Do you ever have that one unit or project that you look forward to introducing to your students every year?
My favorite unit to teach incorporates elements of financial literacy and design that is sure to activate kids’ innovative thinking and problem-solving skills!
Cue Shark Tank Theme Song…
I have been lucky enough to have taught at two different school districts in Illinois that both offered Junior Achievement in which volunteers come into the classroom and teach about financial literacy. Depending on the grade level, students learn different aspects of business and in fourth grade their program is titled “Our Region”. There are a total of 5 sessions, approximately forty-five minutes in length. In the sessions, fourth graders learn vocabulary, about entrepreneurs, characteristics of entrepreneurs , types of businesses and industries, running a business, advertisement, goods and services, loss and profit, supply chains, and much more.
I always look forward to Junior Achievement because of how engaging the lessons are and how it sparks students’ creativity, critical thinking and collaboration skills.
After completing all five Junior Achievement sessions, I want students to use their newly learned knowledge to complete a entrepreneur project. Shark Tank is one of my favorite shows because of the variety of people and products presented and the pure enjoyment of seeing ordinary people create extraordinary products. The day that I introduce what Shark Tank is and what students will be doing, makes me so enthusiastic and excited because I know everyone will have fun and immerse themselves in this project. I first introduce the project by having the students watch several sample videos of pitches given by contestants on the ABC TV Show. What is so great about introducing students to some products and some pitches is that they realize that some of the products are those that have seen in stores or that they never knew existed. Also, there is such a wide range of ages on the show that it allows the students to see that they can create a product and have a chance to share it with others no matter their circumstances.
After watching a few sample pitches, students work independently to brainstorm problems that occur in their lives and how they would fix them with either a good or a service. I explain that the product does not have to be brand new. It can be something that already exists but people can make them better. Students then share their ideas with their classmates. This allows others to see their thinking and might even spark some new ideas along the way. During this time, students will discover other students’ ideas and will either choose to partner up, form a group, or pursue their work alone to create a unique and one-of-a-kind good or service.
The project takes us approximately three weeks from start to end. We only have about 2-3 times a week to work on it. Each day we complete different parts of our project. I always model through mini lessons using my made-up product, “Pencil Head”. I go step by step with them using my created packet to explain what problem I wanted to fix, how to design a pitch, and how to make a poster that makes the product appealing and convincing for the “sharks”.
Throughout this project we will:
Design a good or service
Name the business
Design a logo
Create a slogan
Identify resources needed
Create a convincing pitch
Design a poster displaying the good or service
The products that students end up creating are mind blowing! Seeing how aware they are of the problems in our world and their solutions to fix it amazes me year after year. On the day of the presentations, I set the stage, play the Shark Tank Theme Song, and students take turns presenting their posters and pitches to the class.
While presenting, their peers (sharks) will create questions to ask the new entrepreneur about their product/business. Then after the pitch, the sharks will have a chance to ask the questions they formulated.
After questioning, the “sharks” will vote whether they would like to invest in the product or not to invest at this time. It is amazing to see students’ imaginations take flight during this project and to see other’s reactions on the inventions that their classmates create.
If you are interested in our Shark Tank: Financial Literacy Project, check out my product on Teachers Pay Teachers.