The Great Gatsby

October 2012
Maine West- Social Sciences - Todd Ruder & Kim Reznik
Foundation Award: $500

Todd Ruder & Kim Reznik co-teach three junior English classes where over half the class population is special-ed. In addition, over 1/3 of the students qualify for free-and-reduced lunch. Because of their background, the teachers struggle to find meaningful incentives for students to read, research, and complete complex tasks. 

Students value electronics and technology. Whether its iPads or I-Pods, students want the latest gadgets. We want to provide these items as prizes for students to complete a money-management research project while they read The Great Gatsby. All projects will be voted on by teachers, administrators and school-board members (based on past projects), and the materials will serve as prizes for the top 3 projects. Please note that students will work in pairs/triads. 

Reluctant readers, as well as students who don’t like to research and who might not really care about their grades, will likely care more about giving their all if they have their eyes on prizes they see as meaningful. Our hope is to give two iPad 2s to the pair who receive first place, two iPod Touches to the pair who receive second place, and two Digital Cameras to the pair who win third place. We realized the potential payout from these incentives last year when we overheard a student say in class, “I don’t really care about the grade; I just want that Pod Touch!" 

How often have you heard about students learning money-management skills - especially in an English class? How often do you hear about adults who can't effectively manage their money? We are proud of our past efforts in educating students; not just in reading a great book, not only in researching, but also in learning valuable skills they could carry forward as they prepare for the real world. This will be our third year assigning this project where students learn money management skills through research and interviews. Students then apply these skills to the novel in an attempt to help them better understand how people may struggle with wealth in that money doesn't always bring out the best in us. In our first year, we asked for donations from various Administrators and Teachers from Maine West. In our second year, we submitted a project on Donors Although the project was approved, most of the money donated came out of our own pockets as well as from generous family and friends.