2nd Grade Business Fair

The room was buzzing with excitement. All the little eyes faced toward the entrance. Then, in walked dozens of professionals in suits and dresses. Students gasped, “They’re here!” Our hard work and our pbl journey had all led up to this moment.

Our 2nd grade students had worked hard for weeks studying businesses in Noblesville. They had created their own businesses that would be original, useful, and could thrive in Noblesville. Students wrote persuasive pitches to convince their audience to invest in their company. Our driving question, How can we create a business that is useful and can thrive in Noblesville?

Students got feedback on their pitches with peers in our class through a think tank model. We also used third graders as editors of our pitches.

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We critically thought about where we’d put our businesses in Noblesville. What would help it thrive? How could a location benefit our business? Why is the location important? Map skills became a step in the process that brought application and critical thinking to the project. Students placed a star where they wanted their business and gave explanations for the location.

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Students watched a Kid President video and we talked about what makes an exciting presentation. We practiced these exciting presentations and gave feedback to each other.


This past Friday was our culminating event. We collaborated with the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce. They helped us get 20-30 local business leaders into our school for a Business Fair. We also invited parents and third graders that had helped us along the way. This fair was set up like a science fair with a business and “Shark Tank” like twist. Adults were given “Community and Business Investment Bucks.” These bucks were fake dollars used to invest in student ideas and persuasion. The business leaders showed up at the same time which created a lot of excitement. Students immediately knew it was time to get started!

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The business fair was a huge success! Students had an authentic audience that provided purpose to our writing and learning. We had one business ask for students to put a display of their items in their shop. It was the highlight of the day for many adults.

“Learning was so connected to the real world,” said one business leader.

“It was so fun to listen to students talk. They’d talk so much about their business and then they would say something really articulate that caught your attention,” said another.

Students learned tricks and extra ways to gain the attention of businesses. One student said, “Mrs. Lash, all we had to do was  reach out to them and say ‘Hi.'”

My favorite part of the event was that you could see themes of our past pbls come out through student businesses. We had students create restaurants around their culture. We had students begin to think about non-profit businesses to help homeless from our citizenship pbl. It was one of those beautiful moments in teaching that stays with you forever!


Scaffolding is the key to business success!

How can we create a business that thrives and is useful to community? This question leads the learning in our second grade classrooms. My team and I found ways to introduce this through an entry event and collaboration with our 3rd graders. We created ways to explore vocabulary like “thrive” and “useful” through great read alouds (Lemonade for Sale / Anna’s New Coat). We even creatively sorted businesses in Noblesville by alphabet, goods vs. services, and kid chosen categories. But, then we came to the common question, “What’s the next step?”

Scaffolding is key to any PBL; even more so in primary grades. If we allow it, scaffolding can be strengthened through student input. As many teachers do, we often hate to lose “control” of the learning. What would happen if you did? I’ll tell you what would happen… you’d have to give the control to the students. And, what if you did? Would that be so bad? What’s best for students? If you don’t know what comes next, look to your students. What do they still need to know? You can begin to revise your entry “need to knows.” You could check off what you’ve now learned and highlight what they still need to know. Chances are if you ask your students what they still wonder about they’ll provide you with the next steps. This knowledge was powerful for our 2nd grade business/economics pbl.

This week, we took a day to strengthen our understanding of what it means to use persuasion and to think about how businesses in our community are already useful or thriving. Students were introduced to a “speed dating” model; upon further thought it might be better called “speed persuading.” Students took a picture of a business in our community and they had to act like they were that business. They sat in rows as “speed daters” (or speed persuaders) generally do. They had to persuade the person across the table to like them. They all shook hands, introduced themselves – “Hello, my name is McDonald’s”, and then they explained why they were useful and thrived in Noblesville. They only had one minute to persuade their listening partner. Then, the listeners gave a “Facebook” like up or down for that business. We discussed reasons and questions like: How did he/she persuade you? Why did you like/dislike the business? What did you want to hear more about? They switched roles and then in “speed dating” fashion students were able to switch to a new person. This worked fabulously because students were able to give their persuasion another go. Students gained a deeper idea of what it means to persuade and what it means to be a business that thrives/is useful.

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We reflected on this “speed persuading” and then we took the next step. If you could create a business, what would you create. On post-its, students wrote down a “new” business that they’d like to create. Their ideas led to the next day’s lesson. I saw that they had some good ideas for a new business, but there were some misconceptions and new understandings we needed to learn about creating a new business. To thrive, a new business must think about its competition and whether their ideas are original. In addition, a new business must first think about whether the business is even possible to begin with.

Our next day’s lesson was all about “Poppin'” ideas. Students took their post-it idea from the prior day and they held it in their hands. Our goal was to revise and create an even better business idea. I began this lesson by chewing a piece of gum. I used the gum as a metaphor for brainstorming ideas. Sometimes we have ideas that have to be “mulled on” or “chewed on” for a while. Ha! I then tried to blow a bubble. Fortunately or unfortunately, it didn’t blow up. This did help show us that some ideas just fall flat or need to be “chewed on” more. Then, I blew a bubble that popped. Now, that was a fantastic idea. I showed them a bubble gum poster that said “POP” = Possible, Original (your own), and Passionate/pleased idea. To have an idea that “pops”, we need to make sure that it’s possible, original, and that we’re passinate about the idea. I modeled two of my teacher ideas (a burger restaurant and a teacher lesson plan store). Students had to decide and give reasoning why each “popped” or didn’t. Finally, the reflection and revision went back on them. They looked back at their post-it note. Does it pop? Would you make any changes? They quickly looked over their post-its and some did end up revising. Students used their knowledge of “speed persuading” the day before and now took on the role of their very own business ideas. They had to introduce themselves as the name of their business and then discuss why they “POP” in one minute. Listeners could show their speakers a bubble or a pop. “Bubbles” being ideas still not yet formed all the way. “Pops” were strong ideas. Students were beyond excited to persuade their peers about their very OWN ideas.

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This work was powerful. It was brainstorming at its finest. Students chose their ideas and they had time to explore those ideas and revise their thinking in several phases of one lesson. They revised before “speed persuading.” They revised during speed persuading as they listened and changed partners. How often do we give kids these chances to revise during the drafting stage of writing? Why do we leave this work for after drafting? Revise and reflect often in a pbl. Students took this new found confidence and began to draft up a business plan. As teachers, we need to be okay with moving forward with student ideas and letting them make mistakes or struggle. In the struggle, we find learning and next steps. I learned this lesson from some great educators on twitter this week through the #pblchat. They encouraged me to put my next steps in the kids hands.

“I could see letting them start creating and get a little stuck, then pausing to do some more research.”

: “Let them make some small mistakes and then scaffold on the fly during discussion/reflection.”

Our new business plans are not perfect, but they’ve led to a lot more questions. Those questions shall lead to more research and “need to reads” as Andrew Miller would say. I allowed my students to generate those questions as “graffiti board” morning work. In table groups, they came up with new questions. As a teacher, I could still control some of the process. Student questions drive next steps, but teachers can predict such questions and hurdles to proactively plan for learning events that will help. Little did my students know, our grade level had planned for a guest speaker later that morning. A parent and community business owner, Jeff Behlmer – Aspen Outdoor Designs Inc., came and answered many of the questions they had just asked. They were able to utilize the questions they had just brainstormed with him.


To let students drive learning in a pbl, we have to let go of planning every detail. We can strategically predict what hurdles might happen and create learning events that support their questions. When I plan this weekend, I’ll be looking toward our questions and business plans.

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Economics and Children’s Literature

My favorite catch phrase from, Andrew Miller (pbl guru – @betamiller), is that “often our need to knows lead to need to reads.” In our newest economics unit based around, “How can we create a business that thrives and is useful to Noblesville?” Students in 2nd grade want to learn what thrive means. This unknown leads us to children’s lit. “need to reads” that help us explore this. I thought I’d blog about one I plan to use as an example.

Tomorrow’s business lesson, defines “thrive” and what it means to businesses. What does it mean to thrive? This word has many synonyms (successful, flourish, etc) . In terms that are student friendly, it means “to grow or develop well”. Students will predict what this word means and then we’ll discover it through business clips and the book “Lemonade for Sale” by Stuart J. Murphy.

Before reading, we’ll watch these videos to discover the word in real life.


Lemonade for Sale is a children’s book about kids that need money for their clubhouse. They decide to create a lemonade stand. They measure the growth of their business with a bar graph of how many cups are sold each day. The children go through a growth spurt and a major decline. They must act fast to turn their business around and compete with a new business on the block.

  • During reading, students could be asked questions like: Is this business thriving? How can we tell? What changes did they have to make? Why did they use a bar graph?
  • After reading, students could be asked questions like: What made their lemonade business thrive? How do you think they came up with the idea? Would this business thrive in our weather? How could we change it to help it in the winter months?

Students will also think back about what it means to thrive on an exit ticket. And hopefully leading back to our main focus, how can we create a business that thrives…

Other great resources:

Thriving Business

Long time, no blog…. the snow / cold days haven’t helped.

We’ve just jumped into our next PBL as a second grade team. This project is all about BUSINESS. Our second graders must learn about goods and services in social studies. We’ve connected this learning to so many other  subjects.

Our driving question is, How can we create a business that thrives and can be useful to Noblesville? (What does it mean to thrive? Or be useful?)

This learning will show up in reading and writing as we learn to write persuasively and read intentionally. Students will learn to read and write with evidence based opinions. Each class has created some background knowledge by implementing mini-economies in our classes. Students earn a “salary” of Lash Cash for doing the expectation or job of a student. Students will pay rent for their cubby/desk space. Consequences can occur for not paying rent and or not doing their student jobs. Our students have interviewed for special side jobs like banker or service manager. Students will eventually be able to pay for freedoms in our classroom like sitting in the teacher’s chair, etc.

The entry event to this project was small. Our third grade friends allowed us to come into their classrooms to interview 3rd grade students about their project called Box City. See article: http://currentnoblesville.com/thinking-outside-the-box

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Our students learned about 3rd grade research on Noblesville Businesses (Past and Present). Our students then prodded them about what Noblesville might need. 3rd graders felt like we might need things like a water park, toy store, and tire factory.  As a class, my students then took a stack of Noblesville businesses and sorted them between goods and services OR both. This is as far as we’ve gotten, but the part I enjoy most is that there are so many good “need to read” children’s books that teach us about economics. As we learn more about businesses in these books and from business community members, students will begin to brainstorm what sort of business they think Noblesville needs. Below is a poster of our “knows” and “need to knows.” It’s a work in progress.

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We look forward to partnering  this week with the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce and parents that run their own businesses. Students will learn what it takes to create  and start a business.