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Markets and Basic Economics #3: Producers and Consumers in the Library

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students use what they have learned in their unit on economics to analyze the school library.  Working together, the class considers what a school library consumes and what it produces.  Do the services provided justify the consumption?  This is a no-prep, easy-to-deliver lesson that is a real-world application of UoI concepts.  Teachers love it, and the kids leave with a solid piece of class work.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To identify the products and services consumed and the products and services produced in a school library.   (AASL 2.3.1, “Connect understanding to the real world.”)

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

The class will work together to create a chart showing what is both consumed and produced in a school library.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask the students what goods and services are.  Ask what producers and consumers are.  If they do not know these terms, teach them.  But, by the end of the unit, the students will almost certainly be familiar with the terminology.

Explain that today the children will consider all that is consumed and produced in a school library.  They will work in groups and also as a class to try to figure this out so that we can share our findings.

2. Main:

Seat the children in table groups.  I like to keep the groups larger than three and no larger than six.  Four or five is an ideal number for this exercise.

Give each group half a sheet of flipchart paper.  At the front of the class, on a flipchart or whiteboard, draw a T-Chart with “Consume” and “Produce” columns.  Ask the children at each table to create an identical chart.

Model how to fill out the chart.  For example, ask, “What does the library consume?”  Someone will invariable say “Books,” the most obvious answer.  Ask them about other things, such as tables or chairs.  List two or three.  Do not provide any examples for “Produce,” just wait and see what the kids come up with.

Instruct the groups that you are going to give them ten minutes to complete their charts using their own ideas.  Every member of the group should have a pencil, and every member of the group is expected to contribute and do his or her own writing.  The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible.  Flip the hourglass or start the clock ticking!

After ten minutes, call time and ask the groups to set their pencils down.  Next, tell the children that together they will complete the class T-Chart.  Allow each table to give an answer only in the “Consume” category.  Let each table give one answer, then go to the next table.  Tables drop out once all their ideas have been contributed.  If your students earn house points or class rewards of some type, reward the table with the most original ideas.

The list of products and services the library consumes is extensive!  Some items might include:

School Libraries Consume:  Books, Tables, Chairs, Carpet, Electricity, Heat, Air Conditioning, Shelving, Paper, Pencils, Pens, Tape, Blue Tack, Rulers, Glue, Paper Clips, Hole Punches, Staplers, Staples, Scanners, Barcodes, Book Trolleys, Computers, iPads, Magazines, Labor from Librarians, Assistants, and Volunteers, etc.

After you complete the “Consume” list, ask the children what school libraries produce.  This will be much harder to answer.  Here are a few samples from the times I have taught the lesson:

School Libraries Produce:  Readers, Improved Reading Skills, Knowledge, Understanding, a Learning Environment, Summer Reading Programs, Visiting Author Visits, Book Fairs, Smarter Students, Classroom Resources.

Ask the children whether the school library produces goods or services.  (Answer:  Services.)  Ask the children whether the library consumes goods or services.  (Answer:  Both goods and services.)

3. Conclusion:

Wrap up by pointing out the detail and degree of thoroughness in their thinking.  Ask the children whether, at this stage in their lives, they produce or consume more.  Ask why childhood is typically a time of consumption.  When will the children become producers?  Thank the children for their work and be sure to send the T-Chart back to class for display on the Wonder Wall or Inquiry Cycle.


Flipchart paper


This is one of the simplest lessons in the PYPLibrarian collection.  It requires virtually no preparation, but it is an excellent exercise and fun activity. I’ve taught it many times and each time, the children have an “Aha” moment when they realize just how much a school library consumes!

I am quite certain that no one has ever asked the students to do an analysis of this kind before, and they seem to enjoy the “real-world” aspect of the challenge.

Recommended books for this lesson:


Key Terms:

Producers, Consumers, Products, Services, Good, Goods and Services