Lesson Plan Guide: Minimum Wage = Minimum Lifestyle

By Matt Andrews on July 17, 2014

TITLE: Minimum Wage = Minimum Lifestyle


CONTENT AREAS: Advisory, Careers, Life Skills, Homeroom, English, Social Studies, Health



Equip and encourage adolescents to engage in conversation with parents about planning a budget after high school.


A:B1.2 Learn and apply critical-thinking skills

A:C1.6 Understand how school success and academic achievement enhance future career and vocational opportunities

C:A1.1 Develop skills to locate, evaluate and interpret career information


Reading Informational Text

Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

Mathematical Practice

Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling. Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic)


Some instructors may connect this lesson to the May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates at: www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm


Computer access for the links in the article is helpful. Allow students to spend a few minutes browsing the information about careers, education, and wages.


This lesson challenges students to think critically about numbers and write persuasive articles from an alternate point of view. The lesson begins with silent reading of the article, “Minimum Wage = Minimum Lifestyle,” (Related articles) to stimulate discussion about educational credentials and wage- earning potential.

The discussion probes for a deeper understanding of numbers presented in support of the author’s argument. Then students write a persuasive article that argues from a point of view different than the author’s.


These spreadsheets should not be collected. Students must understand the task is to have the conversation with their parents or guardians about planning to pay for college. Remind students this is a real life test; students keep all results private. School counselors may have additional information to assist students with financial assessments.


A. Introductory Reading (5 minutes)

• Distribute “Minimum Wage = Minimum Lifestyle” article to students (Related articles).

• Instruct students to read it independently. Their opinion of the author’s argument will be needed.

• Begin the discussion by asking students what they thought of the article and discuss it in general for a few minutes. Lead attention to Fast Facts sidebar.

• Explain to students that it is often taboo to talk about personal finances; many adults are uncomfortable with it. The class will mostly talk in general terms while individual students may apply the skills to their own, personal decisions. It takes time and effort to budget and plan for an education.

B. Critical thinking with numbers and facts (10 minutes)

• Focus group attention on sidebar Fast Facts and explain to students that there are many ways to read numbers.

• First, what are the exact numbers shared in the article?

In 2011, high school graduates without further education earned an average of $33,176, compared with $54,756 for workers with a four-year college degree.

College graduates were unemployed less often than workers with just a high school diploma. In August, 4.5 percent of college graduates were unemployed, versus 8.4 percent of workers with high school diplomas only.

• Use these two facts and instruct students to represent these numbers to make the best sense to them. Instructor may take 2 minutes and walk around the room watching students write figures on their papers. Have students share their representations on the board; point out differences between tables and graphs, and how the figures are used in various representations.

Look at the representations as a group and ask:

• What do these numbers suggest?

o It will be assumed common sense that college education is connected with wage earning potential. Probe with questions that foster critical thinking.

• What do these numbers not tell us about college?

o These are average earning and unemployment rates for two groups.

• What other groups could be in the picture?

o GED, GPA, graduate degree, technical and associate degrees, no high school diploma, etc.

Remind students that there are many ways to obtain an education after high school. It takes time, research, and critical thinking to find the one that fits their lifestyle.

There is more to life and learning than just numbers.


• This is a nice time to connect the lesson to the May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates at: www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

A few students with computer access may browse the listing and contribute to the discussion. This browsing can happen over a month and be linked to additional assignments.

C. Humor in perspective writing (14 minutes)

• Instruct students to use humor to write a similar article, but from a perspective that does not suggest education and financial well-being are important in life. Students are to write a persuasive essay from a point of view different than that of the author of Minimum Wage = Minimum Lifestyle.

• This article provides a strong argument that assumes the causal connection of educational credentials with ability to earn wages. The fact that education equals earning potential will be considered common sense to most students, and some will want to poke fun at the shallow materialism presented by the author. Humor can be a helpful way to deal with the seriousness of budgets and planning.

• The serious message of the author is that students should plan and budget for college. Remind students to take “small steps” toward a better understanding of their budget and college and career plans. These things take time and effort, and quite frankly, most Americans have failed with this in the past decade.

• Explain to students that the author makes a strong argument that earning potential is a good reason to choose a career. In fact, many students under 15 dream of being doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and entertainers. They will plan to earn these salaries until altering course after high school.

• Some of the best humor plays with the seriousness of life. Encourage students to write articles that make people experience different emotions. Some students may express anxiety, fear, or disengage entirely. Encourage students to have fun, and challenge them to make one another laugh.

• Conclude this lesson with students reading their articles aloud to one another. Instructors may want to first share in groups of 3, then 9, and then the whole class. If they are funny, this will build anticipation for the funniest to be heard.

About the Author

Matt Andrews

Matt Andrews

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