Lessons for Use with a School Store

School stores offer students more than school supplies. They are in the business of teaching entrepreneurial skills and financial management, too. No matter what grade your students are in, plan to use the school store in your lessons so students can use the theories taught in the curriculum in real-world applications. From mathematic basics to complex business concepts, school stores teach a variety of skills learners will use for a lifetime. Plus, providing students with the opportunity to work at the school store can enrich the learning experience further.

Types of School Store Lessons for Elementary Students

Even the youngest student can learn basic skills with the help of a school store. Any time a business has an inventory, be it of goods for sale or supplies for the business' management, the use of sorting and counting skills is mandatory. Youngsters can practice sorting items by size or type all while discussing how they would best be stored or displayed. Taking inventory of the store's stock also shows young learners the importance of needing to order items when supply runs low. When the store begins to run out of goods, create a lesson that has students evaluate which items should be ordered. Besides deciding what will be useful to consumers, have them factor into account the school store's budget. What criteria must be met for the store to choose the best items at the best price?

Both entrepreneurs and consumers must master the skill of cash management. After a few basic lessons in addition, subtraction, and currency, use the school store's inventory to have practice adding or estimating the cost of the goods they would like to purchase themselves. For practice, you may present students with a scenario in which each child has a strict budget that must be followed. Have students determine whether that amount will be enough to pay for the items. In addition to introducing basic economic vocabulary such as "income" and "goods," discuss the differences between "wants" and "needs." Practice these concepts with story problems that feature the goods being sold in your school store. These problems should cover situations in which the characters must decide if they have enough money for particular items or how much change they should receive following a sale.

Once students have had plenty of practice on paper, role-playing can be used to simulate a shopping experience at the school store. As each has a turn at filling the role of customer and cashier, students should practice counting out their money and giving back correct change. In doing so, mistakes will probably be made, but from them will arise learning opportunities about cash shortages and overages. Encourage students to use their critical-thinking skills to determine how the mistakes were made.

Middle School Lessons

As students progress through middle school, their mathematical skills become more complex, and their likelihood of needing these very skills in the real-world marketplace increases, too. In addition to adding up the cost of goods and making change, they will need to figure the additional fee for state sales tax and the discounts deducted from the price of items on sale. These situations require students' skills in multiplication, addition, subtraction, and fraction and decimal use. The school store can be used to demonstrate how the transactions are calculated. Students can apply their skills to figure tax on school store purchases. Similarly, students can learn to be shrewd shoppers and savvy entrepreneurs by learning how sales affect final costs. Practice at the school store by having students figure cost when items are half off or are 25% less than the original price. Once they become proficient in this, create activities that require their decision-making skills. What items at the school store should be special sale items?

Operating a school store requires more than math knowledge. Launch an investigation into what other responsibilities one must have to successfully manage and operate a school store. Lessons can include what it means to be a dependable employee as well as a responsible corporate citizen. Include discussions on business ethics and social responsibility. Create an awareness for the environmental impact made by the business also.

Be sure to build hands-on activities into your lessons. At this age, students can learn to graph sales and track profits. Noticing trends in sales can help students market the store's goods. Groups can work together to determine how retail displays can affect shoppers. Make the school store a creative outlet for students to practice advertising. Students can develop posters to promote new products, write e-mail newsletters to advertise sales, or record a commercial to target a particular market within the student body. These activities incorporate cross-curricular skills that are transferable to the workplace. Once your students have become proficient in these skills, assign them to fill out a job application or create a résumé.

Lessons for High School Students

Students in high school can further understand business concepts by taking a closer look at the market. In learning to define their target market for the school store, they will need to understand their school's demographics. Have students test the theory that 80% of the school store's business will come from 20% of their customers. Are these customers the target market? Older students can research the market to see if new products will appeal to segments of the market. For instance, a part of the market may show a demand for school apparel. Students in band may need strings or reeds for their instruments. Art students may need pastels or sketchbooks for their work. Would it be cost-effective and profitable for the school store to carry such items? In the same way, students can learn to notice changes in their classmates' behaviors to anticipate the change in demand for a product. For example, a new movie may increase demand for items with characters on them. Consumer behaviors could also change when tests are on the calendar. Scheduled exams may increase the demand for #2 pencils and cap erasers. How will students manage the school store inventory and keep the price per unit fair but profitable?

High school students who have had an education in basic business skills like these may only use them as conscientious consumers or they may go on to start businesses of their own. Whether it is for the school store or a future venture they will run, students can create a business plan to prove their endeavor's viability. Start by having students create a description of their business, illustrating the goods and services they will offer. They can describe their sales and marketing strategies as well as the requirements for operation and financial management plans. This lends itself to lessons with speaking skills objectives since you can have each student pitch the business plan to the class.