Sunday, April 25, 2010

10 Resources for Teaching & Learning Economics

As I've mentioned in the past, I really enjoy teaching economics because talking about money generally gets my students excited (if not excited, at least very interested). Here are some of the resources I've either created or used to teach economics lessons over the last few years.

1. Captains of Industry is an economics simulation activity that I used in my US History class this week. Original version of this activity was developed by my colleague Jason Long. What I'm sharing here is the activity as I've modified it for my classroom. My version is about 75% the same as Jason's original. The point of the activity is for students to experience and experiment with the tactics of American businessmen in the second half of the 19th century. Before trying the activity it is best for students to have some familiarity with the business practices of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Morgan. You can access the activity in a Google Doc here.

2. Life on Minimum Wage is a simulation I designed for students to recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win (prize not determined yet) at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent. All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one "business" slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also effected. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town's economy. I've published all of the rules of the game and needed "cards" as a Google Document which you can view here.

3. On the Scholastic website is a Kid's Economic Glossary that explains some basic banking and investing concepts in terms that upper elementary and middle school students can understand.

BizEd is a great resource for economics lessons and virtual field trips. I started using BizEd a few years ago and it has been a valuable resource to me ever since. BizEd is a UK based website so some of the lessons and activities have to be manipulated a little bit for use in US classrooms, but the overall value of activities is fantastic. Some of the highlights for teachers are frequently updated lesson plans, a comprehensive glossary of terms, slide shows available for download, and fantastic virtual field trips. BizEd even has an RSS feed that provides subscribers to updates in the lesson plans, activities, and reference section of BizEd.

Planet Money is a production of NPR covering the global economy. One of the services Planet Money offers is regular podcasts containing news and lessons about the economy. Economics teacher Heather Hanemann has developed lesson plans using Planet Money podcasts. Two of the lessons are about banks and bank regulators. The other lessons "Everyday Economics" provides listening comprehension worksheets to use with a half dozen Planet Money podcasts.

Debt Ski is a fun game (if you enjoyed late 80's - early 90's video games) for learning about personal finance. The object of the game is to accumulate as much savings and as little debt as possible. Players choose one of three lifestyle objectives "thrifty," "average," or "big spender." After choosing an objective players have to, in a Mario Brothers-style, accumulate coins and necessities while avoiding unexpected expenses.

7, 8, 9. Common Craft has three videos that could be used in a business class, economics class, or in any setting that requires students to have an understanding of banking practices. Here are direct links to each of the three videos: Investing in Plain English, Borrowing in Plain English, Saving in Plain English.

Say It Visually produces videos in a simple and clear, animated style similar to Common Craft. What I like about this video is that it explains the role of individuals in the financial crisis. In this video Say It Visually explains the 2008/09 US financial crisis.