This activity not only teaches bartering and trade, it is fun to watch! Students gain communication skills and life lessons.
How to Teach the Lesson:
Give students an idea of what life would be like without money. Have students explore trade and find its pros and cons. For every 15 students, make 5 copies of the supply cards. (You may want to laminate them to reuse each year.)
Cut out the cards and give each student a set of 5 of the same cards. Students will be excited to get the play-doh or legos until they realize that no one needs or wants them. Next, post or project the school supply list. Inform your class that they are the producers of the cards that they are holding, but must trade his or her products to get the school supplies from the list.
Then, let the fun begin! Students will communicate their wants and needs to each other. Observe closely and make notes to improve the discussion at the end. This will also help you decide when to end trading time.
I also let my students use their fake classroom money if they think of the idea themselves. (This makes the end discussion even better.)