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Lesson Plan: How the Economy Works -- Grades 3-5

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Overview: Use the Scholastic News Online Special Report on the economy to help students understand both general economic terms and the roots of the current crisis.

Duration: about 50-100 minutes (1-2 class periods)


Students will be able to:

Understand important terminology related to the American economic system, including credit, debt, and bailout bill
Distinguish between a healthy and weak economy

Materials: Computer(s) with Internet access; Economy Ups and Downs PDF (optional)

Set Up and Prepare: Preview the Special Report prior to the lesson. Make copies of the PDF.


1. To activate prior knowledge, ask students what they have heard about the American economy in the news lately. Chances are, students have heard terms bandied about that they do not completely understand. List these words on the board or interactive whiteboard.

2. Divide students into groups of two or three, and assign each team a word from the list. Demonstrate how to consult the Scholastic News Online economic glossary to check the meaning of the word. Then have each team look up its word and report back to the class.

3. Challenge students to complete the word-search game, which reviews 10 main economic words. Students should complete the word search on their own, consulting the online glossary as needed.

4. Now that students have a working vocabulary of economics, invite them to use some of the other features of the Special Report. Some learners might watch the video report on the New York Stock Exchange, while others may read interviews with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the crisis and the controversial Bailout Bill. If you wish, ask students to summarize one article, video, or interview.

5. Distribute copies of the Economy Ups and Downs PDF, and review the directions with students. Explain that students will use what they have learned about the economy to complete the chart. Allow time for students to cut out and paste the text boxes in the appropriate columns. Write the words unemployment, credit, layoff, stock, and recession on the board. Let students know that if they get stumped, they can look up these words in the online glossary for clues.

6. Review answers to the PDF (see below). Reassure worried students that although the American economy is weak right now, the government and others are taking steps to turn it around. Also, be sure to congratulate students on tackling a tough subject. Let them know that if they have even a partial understanding of the current economic crisis, they are ahead of many grown-ups! And be sure to check back periodically for news about the economic recovery on Scholastic News Online.

Lesson Extensions

Have students choose any publicly traded company. Have them find out the company’s stock symbol, then check Web sites or the financial section of the newspaper for daily stock quotes.

Home Connection

Send home a note letting parents know about the economy-related resources available at Scholastic News Online. The articles, glossary, and budget tips are tools that parents can use to discuss the crisis at home.

Assess Students: Have each student hand in his or her completed PDF as well as a summary of one article or feature that he or she visited in the Special Report.

Answers to the Economy Ups and Downs PDF: In a healthy economy, people and businesses spend more, the unemployment rate is fairly low, stock prices go up, small businesses grow, and it is easy for people to get credit. In a weak economy, home sales are down, stock prices go down, many companies lay off workers, spending drops, and it is harder for people to get credit.

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