PBL Project – “Make a Carnival!” Project to Teach Money and Change

I always love incorporating a PBL project whenever possible in my 2nd grade classroom! Some of my students were having difficulty understanding the concept of money and change (CCSS 2.MD.C.8) so I thought why not connect it to real life and have them create a mini-carnival in the classroom!

The driving question for my PBL project was:
Create an engaging carnival game that persuades other people to spend money at your game.

Students were then split into two large groups: Game Creators and Game Players

  • Game Creators Responsibilities
    • Design the game and determine how much money the game cost
    • Determine how many tickets the Game Player would win
    • Create the rules of the game and put the materials together to make the game
    • Make sure Game Players were giving them the correct amount of money
    • Make sure they gave Game Players the correct amount of change
  • Game Players Responsibilities
    • Give the correct amount of money to Game Creators whenever playing the game
    • Make sure they were getting the correct amount of change from the Game Players
    • Earn tickets by playing games successfully

Depending on how much money Game Creators made and how many tickets Game Players received, then they were able to get prizes. For my prizes, I printed out drawings of their favorite characters.

Students had so much fun playing the games that their classmates had created! It was also interesting to see the conversations that students had whenever they spent money on a game or whenever they received change back. Students also had fun earning prizes!

Which change in practice did you implement?
Implementing the PBL project with my students was an enjoyable process. I feel it definitely made learning the standard 2.MD.C.8 more practical and easier to understand for my students. Some of my students initially had difficulty understanding the concept of change and leftover money, but participating in the carnival game helped them understand why change occurs. They were able to go to different carnival games, spend money, and receive change. Also the students who were in charge of carnival games learned the importance of giving accurate change back to the game players or else it could create conflicts if they gave incorrect money.

What were my results?
I saw an improvement on their math assessments and their understanding of standard 2.MD.C.8. For my students who were scoring Basic, it helped push some of them up to Proficient. However, I did have a handful of students who were still confused about how to give the correct amount of change.

What are my next steps?
In small groups, I will continue following up with students who are having trouble counting the correct amount of change and have them continue working with manipulatives to improve their counting skills.

What did I learn?
A challenge with the PBL project was managing all the materials involved to implement the carnival. For example, it required a significant amount of manipulatives to make the games. We also needed enough fake money and tickets. Some kids had trouble managing their money and tickets so I had to make adjustments as kids continued playing the carnival. Overall though, the carnival was a success and the students enjoyed spending money and getting tickets so they could eventually buy prizes.

Setting up Clear Expectations for Independent Work Time

Recently, one area that I wanted to improve in my 2nd grade classroom was independent work time. In my schedule, we have 1 hour dedicated to ELA Rotations and another hour dedicated to Math Rotations (We have a long school day). During these rotations, students work independently on three 20-minute activities. However, for 2nd graders, working independently for an extended period of time can prove challenging.

To create an environment that promoted independent work time, I realized the importance of emphasizing clear expectations for students about what their actions should look like during rotations. Several expectations I included were:

  • Showing students how to sit down properly in their desks by explaining they needed to be sitting on their bottoms with their backs straight up. This helped students become more focused because sometimes students would be sitting hunched over which caused them to feel tired after working straight for 15 minutes.
  • Explaining what voice level 0 (or voices off) looks like during independent work time. This meant that even whispering was considered talking.
  • Encouraging students to write down questions on post-it notes and directly deliver the post-it to me rather than having students raise their hands and wait for me to call on them. I noticed that when they raised their hands, they would stop working while they waited for me to answer them. 

Lastly I focused on why we have expectations. By having them talk with each other and then discuss as a whole group why expectations during independent work time was important, it created more buy-in among the students to follow expectations. This helped rotations run more smoothly and motivated students to be voice level 0 so that everyone could learn more.

What were my results?
After reviewing expectations, rotations were notably quieter and more students were focused on their work. In addition it helped me run my own small group more easily because I did not have to stop the small group as often to address behavioral issues with the rest of the class. I also looked at their exit tickets afterwards during rotations and I noticed more of the work was complete.

What are my next steps?
To make sure that I consistently review expectations at the beginning of rotations every day so that students always know what the expectations are. This way it prevents students from saying “I forgot that we were supposed to be sitting down” or making other excuses. In addition, I want to continue explaining the why of independent work time expectations so that students feel more encouraged to follow them.

What did I learn?
I learned that whenever a student did not follow expectations, it was important to address it immediately and then always refer back to the expectation and the why. This helped me minimize the conversation time I spent with students because all I had to say was that we already know what the expectations are and what the consequence would be should they choose to continue not following them or if they changed their behavior.

In addition, if I saw more than 5 students were off, then it was easy for me to reset the class because all I would need to do was just review the expectations quickly then send them back to their desks. This helped me maximize time for learning.