Economics Activities for 3rd Grade

A third grade girl in class.
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With the right activities, economics becomes an engaging topic for third graders. The main concepts for this grade are the division of labor, productivity, markets, pricing, and supply and demand. Having a solid foundation in these topics helps third graders understand how the parts of the economy elements work together to bring products to market.

1 Class Economic System

A class store helps third graders have hands-on practice with the parts of an economic system. Students need to understand the concepts of resources, supply, demand, money, price and bartering. Teach your students about the resources you have in the classroom such as homework coupons, pencils, ballpoint pens, rulers, erasers, small toys and treats. Discuss the meaning of supply and demand, with an example a third grader understands. For example, state that an item in the class store -- like pencils -- which is "in demand" -- may become so popular that the store may run out of pencils; conversely, an item not in demand -- such as ballpoint pens -- may go on sale because the supply of ballpoint pens is too high and the store can't make a profit if it can't sell all of its items. Explain that the students will earn behavior tokens they can use as money in the class store. Decide whether the students will be allowed to barter -- or trade -- for different items with each other.

2 Producing Goods

Two concepts taught in third grade essential to supplying goods to the public are the division of labor and productivity. Provide your students with a way to produce goods and then increase productivity by dividing the labor. Show your students a picture that involves gluing numerous shapes to paper, to create a finished picture. You can make this project by finding a picture of an object, such as a tree, a house or robot, for example. Make enough copies for each student in the class. Then, mark the photo into segments that you will cut out. Make sure you have the same number of pieces as the number of students you have in class. Also make sure that each copy of the photo has been cut out so that each copy is identical to all the other copies. Give each student a sheet with the cutout pieces and ask each student to glue the pieces to the paper, timing each student to see how long it takes to finish gluing the pieces. Write down the times. Then, explain that you will divide the labor into smaller portions so everybody can work together in one of three teams. Suppose you have a picture of a house. In the foreground, the house is resting on grass. The first team can glue together the pieces that represent the grass and the bottom of the house. The second team can glue the pieces that represent the house. The third team can glue the pieces that represent the sky. Since each team needs to know only how to complete its part of the project, each team won't waste time figuring out how to complete the entire project, thereby making each team more efficient, resulting in less time spent per completed picture. The students will see that the division of labor increases productivity.

3 Web of Interdependence

Have your students consider the elements of the economy involved with the dinner that their parents provide. Students should understand the terms goods, services, producers, consumers, market, money and price. Instruct each student to draw his family eating dinner. Discuss where the food comes from and have the students add a drawing of the store. Instruct the students to draw a family member purchasing the food. Ask the students where the store obtains the food and discuss farms, factories and ranches. Students should add drawings of the farms, factories and ranches along with workers in them. Have the students draw lines to create a web that shows the connections between the elements in the drawing such as where the food originates and its destination. Students then label the web with the economic vocabulary used during the discussion.

4 Charity Bake Sale

Help your students learn economic concepts while helping others with a charity bake sale. Locate a local charity or find a charity on line who will accept the students' donations. Have the students survey the market, which is the school to find out which bake sale items might be most in demand. Instruct the students to plan how they will produce and supply the bake sale items in a written plan. Inform your students that they will provide the labor in the form of baking the items. If ovens are not available, have the students create no-bake treats such as rice cereal treats or trail mix bags. Make sure to ask if any students have any food allergies and then avoid making items with those foods. Require that students figure out the cost of the actual ingredients for each item then price each item so that they make a profit for the charity. Students will then sell the items that they have labored over, supplied and priced.

Elizabeth Stover, an 18 year veteran teacher and author, has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Maryland with a minor in sociology/writing. Stover earned a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas, Arlington and continues to work on a masters in Educational Leadership from University of North Texas. Stover was published by Creative Teaching Press with the books "Science Tub Topics" and "Math Tub Topics."