Students study economics and economic principles by maintaining a class bank and store.
- Balance their credits and debits
- Use a decision-making model to make consumer decisions
- Practice making change to prepare for their turn as cashier for the class store
- Practice writing checks
- Classroom Economy: Blank Check Template printable
- Classroom Economy: Credit and Debit Log printable
- Consumers Make Choices Worksheet printable
- Credit and Debit Notebooks distributed in Lesson One: Introducing the Classroom Economy
- Materials for a class bank
- Materials for a class store
- A checkbook (as a prop)
- Optional: Shopping at the Class Store Math Worksheet printable
- Make copies of the Classroom Economy: Blank Check Template printable and write one check to each student (they will calculate their paycheck amount, so you can leave the amount blank for now). There are three checks per page.
- Make copies of the Classroom Economy: Credit and Debit Log printable. You will need one log per student (there are four logs on each page) for students to paste into their Credit and Debit Notebooks at the class bank.
- Make a class set of the Consumers Make Choices Worksheet printable.
- Decide how you would like to set up the class bank and the class store. Read How to Construct a Class Bank and Setting Up a Class Store to determine your essential store and bank materials. Construct the bank before Part 1 and set up the store before Part 3.
- Optional: If you want students to use the worksheets provided, make class sets of the Shopping at the Class Store Math Worksheet printable. You can also use your own worksheets or create new activities to use with this lesson.
Part 1: Calculating Credits and Debits
Step 1: Bring a checkbook to school and show students how adults keep track of their credits and debits as they spend money or use a debit card for daily purchases.
Step 2: Model how to calculate the total amount of money earned during a pay period (see my How to Create and Use Credit and Debit Notebooks in Your Classroom article).
Step 3: Tell students they will report their earnings to you. Since students are "employees" of the teacher, the teacher will issue checks to the students to compensate them for their "work" during the pay period.
Step 4: Pass out the blank copies of checks that you have already signed. Each student will complete his or her own check just for this first week so that he or she becomes familiar with the different parts of a check.
Note: In the future, a payroll clerk can issue checks at the end of each pay period. This can be a "paid" classroom job.
Step 5: Introduce students to the bank teller job. Students will be taking their checks to the bank on shopping days. The bank teller will pay students the amount of money indicated on the check and give students a new Credit and Debit Log sheet to paste into their Credit and Debit Notebook.
Step 6: Show students the class bank. Review the elements of the bank as listed in the How to Construct a Class Bank article.
Part 2: Making Change
Step 1: Introduce the job of cashier. Brainstorm students' prior knowledge of a cashier's duties, drawing on their experiences at the mall, the grocery store, etc. This is likely to be a very desirable job in the classroom economy!
Step 2: Practice adding multiple items and making change. It is important that consumers are able to add up their purchases, but it is essential that the cashier is able to make change when customers do not have correct bills.
Step 3: Have students complete the Shopping at the Class Store Math Worksheet printable or your own worksheets or activities using items from your own class store.
Part 3: Let's Go Shopping!
Step 1: Before students shop for the first time, allow all students to preview the class store to determine items they would like to purchase.
Step 2: Instruct students to keep track of items they like, along with the items' prices, on the Consumers Make Choices Worksheet printable as they browse the store inventory.
Step 3: Discuss the concept of making choices. Have students complete the Consumers Make Choices Worksheet to determine what they will buy at the store.
Step 4: Invite students to share their consumer decisions and explain how they made their final decisions about what to buy.
Step 5: Open the class store and bank for official business.
Note: In my classroom, students shop twice a week. I chose a banker and a cashier based on "good character" requirements. All other students are working independently on an assigned task. The banker calls students to the bank, cashes their checks, gives them a new Credit and Debit Log, and sends them to the store to shop.
Supporting All Learners
Providing students with a teacher-created model of the decision-making worksheet will help all students better understand the task when completing Part 3 of the lesson.
Local stores and banks are often more than happy to allow students to visit for class field trips. These types of field trips provide students with an authentic opportunity to learn about the daily operations at banks and retail stores while also studying the economic impact the stores have on the local community.
- Invite parents who have jobs in banking, retail, or other related occupations to visit the classroom to talk about their jobs.
- Enlist parents to help you plan and organize field trips to businesses where the students can learn more about daily operations.
- Complete the Shopping at the Class Store Math Worksheet
- Complete the Consumers Make Choices Worksheet
- Balance credits and debits at the end of the pay period
- How well is your credit and debit system working?
- Were students able to balance their credits and debits?
- Are students excited about their roles in the classroom economy?
- What worked well during the first shopping day?
- What will you change before your students visit the class bank and class store next time?
- You can assess students' work on the worksheets, and you should monitor their first time calculating their earnings to make sure that they are able to balance their credits and debits.
- Each week the bank teller, the cashier, and the students shopping at the store can be informally assessed to determine their ability to add prices of store items, count money, and make correct change.