Do You Really Understand What a Bond Is?: An Activity for Starting the Semester

The following blog post is written by Joshua Buch, Professor of Finance.

We would love to hear from more faculty and instructors on the Educational Technology blog! Email the Instructional Design team if you would like to share new or effective things you are trying in the classroom, recommend tools that help you teach or be more productive, recap conferences or events you attended, or post anything else that you think helps support teaching and learning at La Salle!
I plan to start BUS 206, Introduction to Financial Markets and Institutions, a little differently this term. I have selected a recent Wall Street Journal article that deals with current financial markets issues. I will post it on the screen and before I even introduce myself, I will ask the students to read the first 3-4 paragraphs, and to list every word, term, or concept that they do not fully understand.

Poster of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall with the text, Buy U.S. Gov't Bonds
World War I-era poster (ca. 1917- ca. 1919)

When the students finish this task I will ask those who listed “bond,” one of the words in the title, to raise their hands.  I will then challenge those who did not raise their hands to explain this term.  I expect that most, if not all of them, will not correctly explain what a bond is. We will continue like this for many of the terms in the article. You can see the beginning of the article and the key terms at the end of this post.

Once the students begin to recognize that they know less than they thought they did, I will tell the class to again go over the article and list ALL the terms they do not understand.  Clearly now the lists will be much longer.

At this point, I will finally introduce myself and welcome them to the new semester and to my class. I will inform the students that we will look at this same article at the end of the semester to see if they understand it better and if they can explain the terms better than they can now. I will also tell them that this article might be part of a future exam and that they might have to explain or define various terms and concepts presented in the article.

By starting off the semester this way, I want the students to fully grasp how much there is to learn in order to better understand an article like this. I also want them to understand what our goals are, and most importantly, why these goals are relevant, especially in today’s financial environment. I hope that students will gain an appreciation for what they have learned by our last day of class. Throughout the coming semester, I plan to bring in other relevant articles and ask them to do the same exercise.

The following is the first four paragraphs of the article I will use. The key terms we will discuss are bolded and underlined. You can find the full article on Morningstar’s website.

A screenshot of The Wall Street Journal article I am using at the start of class
A screenshot of The Wall Street Journal article I am using at the start of class


How do you get students’ attention at the start of the semester? What ways do you use to kick off a new course? Let us know in the comments or email your ideas to the Instructional Design team and we will compile all of the ideas on the blog!

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