Giving 'Em the Business

Activity Overview: 

In this four week unit, primary students work in groups of four to five to form businesses. They create, sell, and market their product to other classmates. They track their expenses and profits.


  • Experience the roles of producer, distributor, and consumer of goods

  • Understand advertising and the role it plays in the marketplace

  • Collect, organize and represent information over time

In this 4 week unit, primary students will work in groups of 4-5 to form a business, create, market & sell their product, and track their expenses and profits.

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)


Curriculum Standards from :

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators from :


Organize “paperwork”

· loan application

· application for storefront

· health department agreement

· payment schedule


· Partners fill out paperwork to receive a bank loan for their “storefront” & materials to make their products

· A business name, logo, and slogan are created, and business cards are designed on the computer.

· Businesses are open in the afternoon once a week for approx 20 minutes. Students take turns buying & selling

· Afterward, partners reflect on the success of their sale, and decide whether to make the same product next week and/or adjust their price if necessary.

Social Studies VII Early Grades: a, b, d, g, h, i

PreK-2: 9


· Assemble materials for making selected products

· Set up spreadsheets for each business’s record of profits.


· During math centers, partners create their products (a food item such as finger jello, crackers & cheese, jelly sandwiches, popcorn, etc)

· Partners decide the amount to make and price to charge.

· Students use calculators to aid in calculating purchases, to verify their total profits and each partner’s share of the profit.

· Records are kept of weekly debits/credits and profits.

· Businesses use a spreadsheet and chart to illustrate their profits.

Math 5, 6




PreK-2: 2


· Videotape TV food ads aimed at kids

· Gather samples of food ads from newspapers, magazines, radio & Web sites

· Create an evaluation for ads

· Business partners create a banner for their store front on the computer.


· Students view advertising via taped ads on the VCR and selected ads from newspapers, magazines, and the Internet and note on evaluation form how many times product is shown, or named. Watch for slogans.

· Students choose 1 medium to create their own ad.

· Partners present their ads to the class. Students use the evaluation piece to give feedback.

English Language Arts 5

PreK-2: 5


Classroom resources consisted of one calculator for each business, two PC computers with Internet connection which share a printer, a TV/VCR connected to a computer monitor via a TV/PC converter, a videocamera, and an audio cassette player with a microphone.  Storefronts consisted of a table for each business with a banner taped to the front proclaiming the name of the business, and 3 chairs behind for the sellers.

Spreadsheet (such as MS Works). Available:
Graphics program with banner, poster, and business card capabilities
Such as: KidPix Deluxe. Available:

Other materials needed are newspapers, magazines, recordings of radio, TV, and Web ads, teacher created loan application, application for storefront, health department agreement, and a payment schedule for each business.


Business Rubric
Multiage Primary










Has difficulty with team decisions, prefers to work alone

Joins conversation, goes along with team decisions

Leads discussion, allows team to decide as a group


Missing several required components

Contains name of product, picture of product, slogan, price, name of business

Contains all components with creativity and uniqueness


Price reflects little thought of profit needed

Price reflects thought of profit needed and some flexibility

Price reflects flexibility and forethought


Has difficulty with assigning proper amount of money to price

Able to count out appropriate amounts of money

Able to count out money and give appropriate change


Is beginning to understand concept of supply & demand

Understands concept of supply & demand

Uses concept of supply & demand in decision making

Marilyn Western, Mt. Pleasant Public Schools, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Based on a unit by Carlene Shortz, Mt. Pleasant Public Schools

This activity is a four week piece of a year long unit on Communities.  Students in the video session are involved in the third of the four weeks.

In our Community unit, students take a walking field trip to the downtown area to interview community leaders (for example, the mayor, city treasurer, police chief, banker, etc).  This information is the basis of our classroom community.  Students fill out applications for classroom jobs, receive weekly paychecks which they cash at the classroom bank, pay rent on their chairs, and have various opportunities to spend their hard-earned classroom cash.

This is the third year I have run the Classroom Community, the second year for the Businesses.  I learned a lot in the first year of this experience, such as setting aside half of each business’s products until the first sellers had their turn at buying.  Things are much more streamlined this second year.

Technology Resources:
The first year of the project, I did not have KidPix Deluxe available, and advertisements were drawn posters.  The quality was poor – students didn’t seem to understand the importance of using color, large lettering, or pictures of their products.  After looking for elements of ads in various media, students’ advertisements were colorful, interesting, and “3 dimensional”, that is, they used audio and video enhancements.  Their creativity was astounding!  We’re still humming the trail mix song one group made up and audio recorded.  In this particular instance, technology definitely enhanced the original unit.

School Background Information
The population of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan is 25,946 people. The majority of parents are employed in Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe, Central Michigan University, Morbark Industries, the Delfield Company, Meijer Corporation, LaBelle Management, CME Corporation, and Randell Manufacturing. The school district has about 3,976 students. Around 89% of the students are White, 4% are American Indian, 3% are African American, 3% are Asian, and 2% are Hispanic. All of the students are fluent in English. 

Teaching Strategy:
Real life is emphasized in this Community unit, and students are very familiar with tv, video and radio ads.  This experience gave them a behind-the-scenes look at the why and how of marketing, producing, and distributing.  A “hidden” agenda is getting students to work together as a team, which is not always easy at this grade level.  Partners learned to listen to everyone’s ideas, and to work together to make creative products.

Components of the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model which were highlighted in the video:
(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Principles of Learning:
Active Involvement
Primary students learn best by being actively involved in their own learning.  As you can see in the video, students are working in teams to produce their own form of advertising.  Although there are leaders in each group, students have had practice in listening and accepting others' ideas and suggestions.  All team members are actively involved in their learning.  Students are also actively involved in the buying and selling of their products.  They eagerly take turns and work together as sellers, individually as buyers.

Direct Experience
These projects were selected specifically for their real-world familiarity. Students have heard and seen radio, TV, and newspaper ads, and have a good idea of what the end result looks like.  What they are learning here is the amount of behind the scenes work that goes into each of these products. They are experiencing the enjoyment of choosing a project to put their own creativity to work.  They also have a distinct interest in the selling of their own products which they have made earlier in the day, as well as the buying of what interests them.  They have earned the money they are using.

Compelling Situation
Offering students a choice in selecting their projects gives them the motivation and enjoyment of working in a stimulating and rewarding area of study.  Because students are working in teams, they have the support and models for pushing their limits in trying something new.  Needless to say, food is a Compelling Situation for any student!

Enjoyable Setting
Primary students are famous for their imaginations.  The videotape shows a great example of imagining their classroom as a radio or TV station or a newspaper office.  Basing their stores on real-life models, students are responsible for creating their own storefronts, business cards, advertising, and their products to sell.  As you can see in the video, they find the store placement easy to use and encouraging for both buying and selling.

Frequent Feedback
Feedback is given by both the teacher and teammates in the video.  You'll note positives given first, then gentle suggestions to think about other options.  Choice is left up to the team.  Individuals are also encouraged to "think ahead" to what may happen as they make their choices.  Buyers and sellers also make suggestions to each other and team time for reflection is provided.

Information Processing:
In this video, you'll see examples of Information Processing.  This is the fourth buy/sell activity in a series of five.  After each adventure, students have time to discuss with their teammates the successes of the store and improvements that they might make for the next round. Teams are encouraged to weigh the merits of selling the same product for the same price or selecting a new product, changing the price or size of portions, etc. They have set up goals at the beginning of the project and are encouraged to evaluate their progress towards that goal.    Students are Interpreting the basic assignment - to advertise their product in some way - in some form of real-world form of advertising. 

They are not only communicating their product's wonderfulness, they are also practicing their Communication skills between team members and their audience.  Creativity is emphasized in their activities.

Content Standards:
Language Arts
The advertising activity shows students creating their own radio, TV, or newspaper advertising.  ELA Standards 3, 4, 5, 12

Students work on measuring skills in creating their products, calculating product prices to make a little profit, but not overpricing, and problem solving how to cut their product into a particular number of pieces.  Math Standards Number & Operations, Geometry, Measurement, and Problem Solving  

Social Studies
Students work on pricing their products according to their own needs – how much they need to make in each session to repay their start-up loan.  They also take into account the competition's pricing.  When selling time is almost over and they still have product to sell, they confer to decide what to do to make their product more tantalizing.  Economic Standards 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13

Thinking Together and Making Meaning
Power Sharing and Empowerment
Individual Responsibility
Civil Involvement with Others

Working as a team is a very important part of primary learning.  In this video, you'll see teams that have at least one higher level reader and one social leader.  The class has had many opportunities to work in teams such as these and have become quite skilled in listening to each other's ideas, being flexible in their suggestions (or as flexible as 6 and 7 year olds can be), and comfortable with sharing responsibility. Our multiage program emphasizes the individuality of students and their skills - everyone is an expert in something - as well as the family atmosphere - we all watch out for each other.

Student Characteristics:
This year, I have few competent readers in my class.  Instead of letting students select their own partners for their businesses, I assigned students to each business based on reading level, writing level, gender, age (1st or 2nd grader), and personality.  This brought equity to the businesses, and every student was able to bring their unique expertise to their team.

Evolution of Activity:
This activity has evolved from simply reading stories about community workers and brainstorming job responsibilities to actively participating in a mini-society within the classroom.  Each year seems to add a new element to the unit, from interviewing local community leaders and looking for patterns in hiring, job responsibilities, and skills needed, to producing commercials which are aired on the school Intranet.  Students are being given more freedom to make choices, to work as team members, and to live with decisions they have made.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology )