$martPath Forward: Explaining Needs & Wants

As teachers, we have the wonderful opportunity to equip our students with essential life skills. One fundamental lesson that can have a lasting impact is understanding the difference between wants and needs. This knowledge helps students make smart financial decisions and navigate life’s many choices. Here’s a guide for introducing this topic to your students in an engaging way.

Understanding Wants and Needs

Let’s start with the basics. Needs are the essentials we require to survive and stay healthy, like food, water, shelter, and clothing. Wants, on the other hand, are the extra things that make life enjoyable but aren’t necessary for survival, such as toys, entertainment, or the latest gadgets.

Engaging Classroom Activities

$martPath Needs vs. Wants Lessons: Use the Level One curriculum of $martPath (www.smartpathlearning.com) to introduce the concept of needs versus wants in a structured and engaging manner. $martPath offers interactive lessons and activities, such as digital stories and games, that help students practice identifying needs and wants. These resources are designed to be fun and educational, making it easier for students to grasp the concepts. Schedule regular sessions where students can explore these lessons and participate in discussions and activities provided by the curriculum. Use the provided materials to create a cohesive unit on financial literacy.

Brainstorming Session: Begin with a fun and interactive brainstorming session. Divide the board into two columns labeled “Needs” and “Wants.” Ask students to call out items they think fit into each category and write their responses in the appropriate column. Give each student sticky notes and have them write one item per note, then place the notes on the board in the correct column. This makes the activity interactive and visually engaging. Once the list is complete, go through each item and discuss why it’s a need or a want. Encourage students to think about why certain items are necessary for survival and others are not. Ask questions like, “Can you live without this?” or “Why is this item important?” For an extension activity, have students create their own lists at home, bringing back examples to share with the class. You can also have them create posters illustrating needs and wants.

Story Time: Select a story or book that clearly illustrates the concepts of wants versus needs. For younger students, use picture books like “Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boelts or “A Chair for My Mother” by Vera B. Williams. For older students, use more complex stories or real-life case studies. Read the story aloud to the class, or have students read in small groups. Encourage them to identify examples of wants and needs as they read. After reading, engage the students in a discussion about the story. Ask questions like, “What did the characters need to survive?” and “What did they want to make their lives more enjoyable?” Have students provide examples from the story and explain their reasoning. As an extension, have students draw a picture or write a short paragraph about a time they had to choose between a want and a need. Display their work in the classroom to reinforce the lesson.

Discussion and Reflection

Open Discussions: Have regular class discussions about the differences between wants and needs. Use prompts like, “What are some things you need every day?” and “What are some things you want but don’t need?” Create a safe and open environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Use discussion circles or small groups to encourage participation. Encourage students to share personal experiences and reflect on how they make choices between wants and needs in their daily lives. Use guiding questions to deepen the discussion and help students think critically about their decisions.

Guest Speakers: Invite guest speakers such as financial advisors, local business owners, or community leaders to talk about their experiences with managing wants and needs. Arrange for speakers to visit the classroom or participate in virtual sessions. Prepare students by discussing the topic beforehand and generating questions they might want to ask. After the presentation, engage students in a Q&A session where they can ask questions and gain deeper insights into real-world applications of these concepts. Discuss what they learned and how it applies to their own lives.

Creating a Lasting Impact

Teaching students the difference between wants and needs is a journey that will benefit them for years to come. By making the lessons engaging, practical, and reflective, we can help our students develop a solid understanding of this essential concept. The goal is to empower them to make informed choices that positively impact their lives.

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