Students will be able to:
- Identify the costs and benefits of a decision.
- Apply the decision-making process to a given situation.
In this economics lesson, students examine the choices made in the story of The Three Little Pigs.
Tell students this lesson will focus on making better choices. Show them Slide 2 in the Costs and Benefits of the Three Little Pigs PowerPoint . Have them describe what they see in this picture. Ask which one of the snack choices would they choose and have them explain the reason for their choice. Ask them to identify one positive feature of the apple and record their answers. Ask them to identify one negative feature of the apple and record their answers. Repeat the process with the Cheetos. Tell students that the positive features would be considered benefits and the negative features would be considered costs. Explain that the cost of making a choice is more than just the amount paid for the product; it also includes what they gave up when making their choice. For example, if they chose the apple, they gave up the opportunity to have the Cheetos. And, if they chose the Cheetos, they gave up the opportunity to have the apple. Tell them what they gave up is called their opportunity cost. Remind them that making good choices is about comparing their benefits and costs, just as they did when choosing between the apple and the Cheetos. And, when they make a choice, they have to give up something because they cannot have everything – even though they may want to.
Ask students if they have heard the story of The Three Little Pigs. (Most should answer yes.) Tell them you are going to show them a video with the story and ask them several questions when it is over. Encourage them to look for examples of benefits, costs, and opportunity costs while viewing it. (Note: The first set of questions below are story review questions; the second set are reflection questions. The times are included with the first set if you prefer stopping the video while viewing to ask the questions.)
- 0:25 sec: What did the first little pig use to build his house? (Straw)
- Why? (It was “fluffy and no fuss”; it would be soft and easy to build.)
- Why would the pig want to build his house quickly? (Answers will vary.)
- What could the pig do the rest of the week because he had time left after building his house? (Answers will vary, but it is important for students to recognize the potential benefits of building a home quickly – even though it later became a cost. Remind them we do not always make the best choices if we do not consider future outcomes.)
- 0:37 sec: What did the second little pig use to build her house? (Sticks)
- Why? (She was in a rush. Sticks are not soft, but they are fast.)
- Was her outcome different from what happened to the first little pig? (No.)
- 0:55 sec: What did the third little pig use to build his house? (Bricks)
- Why? (They are snug, meaning the bricks fit tightly together to keep out water, wind, and other things.)
- What did the third pig say when the first two little pigs asked him to come have lunch with them? (He was in no rush because he knew the bricks would take longer, but he was ok with that.)
- 1:27 min: What happened when the wolf visited the first house made of straw? (He huffed and puffed and blew the house down.)
- Why do you think it was easy to blow the house down? (Straw is not heavy and does not fit snug, making it easy to move or blow away.)
- 2:04 min: What happened when the wolf visited the second house made of sticks? (He huffed and puffed and blew the house down.)
- Why do you think it was easy to blow the house down? (Sticks are not strong nor fit snuggly; they can fall apart easily.)
- 2:33 min: What happened when the wolf visited the third house made of bricks? (He huffed and puffed and could not blow down the house.)
- Do you think he tried more than once? Why or why not? (He probably did try more than once because he had success blowing down the other houses and was surprised when this one did not fall too.)
- Why did the wolf become angry? (Because he huffed and puffed, and the house did not fall.)
- 3:29 min: What happened at the end of the story? (The wolf ran away, and the little pigs lived happily ever after.)
- Would you build a house that you knew a wolf could blow down? (No.)
- Why did the first little pig build his house out of straw? (Remind the students that the first little pig wanted to get done fast.) Explanation: The first pig made a decision to use straw to build his home. When you make a decision, the benefit is the good thing that comes because you made that choice. The house of straw was quick to build. The benefit was getting it built quickly so he could do other things.
- Was it only a good choice to use straw because it was quick to build? (No because the house fell.)
- Why was it a bad thing for the pig to build with straw? (Answers will vary but remind students it seemed like a good decision at the time. The problem was he did not think about what might happen; he only thought about getting it built quickly. As a result, the wolf could blow it down.) Explanation: Tell students that the first little pig gave something up when he decided to use the straw; he gave up the opportunity to use better materials like bricks to build a safer, more secure house. While his cost could be the price of the straw, his opportunity cost was a better house. When the wolf came, his decision cost him his house.
- The second little pig made a decision, too. She decided to build her house out of sticks. What was the benefit of that decision? (She gained a place to live and extra time to do what she wanted, like play with the other pigs.)
- What was her opportunity cost? (Like the first little pig, she gave up the opportunity to build a safer, more secure house.)
- The third little pig built his house out of bricks. What was his benefit? (He built a strong house that was safe and secure when the wolf came.) What was his costs? (He probably had to pay more for the bricks than his friends paid for their straw and sticks.) What was the opportunity cost of building his house? (He gave up the opportunity to go play with the other pigs while he was building his house.)
Put students into small groups. Tell them they are going to practice making decisions using a Decision-Making Grid. After distributing copies of the grid to each student, show them Slide 3 and review the instructions for the activity. Tell them you will be asking two questions and they should place a mark in the grids to correctly identify their answers. The first question deals with the speed of using the building materials and the second question deals with the safety of the building materials. You may want to point out these two areas on the slide. Ask Question 1: Are the building materials (straw, sticks and bricks) quick or easy to use when building a house? Have them discuss the question and mark their answers on the grid. Ask Question 2: Will the building materials provide “little” or “lots” of protection from the wolf or from a bad storm. Have them discuss the question and mark their answers on the grid. Have students use their grid results to reach consensus about the best decision for building a house. After reminding them about the three little pigs, ask them to explain who made the best and why they concluded that. (Answer: The third little pig because his house stood when the wolf came. Remind students that sometimes it worth taking the time to do things right the first time and to consider the future results of their choices, even when it seems like a quick, cheap decision might be more fun or easier.) Respond to any questions students may have about their grids or the assignment.
Distribute copies of Decision-Making to each student. Review the instructions and have students complete the assignment individually. (Note: You may need to read the story for them or provide additional guidance to complete the assignment.)
Distribute copies of the Assessment handout to each student. Tell students you will be reading three different situations and they should choose which choice, A or B, is best; then circle that letter on their handouts. Read the situations in Slides 3-5, allowing time for students to select their answer after each one. You may also want students to select one situation and explain the reason for their answer. Another option is to review the student answer, discussing the reasons as a class. (Answers: 1. B; 2. A; 3. A.)
Introduce students to What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Suess in a lesson reinforcing the concepts of costs and benefits.
Use the lesson Toys for Me: A Lesson on Choice to expand students’ understanding of the need to make good decisions.
Use the interactive lesson Once Upon a Decision to enforce students’ understanding of costs versus benefits.
Presenter: Theresa Fischer
Grades 6-8, 9-12
Presenter: Lynne Stover