Teaching your students about the value of money and how to work within a budget is crucial to their success later in life. We have developed a unit for creating a classroom economy that emphasizes real-world situations for your students.
One thing that we do prior to even beginning the unit is to reach out to a local bank to see if they are willing to donate supplies and even have a guest speaker from the bank come in and talk about finances. We have created a script for you to follow when contacting a local bank. Use it if you feel it is helpful. You can find it in our bundled resource here.
Before the Unit
Before you begin the unit, you will want to make sure that your students have a firm understanding of how to add and subtract decimals. This lays the foundation for being able to balance a checkbook. There are three activities you can choose from that are included in this unit to help you in teaching your students these skills.
What Do Your Students Know?
We like to start of the unit by using our KL Chart. This chart’s intention is to find out what the students already know about finances. It is a great tool to also re-visit at the end of the unit. Make sure to discuss what your students think they already know before moving on.
To spark interest in the unit, we have created an Introductory PowerPoint. The goal is to engage and motivate students to want to participate in the Classroom Economy Unit. Make it fun and enjoyable as you present.
It is always fun to talk about what adults have to do. Show what expenses adults have to the students. Explain that being an adult is “cool” because you have a lot more freedom, but dealing with finances is no fun at all. Make it a point that becoming an adult adds great responsibility as well.
There are many key vocabulary words that will appear throughout the unit. Make sure the students are given a vocabulary sheet and either have them copy the definitions, or give them the answer key right away. Either way, you want them to be familiar with the terminology that will be used in the unit.
We have typed an introductory letter to families that we would like you to send home at the beginning of the unit. This will lay the groundwork for great discussions at home between your students and their families. We want families to be active participants in this unit.
Since your classroom is going to become a mini-community with various jobs and duties, you may want to think about the best room arrangement for this as well. You will want to have a “bank” location somewhere in your room. You will probably also want to invest in some file folders for your students to keep their important documents and another set of the students for you and the students who will become bankers.
When all the introductory activities are out of the way, you will want to post the open jobs and read through them with the class. Then the students will want to apply for those jobs. There is a “teacher expectation” document that will help guide you through the process. It is up to you if you post the jobs around the classroom or provide each individual student the job postings. We have found that it is easier to copy off 2-3 sets and then post them around the room.
Once jobs have been assigned, the next step is to talk about the weekly salary and how it will be deposited into their checkbooks. This is the perfect time to use all the checkbook resources. You want your students to be able to know how to write checks, fill out a transaction register, and balance a checkbook.
Student Credit Cards
After they have made their first deposit of their salary, now is the time to spring on them the room rent contract and the necessary items that they need to buy: desk, chair… This will obviously bring up the question about having enough funds to do this. This is where you introduce their own personal credit card that you have pre-made. Go into the lessons about how credit cards work. Then the students have to decide how much they are going to charge, and how much they are going to pay with a check. This is a great lesson to see what everyone decides to do.
At the end of each week, students will be awarded their salaries. They will also have to pay their weekly bills. This is also a time that the students should be filling out the weekly forms as well.
If you choose to use a class store, you will want to have it open at the end of the week as well. Students will be able to purchase what they want from the store and use checks only.
Continue with this unit for creating a classroom economy for as long as you like. Just make sure to stop at the end of each week to take care of salaries and payments. Also remember to make sure the students are doing their class jobs!
This unit is sure to be a hit. Some of the forms will be able to be modified to fit your classroom needs. We hope you enjoy this unit!