Tips and Tricks for Teaching Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is an important skill that children begin to learn at a young age.  They quickly pick up on things they see their parents do and say when it comes to money.  By the time students enter the classroom, they already have some preconceived notions about money that will have an effect on their personal financial literacy.  This topic just might be one of the most important life skills topics we will teach to our students.  

Use these tips and tricks to help you successfully teach financial literacy to your students using fun and engaging activities they will love.

Real World Skills

I always find it enjoyable to teach financial literacy because my students can really relate to the real-world life skills that we discuss and learn about. 

Use real world experiences to help your students understand the concept of financial literacy.
They really enjoy talking about ways that they can earn money, things that they are saving up to buy, and what services they might be able to offer others.   

They may not understand the value of money, but they are very aware that it plays a part in how life functions.  

They see mom and dad using money and credit cards at the store.  They hear conversations about saving for a special treat.  

Like it or not, they see the impact of money on daily life.  

Tips for Teaching Financial Literacy

When I first started teaching, there were no standards or state requirements for teaching personal financial literacy.  While I don't always agree with new standards that are added, I do agree with adding financial literacy standards.  Our students desperately need to learn these real-life skills.  Statistics about the current financial state of America are quite daunting with more people in debt and fewer savings than ever before.  I love teaching my students about these important concepts in hopes that I can affect their futures.

Posters like these help to reinforce the vocabulary from your financial literacy unit.

I've tried many different activities when it comes to teaching financial literacy.  Along the way, I have found it best to teach financial literacy in a few different mini-units.  The units can be taught in any order and cover all of the financial literacy standards for primary students.  While it seems like our students are too young to need these skills, what we teach them now can have a profound impact on their relationship with money in the future. 

These are topics that I include in my financial literacy unit: 

  • Money and Bartering
  • Goods and Services
  • Supply and Demand
  • Needs and Wants
  • Earning and Using Money
  • From Tree to Table

Let's take a peek at my lesson plans to see how they all unfold in the classroom.

Financial Literacy Unit: Money and Bartering

This is a 2-day lesson covering money and what it is used for.  I created a reader to be used with the mini-unit and it makes a great introduction and overview of the topic. On day1, we enjoy reading the story together as a group.  Through the book, students will learn about different ways people can "buy" things.  Using money is the obvious one, but they love learning about bartering and trading too! Next, we dive into some fun learning about bartering.  It's a favorite activity for sure.  So many students didn't realize this was a real thing - except for maybe at the lunch table.  

For this activity, students randomly receive one card.  This becomes something that they have.  They will document this card on the activity sheet and draw a picture of their item.  Then it's time to trade.  Students have to find someone in the class to trade with.  Once the trading is done we document the trade on the activity sheet.  Then the real learning happens . . . through our discussion.  I use lots of questions during the discussion to get students to think about the bartering experience.  
    Using a reader like this helps your students understand important concepts while also engaging their creativity as they learn about the importance of financial literacy.
  • What did you start with?  Was it a good or service?
  • What did you trade for?  Was it a good or service?
  • Did you get something you wanted or needed?
  • Do you think it was a fair trade?
  • What can you do if you traded for something don't want or need?

There are so many directions this discussion can go.  I like to see where the students take it.  I'm always amazed at their insights and reasoning.  

On day 2, we start with a quick review.  The students love the reader so we often read it again.  Sometimes we read it as a class and other times I have them read it with a partner.  Either way, they are reviewing the concepts and vocabulary at the start of day 2.  

Our main goal on this day is to dive into some higher-level thinking.  Students will work on comparing and contrasting buying with money and bartering. Now that they have had an experience with trading from the day before, they are able to take those brains to the next level. 

Financial Literacy Unit: Goods and Services

For teaching about goods and services, I usually take 3 days.  Like the other mini-units, I always begin with the reader.  Not only does this explain the concepts, but it is also a great introduction to the vocabulary related to this topic.  In this 3-day lesson, students will learn all about things that people spend their money on. Once we have a basic understanding of goods and services it's time for some fun practice.

Use tSuccessfully teach financial literacy to your students using fun and engaging activities they will love.
The students love the goods and services sorting activity.  It is a perfect activity that can be done whole class, in small groups, or with partners. Students will sort a variety of cards into the categories of goods and services. This is such a great way to help them master their understanding of the two.  Once done, I often add this to our center rotation for a fun review.

On the second day of this unit, we begin by reviewing and re-reading the goods and services reader. 

Then we move on to the goods and services game! This game takes a new spin on bingo - literally. 

After spinning the spinner, students will determine if they landed on the word 'good' or 'service.'  Then they must place their marker on a square that matches.  

Teaching students using games like this goods and services game helps them grasp the financial literacy concepts you are teaching.
For example, if they spin the word good, they can choose to cover up any square that represents a good, like a muffin or a jacket.  But if they spin a service, they must cover a square that represents a service, like a plumber or a taxi driver.  The first student to get 4 in a row wins! 

On our last and final day on this topic, we really dive into understanding the differences between goods and services. 

After a class discussion on the difference between goods and services, we complete cut-and-paste activities for this topic.  

The students love sorting the items and I love that I can use this as an informal assessment to see that they are understanding the new concepts.

Financial Literacy Unit: Needs and Wants

If there is one thing young kids say a lot it is the word NEED!  They need all kinds of things.  That's what makes this lesson such an eye-opener! The conversations in this mini-unit are always good.  And while I hate being the one to crush their dreams,  helping them to realize that the new scooter they keep talking about is actually a want and not a need is a good life lesson! 

Turn learning about needs and wants into a fun game with this needs and wants spinner activity your students will love.
The unit begins just as the others do- with a reader. On the first day, we always do this as a read-aloud.  But when we review, it's fun to mix it up with echo reading, partner reading, or even reading in funny voices. After reading and diving into your discussion on needs and wants, it is time to complete the "Let's Go Shopping" activity and the "Who Needs It" worksheet.   Through these activities, students will work on deciding if an item is a need or want and who would use it.

Day 2 and Day 3 both have students expanding on their knowledge of goods and services.  Since kids always love playing games, it is a great way to help them learn.  The Needs and Wants board is a fun partner game where students try to cover up all their items.  The catch . . . they can only cover an item when it matches the need or wants category they landed on. 

Another class favorite is the cut and paste shopping bag activity.  Here students will color and cut out a variety of items.  They must classify them as a need or want before gluing them to the correct bag.  Wouldn't it be eye-opening if this is how items we buy were actually bagged?  All the needs in one bag and all the wants in another.  This categorizing activity is a great way to check for understanding.

Financial Literacy Unit: Earning and Using Money

Another important topic in my financial literacy unit is earning and using money.  This 3-day unit talks about different jobs adults have and different ways to make an income.  We also dig into ways to save money and give to charities. 

You guessed it, we start the unit with our reader!  After reading, I love to create a chart on the board and have a whole class discussion. We talk about different ways to earn money, spend money, and save money. As we discuss these topics, we add them to our chart on the board. It creates a great visual for the kids to see.   

Hands on activities like this sorting activity will help your students connect their financial literacy learning to key vocabulary.
It is also a great learning opportunity as each student has different personal experiences with earning, saving, and giving.  It's fun to watch as kids share their personal experiences.  I usually end the first day with a worksheet activity where students can practice what they just learned.  Students can use our discussion chart to help them write about how they could earn money and a charity they would like to give to.

Day 2 is filled with hands-on learning and a sorting activity.  What I love most about these sorting opportunities is that students have time to think through each activity to decide what category it belongs in.  

No matter whether a student is struggling or has a solid understanding, this activity always meets them right where they are.  Students will look at a variety of pictures to decide if the picture shows someone earning money or spending money. 

We wrap up this topic with an opportunity for students to show what they have learned.  Since my students love cut-and-paste activities this is a go-to in my classroom. What is great about these picture-based activities is that no matter what my students reading levels are, they can show what they know about these social studies standards.  

Financial Literacy Unit: From Tree to Table

In the primary classroom, it is easy to forget what students know and don't know.  On more than one occasion I've heard debates about where hamburgers come from.  While the consensus seems to be that McDonald's magically creates them, there is so much going on behind the scenes that students haven't learned about yet. This mini-unit, From Tree to Table helps teach students about where goods come from.  

A reader and fun sorting activity like this apples to applesauce activity will help your students connect their learning to real-world experiences.

The students LOVE this reader that details the process from apple trees to applesauce.  It is something the students really connect to.  They get so amazed to see all the steps that happen before they eat the applesauce.  We follow up the reader with a fun sequencing activity.  The students love to cut and paste pictures in order of how apples go from a tree to a store. 

Day 2 is when minds really get blown.  Students learn about a variety of different everyday items and where they come from.  The looks on their precious faces are just priceless when they learn that a violin bow comes from a horse or that their shirt started as a cotton plant.  This really gets them thinking and they have lots of great questions about where things come from!

Financial Literacy Unit: Supply and Demand and Scarcity

The final topics we cover are supply, demand, and scarcity.  These sometimes hard-to-understand concepts can be brought to a concrete level with a little role-playing.  

Use real world items like chocolate and bananas to help your students understand the concept of supply and demand.
Using chocolate candy and bananas (or any items of your choice) you can demonstrate the concepts of scarcity and supply and demand to your students.  

Talking about the students' favorite candy bars with your class will lead them to all want one! But, they will soon find out there are not enough candy bars to go around.  Voila . . . scarcity!  

Next, offer to sell the chocolate and bananas in class.  You can demonstrate the concepts of supply and demand and how it affects prices in our real world. Students really understand these advanced concepts when they see them in action.

Wrap it Up! 

After completing all of the mini-units we take a day or two to review all the amazing things we have learned.  I love to have students create a final project that shows off all the vocabulary and concepts they learned about.  

Your students will love putting together their very own financial literacy lapbook to show off all of their learning during this unit.
These foldables are perfect for creating a lap book, a small poster, or even for adding to an interactive notebook.  
It's a couple of weeks of jam-packed fun and learning for sure.  Financial literacy is one of my all-time favorite topics to teach and the students love it too.  

You can find all of the resources I use to teach my Financial Literacy unit in my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.  

This Financial Literacy Bundle includes all 5 mini-units, vocabulary posters, and more!  Everything you need for a great financial literacy unit is included.  

Grab the Financial Literacy Bundle to save yourself hours of prep time without sacrificing quality learning activities.

Successfully teach financial literacy to your students using fun and engaging activities they will love.

Save these Financial Literacy Lesson Ideas

Save these financial literacy lesson ideas by pinning this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board.  That way when you are ready to teach these topics you can quickly back to these ideas.  
Teaching financial literacy to your students doesn't have to be boring or overwhelming. Using these tips and tricks for teaching financial literacy, you will have fun and engaging activities available for your students to teach them everything from the difference between goods and services to what it means to trade and barter. An interactive lapbook will be a great resource your students can refer to over and over again throughout the unit. And, it makes a great take home to share their learning with families. #financialliteracy #teachingfinancialliteracy #financialliteracyunit #financialliteracyactivities

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