To Share…But Not With My Sister

I was in a third grade classroom today doing a lesson on saving and spending wisely.  It’s a fun lesson because kids get to “buy” things with $25 that I “give” them.  With third graders, it’s important to let them know that the money isn’t real, nor are the items they buy.  I learned this the hard way last year.

Part way through the lesson I allow the kids to choose to save their money, spend it on another item, or share some of it.  They record this on a worksheet I designed specifically for the lesson.  Once they’ve recorded this part…the lesson continues.  It culminates in whether or not they get to go to Water Wonderland with their bestest buddy depending on how much money they have.  I’ve also learned the hard way that I need to make sure, up front, that the students know that Water Wonderland exists only in my imagination.  I had a second grader cry over this.

But mostly it’s a fun activity because kids get to peel off stickers.  And the stickers have cute little pictures on them.  Much more fun than “filling out” a worksheet.  Except for the very last worksheet “requirement”.  I ask the students to write down at the bottom what they learned from the activity.  I do this to see if I’ve made my point.  Then I collect the worksheets, read them (usually when the students are out at recess), and then send them home.

I was quite surprised at the answers to this third grade group of students when it came to filling out the part about saving, sharing, or spending more.  About 2/3 chose to save and the other 1/3 chose to buy another item.  No-one chose to share any of their money.  It made me wonder about how I presented it.  I made the assumption that they would know that they could share it with those less fortunate or maybe a cause that they are passionate about.

Turns out, my assumption was wrong.  I did the exact same lesson in a different third grade classroom later in the day.  This time, when we got to the sharing part I asked them who they could share some of their money with.  This is what they told me:  my brother, my sister, my cousin, my friend.  When I pressed for other ways they could share, I got all blank stares. 

That’s when the teacher stepped in.  “Remember when we collected money for our SPCA community project?”  Heads bobbed up and down.  “Well, weren’t we sharing some of our money to help the animals?”  More bobbing.  “Can you think of other organizations or people who might need our help?”  Yes, the could:  the homeless, poor people, the elderly, the families in Haiti…  And they all thought sharing with these was a good idea.

Alrightie, then.  I clearly hadn’t explained myself very well.  Their definition of  ‘share’ related to their everyday sharing experiences:  share a cookie, share a toy, share their crayons.  But then, why was it that no-one wanted to share their money with a sibling or a friend?  It didn’t occur to me until later to ask, so I don’t have an answer.

But another question occurred to me.  Why didn’t any of these kids associate sharing with giving to those in need?  Could it be that they aren’t accustomed to sharing money, or, at the very least, aware that mom and dad share money?  Third graders are quite capable of understanding the sharing concept.  Perhaps we need to do a better job of getting them involved.  After all, sharing is a good thing, not only for the recipient, but for the giver.  We do not want to deny this for our kids.  Note to self:  create a lesson based solely on having kids share their “money”.  Stay tuned…

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