The Island of Ablai (Pt. 7)

Pt. 1 Planning
Pt. 2 Creating the Environment

Pt. 3 Money Matters
Pt. 4 - Negotiating the World

Pt. 5 Natural Resources and Manufacturing

Pt. 6 Profits and Expenses

Pt. 7 - Setting the Price

Recursive Review 
Before getting started on newest inquiry into price, we took a step back and reviewed where we have come from.  Whenever a new word or term come up in class, I throw it in a googledoc called key vocabulary (I don't always remember).  Once a week, we attack the document and fill in all the blanks. Then we have a class discussion and edit the definitions together. 

I have been doing this for every unit this year.  It has been a really amazing experience.  I find the kids are accessing the document on their own during projects or writing assignments and using it to clarify and enhance their writing.

The Chair Company
We started the day by brainstorming a list of expenses that went into our product.  In this case, we imagined we were a company that made one type of chair.

The kids really surprised me with their prior knowledge.  We have been talking a lot about the manufacturing process, but they made additional connections to things like rent, taxes, administration costs.  We had a really interesting discussion about rent.  They wanted to know if you owned a house, or if you rented it.  It turned into a discussion about banks and mortgages, the benefits of home ownership versus renting, and how banks make money.  So far this unit, I am finding that our side conversations are so rich (pun intended) with detail about money systems.  They are so curious about this topic. I think they know, internally, how big a factor money is in their lives, but it is something that they don't have much experience with.  They see it everyday, but don't really understand it.  Maybe that is why they are so curious?

After we brainstormed a list, I gave them a series of costs that I pulled out of the air.  I explained my rational for each, but also that each company will be unique to their individual environment.  A company that sells their product out of their factory will have lower shipping costs than a company that has to send their products around the world.  

Also, we briefly touched on labour issues.  Some countries have lower wages than others, so that will change your profit.  We will return to this in more detail later.... it is important to our central idea, that our choices affect the world around us.

We did some math.  Figured out the total expenses and the cost per unit.  We discerned the difference between cost per unit and retail price.  I set up a little shop in class.  Half the kids were shoppers, and half were sellers.  I sold the sellers a geometry shape for 100Yen.  They had to go sell that to somebody else.  Some were able to get about 500Y, thus making a profit of 400Y.  Others were selling the same piece for 150Y, making a profit of 150Y.  Nobody tried to sell it for 100Y.  They get the concept of making a profit (later I hope to really perturb them and make them think if this is the best way for a society to operate, what would the world be like if we traded instead, or had no money?).

Next, we had to determine the retail price, the price that it is sold in the store.  Each group came up with a different price and then presented to the class what they thought.  I wanted them to design posters and then have a board meetings, but there wasn't much information to put on the posters, so we just skipped to the board meeting.  However, we didn't have time, so it was rushed and I don't think it was worthwhile.  But it did give me an idea....

Pricing Options
We started with three options for pricing:

1) In groups, they each chose one option and brainstormed Pros and Cons for using that price.  We did this jointly on a googledoc.  Interesting to see, they were sitting next to each other, generating ideas together  but not communicating with spoken words.  I tried to encourage both forms of communication, but they would fall silent and go back to the text on the screen.  Not sure if that is a bad thing....

2) We read through all the information on the googledoc together and chatted about it.  They had some pretty good points, and there were some holes.  We filled in what we could.

3) Individually, they had to choose which one they felt was best and then defend their position.  We used the google doc again for all of this, keeping all of our work in one space.

Their paragraphs were interesting.  I think I should have scaffolded this a bit more and given support.  I didn't set it up as a writing activity, just a thinking activity.  The quality of the writing reflects this.  I need to zoom out of inquiry mode, and zoom into writing mode.  Turn this into a writing lesson, rather than a thinking/inquiry lesson.  We could have worked on the mechanics of sentences, paragraph formation, word choice, etc.... I should have introduced our paragraph organizer....

Poorly done on my part.  The thinking was good, but I should have supported the structure and mechanics better.  Note to self for next time.

Big Ideas about Price
We needed to tie all this together and answer the question, so what?  What did you learn about price?  For this we did my favorite activity for reflection, I used to think... but now I think.... in the googledoc. First we came up with a list of our BIG ideas.  The kids provided the ideas, and I tweaked the language.  We did this right in the gDoc.   Here is our list:

  • There are lots of steps before something is sold
  • Selling a product is complicated
  • Companies make money by selling products for more than it cost
  • Prices are not randomly chosen, but given a lot of thought
  • The expenses that go into a product are part of the price
  • More expensive products = more profit, but less sales
  • Products price reflects the quality (but not always)
  • Companies use advertising to convince us about quality

Next, I had the kids fill in the I used to think, but now I think table.  It was a great final reflection.

I love how the whole progression is caught in one Google Doc.  It was great to see how our thinking evolved, and all that we learned in one place.  This is something that I can send to parents or anybody else and say, Look what we did today.  

I am still disappointed in myself for dropping the ball in the writing bit, but overall, it was a good series of activities and some great learning.