. This would be really useful to demonstrate to students how a mind map can be constructed.
Mind maps can be drawn by hand or by making use of the websites listed on pg. xix of the Teacher Resource Book (TRB). Creating effective mind maps is a skill and takes time to develop and perfect; it won’t necessarily suit all students or teachers but some will find it very beneficial. At least half of my students had created mind maps in primary school and were familiar with the process.
I also utilised the 'end of chapter reflection' on P9 of the Activity Book. If you intend to use this regularly there is a photocopiable template in Appendix 2 of the TRB. The only formative assessment tool which I didn’t make use of on this occasion was the exit ticket. That I will happily save for a rainy day!
All in all I spent 7 class periods on the chapter and maybe that was a little too long. Perhaps it could have been quicker if we had textbooks available from the outset and I hadn't been so willing to listen to students…. but I assumed that this was necessary if honouring my commitment to student-centred lessons. Perhaps only time will tell if this was the right thing to do.
Co-author of Time for Business Joe Stafford teaches Junior Cycle Business Studies in a mixed ability setting in a co-educational school with four 40 minute classes per week.
In his previous blog post, co-author of Time for Business Joe Stafford reflects on his experience of teaching Learning Outcome 1.1 for the first time. In this post, Joe shares how students are engaging with the new material, how they are already linking to material from Strand 3 and how many students didn't realise that they get a free e-book with the hard copy of the textbook.
Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!
The last section of Chapter 1 deals with financial resources and the fact that “money doesn’t grow on trees”. Students offered great explanations of what that expression means and the discussions which followed gave rise to interesting questions, such as “Why doesn't the government just print lots of extra money?” I encouraged students to offer suggestions for this and some excellent answers were offered which related to money losing its value, etc. One student said that prices would probably rise, but she didn’t have the vocabulary to use the term ‘inflation’. I introduced the term and provided a very brief and simple explanation. Hopefully this will serve us well in Strand 3. The concepts of supply and demand also originated from students, although again they didn’t all have the understanding or vocabulary to deal with it in anything more than a very simple way. We used an example of concert tickets or the upcoming All Ireland Final to illustrate what happened when something we want is in strong demand but supply is strictly limited. This is also Strand 3 material and highlights how it’s almost impossible to avoid a blended approach to this new specification. I certainly had no intention when planning the lesson of introducing the concepts of supply and demand, but this accidental blending was unavoidable as the issue was raised by students. This will provide more opportunities for layering as we progress through the learning outcomes.
When addressing the question of where future income may come from, students managed to list all of the familiar sources including wages, income from benefits, pension and student grants. One student expressed strong views on the receipt of benefits as an ongoing source of income. We steered clear of a full blown debate on this issue, but it will surely be revisited in subsequent chapters dealing with household income and the purpose of taxation. Again, it was interesting to see how students engaged with the material and how it impacted on their thought processes.
Textbooks, Homework…and Abba!
I should mention that students didn’t have textbooks for the first couple of lessons. I therefore posed a series of questions to kick start the discussion and to scaffold student learning. I used the whiteboard and the Edco Digital site to display some segments of the textbook to the whole class, particularly the definitions, images and textbook activities, but we didn’t read through the chapter in its entirety. The benefit of this was that there was a lot of discussion and debate amongst the class group and I really think this helped with student engagement. I also used the whiteboard to record the key points made by students during discussions.
I tended to set a research task for homework to set the scene for the following lesson. Over the course of a week, the vast majority of students managed to get copies of text and activity books. At this stage I then assigned reading homework to ensure students had to engage with the text and revise material covered in class in previous lessons, for example, I asked the students to find some songs or quotations related to money. They really enjoyed this and found some very interesting quotations dealing with money, wealth and value, etc. Students were more than happy to read them out in class and we discussed what some of them really meant. For example, “nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing” and “we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like”. Students are now in the process of making small posters using some of the quotations and these will be displayed in the classroom.
On the music side we had contributions from Jessie J (Price Tag) and Abba (Money, Money, Money). We had a bit of fun with this!
As the students did not have activity books from the outset, we had to tackle the activities in a large chunk at the end of the chapter. This was useful from the point of view of revision, but in future I will definitely have students use the activity book on an ongoing basis. Having said that, I was very happy that the textbook activities kept the students engaged and provided many opportunities for individual and group work. These activities were completed in their copies or comments were added to the white board.
E-books and PowerPoints.
I demonstrated to students how to access the free e-version of their textbook. This meant they could leave the textbook in their locker in school and could rely on the digital version for revision and homework. Some of the students hadn’t realised that this was possible and I was glad I’d brought it to their attention - as were they!
Although I had a PowerPoint presentation prepared to support the textbook material (and our PowerPoint’s will be available as a digital resource soon) I didn’t actually make use of it. The student discussions and group work seemed to me to be more in line with the spirit of the new specification. Due to the high level of student engagement I felt the PowerPoints were not required for my lessons on this topic. If using them in future I would be inclined to use them in the background or as a way of revising and summing up a topic.
Co-author of Time for Business Joe Stafford teaches Junior Cycle Business Studies in a mixed ability setting in a co-educational school with four 40 minute classes per week.
Learning Outcome 1.1 states:
Review the personal resources available to them to realise their needs and wants and analyse the extent to which realising their needs and wants may impact on individuals and society.
NOTE: As the material required to deal with this Learning Outcome is quite diverse and relates to more than one strand of the specification, we have not attempted to provide it all in a single chapter in the Time for Business textbook. As authors, we feel that using a single chapter would only allow for a narrow and superficial overview of the topic.
Page xviii of the Teacher Resource Book (page 315 of the online version) provides a diagram to inform teachers which chapters contain material related to each Learning Outcome. For example, chapters 1, 15 and 16 (Strand 1) deal with individual resources and choices, chapters 3, 4 and 5 look at the issues from a household perspective, while chapter 34 (Stand 3) broadens the perspective even further to consider the economic implications of the use of resources.
Once they have studied a number of related chapters, students should have a broad understanding of the term 'resources' in an economic sense and be very well prepared to deal with a wide range of questions and activities related to this learning outcome. This material can be covered at any time during the Junior Cycle and teachers have total freedom and discretion when deciding on the sequencing of Learning Outcomes and associated chapters. The guiding rule is to deal with each learning outcome at a time and in a manner which is appropriate to the context of your class.
In our view, the following are the key ideas and messages for this topic:
The video on this page on the Irish Times website looks at spending alternatives for the €110million which Manchester United paid to Juventus for the footballer. It's light-hearted and uses 'currency' which the students are familiar with, e.g. Tayto Crisps, cars, etc.
It would be a great ice-breaker and introduction to the topic of opportunity cost and should certainly help students to think of alternative uses for money.
If you wish to take it to a deeper level and explore some economic theory, there is scope to look at the impact of supply and demand on price (transfer fees) and perhaps also the purchasing power of a player who reportedly earns €220,000 per week. That would buy an awful lot of Taytos, but might be subject to diminishing marginal utility!
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