Monday, October 17, 2011

Teaching Economics with Games and Activities

The field of Economics is at the cornerstone of our everyday existence. There is no aspect of our day to day functioning that it does not impact in some way, shape or form.

Whether we’re shopping at the local mall, dining out at a restaurant, toiling away at our jobs, or simply having our cars serviced, there’s no escaping its basic principles, practices and reach. That is exactly why today’s student benefits from understanding its relevance and how it defines and shapes the future.

Even though it’s a serious topic, class instruction doesn't have to be boring and strictly “by the book.” You’ll find that the class environment and experience will be much more enjoyable and enlightening through combining various teaching methods, including games and activities. Games and activities are great teaching tools to encourage interaction, comprehension and retention.

With this in mind, here are a few creative and fun ways to teach learners of varying ages and levels about economics.

1. Schoolhouse Rock Series - Have you heard of this clever product? For those that haven’t, Schoolhouse Rock was a series created by David McCall that made learning various subjects really cool and fun. Inspired back in the ’70s when his son was having difficulty remembering and mastering mathematical concepts, he came up with the idea of using rock music as a teaching tool, and produced a line of musical educational products that addressed an array of subjects---from math, to grammar, to the constitution, It originally aired as musical shorts on Saturdays, back in the ’70s on ABC, but all of the original videos are available on DVD. Its effectiveness existed in using key phrases, colorful language, alliteration and other devices to boost memory and to create lasting connections.

2. Monopoly Game - Monopoly is a board game originally created by Parker Bros that imparts important and useful concepts and vocabulary words for students of economics. Participants will use strategy to buy and sell property, learn about applicable taxes, and handle money transactions in the process. Hugely popular, the game is still enjoyed today by adults as well. Besides the fun factor, it’s a great way to incorporate aspects of monetary economics.

3. Add technology to your assignments. Online activities can also bring a new dimension to your efforts. There are many online resources that provide puzzles, worksheets, vocabulary lessons, and even interesting links to follow. How do you find them? Simply “Google” the key words in the search engine. For example, to find your subject, type in “economic games” and you’ll yield a listing of perhaps thousands of leads. The more specific your inquiry, the more successful the search. Try it.

4. Bring students current on current events. Bring a recent newspaper to class and find relevant headlines that can be discussed in the classroom. For example, President Obama’s job creation plan, or the rising price of gas. The want ads can be used to discuss career goals, entrepreneurship, and taxes. Sales ads can be the catalyst for a conversation of wants vs. needs. Get the picture?

Follow these four techniques and tools to make learning economics a fun and rewarding experience for your students. Also, keep in mind that we are living in a day and age (and video culture), where “entertainment value” is increasingly important, even in the classroom.

This is a guest post by Troy Edwards, who writes for the blog What is Economics? where you can learn about and study economics 101. He has been in education for 10 years as a teacher and administrator. Currently, Troy is a math and social studies teacher in a special settings school for disadvantaged students.