Jobs: Who Needs 'Em?


This lesson printed from:

Posted May 8, 2008

Standard: 19

Grades: 3-5

Author: Stacey Pehosh

Posted: May 8, 2008


In this lesson, students will look at the importance having some kind of job. At early ages they sometimes get the idea that money grows on trees and they should get anything that they want. This lesson will look at the consequences of having a job, having a non-paying job (like a stay at home mom), and having no job (whether it's intentional or not). By the time they finish this lesson, they will have a better understanding of the economic impact of good, hard work.


Trade-offs among Goals, Types of Unemployment, Unemployment


  • Define different types of careers as well as benefits/drawbacks of those careers.


In this lesson students will look at the importance of having some kind of job. At early ages they sometimes get the idea that money grows on trees and they should get anything that they want. This lesson will look at the consequences/benefits of having a job, having a non-paying job (e.g. stay at home mom, volunteer worker, etc.), and having no job (whether it is intentional or not…e.g. lay-offs, disability, etc…). Hopefully, by the time they finish this lesson, the will have a better understanding the costs/benefits of having or not having a job.



Tell the students that you are getting ready to play a game. Two students will need to have jobs that they do not get paid for (like being a stay at home parent or volunteering at the hospital)and two students will get to have no job at all. Do not prep the students for the consequences of

  1. Ask for volunteers for the non-paying jobs (draw numbers or assign if you have might be entertaining to see who volunteers!)and let them have a chance to decide what that job will be (prompt where needed). Follow the same process for selecting the two with no job at all.
  2. Divide the rest of the class into a group of white collar workers (We will say for simplicity sake that these are jobs you have to go to college to get and you get paid for a year's work; doctors, lawyers, architects, and teachers.)and blue collar workers (We will say that these jobs may require college or may not but they get paid by the hour; nurses, construction workers, emergency workers).
  3. Assign one of the non-paid workers to a white collar professional (give them a sheet of yellow paper), one to a blue collar worker (give them a sheet of orange paper), put a blue and a white together (give them a sheet of pink paper), two blues (light blue paper), two whites (purple paper). Your students with no jobs at all will be on their own and they may not help each other (red paper). Tell them they can beg for money from the other students, but the other students do not have to give them any. Everyone else can be single but and they cannot help each other (green paper for white color workers and blue paper for blue collar workers).

[NOTE: Please be aware that as classroom teachers it's vitally important that we remember that some of our students have parents who are disabled, unemployed because of factory closures, or out of work due to other circumstances beyond their control.]


Have students complete the interactive activity below or complete the printable version of this activity.

Both activities consist of the same questions. Use which ever method best works for you.


  1. Give each of the professionals who had to go some type of graduate school 150 class dollars (in $10 bills).
    Give each of the professionals who did not have to go extra years of college 100 class dollars (in $10 bills).
    Give each of the blue collar workers who had to have some college 70 class dollars (in $10 bills).
    Give each of the blue collar workers who chose jobs that would not need any college 50 class dollars (in $10 bills).
    Both of the non-paid groups get nothing.
  2. If the students are working in pairs remind them that this might mean as a family unit or as roommates who share costs. Then have the students write their amounts on their piece of construction paper and post them on the wall starting with the largest amount earned by anyone/group.
  3. Now allow the students to spend their earnings on things in a class 'store'. These can be things like 'high priced' pencils and erasers or getting to ditch one assignment for the day or the difference in being able to 'buy' a snack for snack time or not being able to afford one. Just have a wide range so that it will get the point across that the ones who have a higher education made more money, the ones who did not work at all had no money, and the only reason the ones who had non-paying jobs had money is because they were in a team. Remind the students that if these players had not been on a team they would either have had to get jobs or get no money. Have the kids spend all of the money and see what everyone has.
  4. Begin a discussion by asking who wants to play again. Then ask who wants to be the players with no jobs at all. Ask why nobody wants to play that part and go from there. Discuss how the pensdifferent combinations worked for making money. When you have students who don't want to play that part use the following questions: Why don't you want to play that part? What are some of the reasons that people don't have jobs (make sure that students understand that sometimes people don't have jobs for reasons of disability, lay-offs, etc. and that just because someone doesn't have a job doesn't mean they aren't a worker. Also, have students point out jobs that have benefits that are non-monetary and may be more important to them than money, such as volunteer work, or homemaker). Did anyone playing by themselves make as much or more than one of the teams? Why? Remind students that everything has a cost of some sort. Choosing to be completely unemployed has costs, but so does the choice to be employed. This is a good time to introduce “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Explore the costs that different choices might lead to.
    WHEN YOU ARE FINISHING UP YOUR DISCUSSION tell the class you have a good sport award (hopefully your penniless students were good sports) and have some kind of special treat for the two students who did not get to shop.


As an extension, you could take this game out over a whole day or an even longer period. Actually, give job tasks, set up hourly wages where it is appropriate and pay them at the end of the activity for their jobs (even docking the hourly kids for asking for time off for recess!)The students who are totally unemployed may end up homeless (without a desk).They may only get to eat the snack that you provide (bread and a piece of cheese).They may get to play more than the others, but there will be no pay check at the end of the week. It could really be fun to see how they react to the implementations set up for a longer playing time.