Lesson Plan

Balancing the Federal Budget

Students will use a simulation and local news stories to help balance the federal budget.
Rylan S.
Counselor, psychologist or social worker
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Students will be able to...

1.  Identify the key elements of the federal budget.

2.  Explain how balancing the budget affects each of these elements.

3.  Rationalize why certain areas recieve more funds than other areas.

Social Studies
Grades 8 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

This is a great website that offers a variety of games, curriculum, and resources for students and teachers.  I like to use bits and pieces to help form a multi-day activity.  The games are nice simulations that help the students understand a concept and allow them to manipulate the material.  The  curriculum is very user friendly and provides all of the information teachers will need.  There is a section for background information to help teachers connect prior knowledge and gain an understanding of each student's foundation.  Additionally, there are activities throughout the lesson to ensure student comprehension and application.  I have found that my students enjoy these activities and often use this site as a resource on their own.

In this activity students will play a game in which they simulate balancing the budget. The game is designed to show students that to give more money to one area requires giving up money in another area. The simulation takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. This also leads to a class discussion about what the budget is, what it covers, and how money "doesn't grow on trees"!

2 Direct Instruction

Students will be given a spreadsheet of the federal budget and asked to identify the key elements.  The teacher will have students color code each of the main sectors via Evernote.  Each section is discussed and explained by the teacher so students understand what projects and items come from that section of the budget.  Students can use Evernote to make notes, comments, or suggestions that will be helpful when creating their own budget.

3 Guided Practice

Activity: Creating

Students will use the information from their note in Evernote to create a new Federal budget using Excel or another spreadsheet.  They will be able to refer back to the actual budget and the notes to assist them in completing this activity.  Additionally, since it is in a spreadsheet, they can use the functions to ensure that the budget is balanced.  While students cannot list questions in this document, they can make notes in Evernote which can be addressed in classroom discussions.

4 Independent Practice

Free, Paid

Students will analyze their budget for class and blog about the budget's design.  Students will be asked to explain why certain areas recieved higher funding and the impact that this funding has on other areas.  Additionally, students will be able to view and comment on other budgets via this blogging site.  This will allow students the opportunity to defend their choices while also determining the value and effectiveness of those choices.  The blog serves as a formative assessment and allows both the teacher and other students to offer feedback.  

5 Wrap-Up

Activity: Exploring

Students will find a news article to explain the need for spending in their top area.  For example, if education is the number one item in their budget, they will find a news article that discusses the need for more spending in education.  Students will then summarize this and add it to the note in Evernote.