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Economics for Kids - Specialization Activity

Updated: May 1, 2022

Looking for a hands-on, kid-friendly activity to teach specialization? This is what you need for your Economics unit! My third graders loved working in teams during social studies. Each team specialized in ONE type of gemstone and had to trade with other teams to get the other gemstones they needed to complete a mosaic design. Keep reading to learn more about this fun, hands-on activity!

What is specialization?

Specialization is when people or regions only focus on producing selected goods or services. People specialize in what they do best, and trade to get what they don't have.

People buying food at the market
People buying food at the market

How do you teach specialization to kids?

I would first do a mini lesson about specialization with several examples of how people or regions specialize. I use a PowerPoint presentation so the kids can see large, color photo examples. Give them a chance to discuss examples of specialization that they've seen in their community! Last, provide a hands-on learning experience.

How does the activity work?

Each team will specialize in a different gemstone (pattern block shape). Each person on the team will have a different role: trader, miner, builder. The trader trades gemstones in the marketplace. The miner mines for specialized resources. Lastly, the builder puts the gemstones together to form the mosaic design.

What materials do I need?

You'll need geometric pattern blocks, Ziplock bags, and printed mosaic designs. You can also print out directions for each team. The cards below remind students of their jobs within the team.

How long does it take?

Overall it will take about 45 minutes. You might want to try the activity a few times, challenging students to beat their time or add other challenges like closing the mine for a period of time.

About 15-20 minutes is usually enough time for everyone to complete the mosaic design. You should also factor in about 10 minutes to assemble the teams, decide on roles within the teams, and explain the directions.

If you have time, it's a good idea to discuss the activity afterward. You can have a class discussion or use a reflection sheet (I provide one in my resource).

How do you teach specialization? I'd love to hear your ideas!

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