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A Social Studies Activity on Bartering and Trade


Social Studies  



Summer Wood

Title: Exchange City

Grade: 3rd

Length of activity: 50 minutes

Objectives: Students will demonstrate the process of bartering by exchanging with another child an item that is more valuable to them.

Material: Items to be exchanged

Letter to parents


1. Tell the students you are planning a day called Exchange City. Explain the Exchange City is a day when the boys and girls bring in items that they would like to exchange with each other.

(EXPLAIN!! that the exchange is for real. They will not get back the item that they brought if they choose to exchange it with another child.)

2. The students are to bring in an item that is worth between one or two dollars. Explain to the students that they do not have to exchange their item if they feel there is not another item that is worth as much to them as the one they brought.

3. Before you start the lesson ask the students to set out the item that they choose to bring.

4. Make sure that everyone has brought an item that is between the dollar value. It would not be fair if someone brought an item worth five dollars and everyone else brought one dollar items.

5. Now that you have made sure everyone has the proper items – set a date in which Exchange City will take place. (Once again, explain that the exchange is for good)

6. Send a letter home to the parents explaining what activity you have planned. Encourage parents to come to visit on the day.

7. It is now EXCHANGE CITY DAY!!

8. Explain to the class exactly what a barter system is: Barter is the exchange of goods or services without money. (Introduction)

9. Give a couple of common examples of barter. Ex: On Halloween kids get many kinds of candy. Some they like and some they don’t. Normally the child will offer a sibling or a parent the piece of candy they don’t like for a piece of candy that their sibling or parent would like to give up. The piece of candy you don’t like could be your brother’s favorite kind.

Ex: Have you ever been to Wal-Mart and wanted a quarter for those machines that sit outside the doors? Thisis another form of barter. You and you sibling could put a quarter in the machine and get something totally different than what is pictured on the advertisement. If you want a ring and your brother wants a bouncy ball and what comes out is just the opposite, this is a chance for you to exchange items. This is called bartering.

10. Now that you have explained what barter is, ask the class to place their items on their desks. Let the students walk around and get a sense of what other students have brought. Once they are seated, you (the teacher) begin the exchange by offering one student the item you brought. This should get things rolling. Announce to the class that they only have 30 minutes to do the exchange. Announce when five minutes remain.

11. While they are participating in Exchange City, walk around the room and listen to the different comments made to each other.

12. When time is up discuss the lesson: (closure)

How many students traded their item for the item they wanted most?

How many didn’t trade at all? Why?

Was there anyone who traded more than once to get the item of their choice?

13. Have the class define barter in their journals, comment on the activity, and list three examples of barter they have been involved in.

14. Observe activity and write down comments the student make throughout the exchange. (Assessment)

15. Take pictures throughout the activity and develop them for display in the room.

Adaptation/Extensions: Send a letter home to the parents saying that if their child participates in 5 barters within two weeks, they will receive 2 points extra credit. To receive the points, a note must be sent to school with your child and signed describing the exchange that was made.


Coulson, E. & McCorkle, S. (1982). Swap Day. Ballwin, MO: Economics for the Elementary Classroom.

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