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5 Ways To Teach Money Matters Using Popular Culture - Part 1

In recent years movie makers have discovered that there can be big profits in turning popular children’s books into family-friendly motion pictures. (Thank you, J.K. Rowling!)  Educators may take advantage of this trend by reintroducing the featured piece of literature to their students and use the plot, characters, and setting as points of reference for instruction in certain content areas.

While it is common knowledge that the book is always better than the movie, it is Big-Screeninteresting to observe that the release date of a movie often finds the related book moving up on many best-selling books lists.  A recent example of this phenomenon is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. First published in 1937 and never out of print, flew off bookstore shelves as the movie was enjoying widespread popularity in the theatres.

Educators know that showing an entire movie to in their classroom is not a good use of time, can be expensive, and is often against school policy.  However, when a movie is released based on a popular children’s book, important historic event or favorite fairy why not take advantage of the “free press” that is prompting the students’ interest?

The following activities are based on children’s books that been adapted to popular motion pictures.  The movie is the “hook” to get the students interested in the title.   The content for the activities is based on the book and focuses on how the characters interact with economic decision making and personal finance situations.   It is to be noted that this list includes grade level appropriateness only as a suggestion.  A good picture book can be as relevant to a sixteen-year-old interested in ecology as a kindergartener enjoying imaginative illustrations and silly word rhymes.

  • Testing bullet 1
  • Intent: To display Brock Doors & Windows ads to targeted consumers through search engine advertising products. The purpose of the campaign is to create new targeted traffic and sales leads for Brock Doors & Windows
  • Testing
  1. Testing bullet 1
  2. Intent: To display Brock Doors & Windows ads to targeted consumers through search engine advertising products. The purpose of the campaign is to create new targeted traffic and sales leads for Brock Doors & Windows
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1.    The Lorax by Dr. Seuss [Random House, 1971]  Grades K-3

Story Synopsis: The Lorax is a cautionary tale of how man’s greed and lack of foresight can destroy the environment. The picture book, told in Dr. Seuss’s whimsical rhyme, begins in a town that has been depleted of its natural resources.  A curious boy pays the reclusive Once-ler to tell him the tale of the Lorax. Using flashbacks, the Once-ler relates his story of materialism, destruction, and remorse. The Once-ler, like any successful businessperson, saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.  He was an entrepreneur who used natural resources to start a business which made and sold a product.  However, he the choices he made were not always in the best interest of others.

Economic Concept: Productive resources are limited.  People cannot have all the goods (objects) and services (activities) they want and must make choices.

Activity: Read The Lorax to the students.  Then check for understanding by asking the following questions:

1. What product did the Once-ler develop? The Thneed

2. What were this product’s uses? It could be used as a shirt, sock, glove, hat, carpet, pillow, sheet, curtain, or bicycle seat 

3. What natural resources were used to create this product? Truffula Tuft

4. Who were the “human” resources that worked in the factory? The Once-ler’s family came to work in his factory

5. What are some examples of capital resources used to make the product? Axe, knitting needles, factory, wagons, and super-axe-hacker

Conclude the lesson posing the following discussion question:  The Once-ler discovered that the creation of a product required the use of natural resources.  What happened once the truffula trees were all gone?  How could this environmental disaster have been prevented?


2.    Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Jan Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett [Simon and Schuster, 1978]  Grades 2-5

Story Synopsis: In the imaginary town of Chewandswallow the availability of food is dependent on climatic conditions. Chewandswallow’s main street is a busy place full of shops offering many kinds of goods and services. First published in 1978 this wonderfully illustrated picture book is as applicable today as it was forty years ago…maybe even more so!

Economic Concept: People’s choices about what goods (objects) and services (activities) to buy and consume determine how resources will be used.

Activity: Read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to the students. Upon completion display page six and explain that Chewandswallow’s main street is a busy place full of shops offering many kinds of goods and services. Define goods as tangible things such as food, shoes, cars and houses and services as physically intangible things such as medical care, haircuts, and education. Ask the students to look at the different shops and businesses and think about what goods and services each provides. Note that there is not a grocery store, candy shop or tea room to be seen!  Distribute paper and writing tools.  Tell students that they have a specific amount of time to search for and write down as many goods and services as they can find in the illustration.  Students may work individually or in pairs.  Call 'time' and discuss the items the students have listed.  Challenge the students to volunteer a good or a service that they think no other student was able to find.  

Extension Activity: Instruct the students to revisit the illustration to find the various citizens on the streets.   Ask them to decide if this citizen is being a producer or consumer of a good or service in the illustration.


3. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. [Puffin, 1970]  Grades 3-6

Story Synopsis:  In this fantastic tale where animals talk and humans are greedy and foolish; three farmers are determined to keep Mr. Fox from stealing their chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys and apple cider. Determined to terminate Mr. Fox’s raids, farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean think of various ways to accomplish their goal. After many near misses, Mr. Fox, along with his family and friends, manages to tunnel into the farmers’ storehouses and obtain massive amounts of food.  The story ends with the indication that the three farmers will be uselessly keeping guard at the entrance to a tunnel for a very long time.

Economic Concept: A cost is what a person gives up when they decide to do something.  A benefit is what satisfies a person’s wants.

Activity: Introduce the lesson by explaining that people make choices all the time.  When a decision is made people choose the alternative that seems to be in their best interest because it involves the least cost and the greatest benefit. Ask the students if anyone is familiar with story Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. (Hopefully, at least half the class will have either read the book or seen the movie.)  Discuss the plot of the story with an emphasis on the three farmers who wanted to keep Mr. Fox from stealing from them, and Mr. Fox who was stealing from the famers to feed his family. Create a class list on a piece of chart paper.  Challenge the students think of the costs the farmers incurred as they tried to stop Mr. Fox from stealing.  (Possible responses include: time, money, tools, health, time away from farming chores, etc.)  In a second column ask for suggestions to the benefits of trying to stop Mr. Fox from stealing. .  (Possible responses include: stopping loss of profit, safety of farm animals, justice of stopping a thief, righting a wrong, etc.)   Discuss whether the cost trying to stop Mr. Fox from stealing is higher than the benefit--or the other way around.

...To Be Continued! Check back for final two ways to teach money matters to your children and students using popular books and movies!

Which books have you read to your kids or students that act as great economic value examples? 

Posted by Lynne Farrell Stover in Teacher, General ← Previous Post Next Post →

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