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Strategies for Teaching about Eighteenth-Century Economy

  • Image of the Month: With the image of the Spanish dollar in view, open a discussion with your students about money. Have examples available of modern coins and paper currency. The information from this newsletter, your classroom resources, and the following questions can guide your discussion. Revisit these questions and discuss in terms of eighteenth-century economy.

    1. How do people today pay for food, recreation, housing, cars, etc.?
    2. When you use money, how do you get change?
    3. How can you tell how much a coin is worth?
    4. How is change made today?
    5. Besides coins, what other forms of money do we commonly use?
    6. What units of currency do Americans use?
    7. When you give money to someone, what's the first thing they do with it?
    8. When a credit card is used today, how does the person being paid actually get the money that is "charged"?

    Some additional questions to go along with the other images on the Image of the Month page:
    • What is the man doing in the photograph? Why?
    • Look at the Spanish five-dollar note and the tobacco note. How are they they same and how are they different from our paper currency?

    With an overhead projector or chart paper, assist students as they process their responses, comparing and contrasting how money was used in the 18th century and how it is used today. Use the Then and Now Graphic Organizer.

    Identifying similarities and differences between the past and present helps students understand how some things change over time and some things stay the same. This furthers their "chronological thinking," a National Standard for History.
    Finalize students' learning by asking them to indicate, on a scale of one to ten, how strongly they agree or disagree with the following statement:

    "I would rather use money and credit like the eighteenth-century colonists did than the way we do today."

    As evidence of their learning, have students justify their responses orally or in writing. Suggest that they begin with a pre-write, using a pro/con approach for each era.

    Extension Ideas:
    • Summarize student responses to the question above on the board. In a class discussion, have students present arguments informally to try to persuade their classmates to change their positions. Survey the class afterward to determine who changed their minds and why.
    • Conduct the above activity as a debate.
    • Using student responses to the 1-10 continuum, have them stand up to form one line around the classroom. Put the ones on one end, then the twos, ending with the tens on the other end. Divide the line in the middle and wrap one half of the line to face the other. The double line might look something like this:

      1 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 4

      5 5 6 6 7 7 7 8 9 9 10

      In a one-to-one dialogue, give each facing pair a chance to change each other's minds. Person A of the pair might have three minutes to move Person B toward his/her point of view. Person B would have equal time. In a concluding discussion, ask how many people changed their minds slightly or greatly and have them share why.

  • Primary Source: Advertisements are a prominent feature of modern life, in the form of TV, radio, billboards, and print ads. Colonists were also influenced by advertisements when deciding what to buy and from whom to buy it. Use the Artifact Analysis Form to analyze this month's primary source.

    Extension Ideas:
    • Examine the value of money and how it is written, as presented in the Virginia Gazette ad. Remind students that there are 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. Students can practice their skills at math computation, money conversion, and making change by using the tailor's ad to create shopping lists, given a fixed amount of money to spend.
    • Use the interactive Tour the Town map to have students identify which trades and services in colonial Williamsburg have survived into the 21st century. Which were essential to daily life for the population then? Now? What businesses and services do we use to meet our needs in our daily lives today (e.g. gasoline for cars, meals, communication)?
    • Ask students to ponder which colonial sites mostly sold goods, which mostly offered services, and which did a combination of both. Have them use their research skills to find the answers.

  • Additional Strategies:

    1. Four Corners: With student input, pre-select a total of four primary sources and historical images from this month's newsletter. Post a copy of one document/image in each of the four corners of the room. Assign students (or pairs) to one of the four corners by having them draw a number (1-4). Make sure that students are equally distributed. Have students take a piece of notebook paper and fold it lengthwise to form two columns. The left column is for each corner group to list what they know and understand from their assigned image. The right column is for questions that are generated as the students work together and for points they would like to have clarified. Come back together as a class to discuss.

    2. Three-Dimensional Graphic Organizers: The following organizers help to differentiate instruction and connect to the different learning styles and English language development of your students. Also, they are an engaging way to gather evidence of understanding. This integration of visual, kinesthetic, and writing skills give students experience in communicating on several levels.

      • Flip-top Matchbook: Compare and contrast features of 18th-century colonial and modern American economy with this combination Venn diagram and flip-top organzier. In the area under each flap, have students write lists or summaries that correspond to information on the top flap label.
      • Pop-up Book: Students can use three-dimensional artwork to replicate one or two colonial coins. Have them use their research skills of investigation, inquiry, and discovery to give background and details about the coin(s) they have chosen.

    3. Design a Coin: Invite your students to design a new coin for the future by looking at images of colonial coins and present-day coins. Be sure they include all elements, including both sides, date, country, value, images, etc.

  • This lesson was written by Martha Berner, retired elementary school teacher, San Diego, CA.