Want to Trade?

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Students will be able to compose an informative text in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

Big Idea

Student write about what they would trade for gold and practice inventive spelling in the process.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are on the rug I have them stand on their spots and do washing machine arms to make sure they have enough space around them ready to do an action song. I remind the students they are in control of their body and it will only do what you tell it to do.

I let the students know that we are going to do the Letter Sounds Song by Jack Hartman. 

I allow the students to get up and free dance to the music either by themselves or with a partner.  

The reason I select this song is because I want the students to recall letter sounds when they get ready to do the writing piece for this lesson. They will need to tap out the sounds in the words they are trying to write and this song refreshes their letter sound skills.

Once the song is over I have the students resume their seats on the rug. I sing the Spot on Your Dot Song to direct my students to get back on their spots and sit up ready to learn. 



35 minutes

“This story is called In 1492, by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. If Jean Marzollo is the author of this story, what did she do?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and state that she wrote the words. If not I tell the students, “The author’s job is to write the words of the story.”

“Since we know Jean Marzollo is the author and she wrote the words, what does it mean Steve Bjorkman the illustrator did?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and state that he drew the pictures. It should be pretty obvious since we just discussed the author and we have practiced this routine with several previous stories. However if the students are having an off day and no one can tell me then I simply state, “The illustrator’s job is to draw pictures which support the author’s words.”

“Looking at the cover I see three sailing ships, some fish and a man standing on the deck of one of the ships. Using the title and the picture clue can anyone tell me what this book is most likely going to be about?”

I use the Fair Sticks and I only take two or three responses.

“I agree with you Robert. I think the book will most likely be about someone’s adventure on a ship. Has anyone ever heard of an explorer named Christopher Columbus?”

Once again I use the fair sticks and I only take two or three responses.

There are usually a couple of children who say, “He discovered America.”

“Well let’s read the book and see what we find out.”


During reading we discuss vocabulary words that we come across. Words like compass, joyful, pride, spice, trading, bright, etc. Discussing the vocabulary words within the context of the text helps the students develop word meaning which builds comprehension skills.   

We discuss what the author meant when she wrote, “Some men worked while others snored.” I discuss this sentence with the students because I want them to understand how the author used rhyme to describe the fact that some men worked and others slept. Then they switched places so there would always be someone awake and working. 

We also discuss what the author means when she writes, “The first American? No not quite. But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.” I want the students to be aware that Christopher Columbus was not the first person to discover America as is so often believed (popular opinion). The students should know that the Native Americans were here long before any Europeans. 

“What does the author mean when she writes, “The first American? No not quite?””

“So if the Indians were already here, could Christopher Columbus discover the country?”

“No your right, but he did open up new possibilities for trading, the exchanging of ideas and opportunities for other explorers.”   


“Boys and girls I want you to think about how Christopher Columbus traded with the natives. He would give them items for what?"

I select a student who is following the correct classroom procedure of raising their hand to respond to the question. 

"Yes that’s right…gold.”

“Now if I am a native person am I going to trade my gold for just any old thing?”

“No? Why not?”

“You’re right Michael. I would want you to bring me nice stuff to trade for my precious gold.”

“Here is your assignment for today. You will need to think of things that you would trade the native people for gold. You will at least two items. You will try to write the words yourself. What are some strategies I could use to try and write the words myself?”

We discuss tapping out the words, using books from the book area and using our word wall as resources.

“When you are done writing your words you will need to illustrate your work with a picture clue for the reader.”


Once I feel the students understand the concept of what is being asked of them I prepare to send them over to the work station tables where they will find pencils, crayons and the writing prompt paper.

“At the work station you will find the Trading writing prompt. What is the first thing you will do?”

Once again I select a student to respond to the question. 

"That's right Sebastian, you will need to write your name so Mrs. Clapp knows whose work is in the completed work bin."

“You do not need to write the date because we have the date stamp. Use it to date your work.”

Now I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some trade writing fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Give the students about 15 minutes to get this assignment done. Remind the students they can look at the visual timer to check how much time they have left. 

Students working on writing assignment


Students need to practice writing to inform others so they can express their ideas and thoughts clearly to others. Writing to inform is an important skill because the students will need to be able to clearly express their ideas to others when writing college papers and sharing ideas in the work place.  


25 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

I remind students to put their completed work in the “completed work” bin and those that are not complete go into the “under construction” bin. Work in the "under construction" bin can be completed throughout the day whenever the student has some spare time.  

Trade prompt sample 1 - middle high performing students who practiced tapping out the sounds to spell the words. 

Trade prompt sample 2 - middle high performing student who also tapped out the sounds. You can see how they lack some of the vowels. 

Trade prompt sample 3 - high performing student who wrote all of the words herself. 

Trade prompt sample 4 - middle student who was assisted by a teacher. 


Once everyone is seated on their spot I tell the students we are going to play the Environmental Trading Game.

First you will need pieces of cardstock about the size of a playing card. You will need pieces made out of yellow, white, blue, green, brown, and purple cardstock - enough for each student to have at least one of each color plus five extra of each color.

I have the students’ recall how Christopher Columbus traded goods for gold with the natives he met.

I tell the students they are going to trade cards with each other without knowing what the cards represent.

I shuffle the cards and give each student 8 to 10 cards until all the cards are used up – at this point it does not matter if they have all yellow, all purple, or a mixture.

Now I tell the students they are going to trade cards with their friends for three minutes. The only rule is that they must use nice words and they are not to get upset if someone else does not want to trade. They just have to go and try with another person. I give an example, “Benjamin can I please trade one of my white cards for one of your purple cards?”

“Yes? Why thank you sir. Here is my white card for your purple card. Thank you and have a nice day.”

“Josie, can I please trade one of my yellow cards for one of your green cards? No? Well how about two yellow cards for one green card? Okay? Thank you.”

Set the timer and have the students begin trading. Monitor as necessary.

Once the timer has gone off I tell the students that all trading is done and they are to stand on their spot on the rug.

Now I say to the students, “If you have a white card you can stay standing. If not sit down.”

“The white card represents air. If you have no air you cannot breath and you die.”

“Those people who are still standing, if you have a blue you may stay standing, if you do not sit down.”

“The blue card represents water. If you have no water to drink, you die.”

“Those of you still standing, if you have a green card you may stay standing. If not sit down.”

“The green card represents food. If you do not have food to eat, you die.”

“Those of you still standing, if you have a brown card you may stay standing. If not sit down.”

“The brown card represents shelter. If you do not have shelter from the elements you will die.”

“Those of you still standing if you have a purple card you may stay standing. If not sit down.”

“The purple card represents space. If you do not have enough space to provide you with food, water or room to reproduce, guess what?” The students usually respond with, “You die.”

 “That’s right. The yellow card represents gold. Is gold useful to you if you do not have a good habitat to live in?”

“You are right. Being rich is no good if you do not have a healthy environment to live in.”  

Of course the last people standing are the survivors. I do not say winners – they are survivors.  

“Now that you know what the cards mean I would like you to trade again. I am going to give you three minutes to trade. Begin trading.”

The next time around you will have a lot more survivors and this when I point out how when we all take care of the environment and each other we are all survivors.

I tell the survivors they may go get their snack.  


For this assignment I would simply place a copy of the student’s work along with the Trade Writing Checklist in his/her portfolio to illustrate whether the student was able to meet the objective or not.

Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the objective of the assignment. I am looking to see if a student is able to 


Did the student work independently or was assistance required? Is the students work neat and tidy?

The checklist helps me because the work sample provides me with evidence of students learning as to whether the student has met the objectives or not. The checklist helps to convey information to the student’s family as to how well they are doing in class, and finally it helps the student by letting him/her know how he/she did and if there are areas where he/she could improve. 




Have the students make up a grocery list of items they would want. Discuss the items on their lists. Introduce wants and needs and opportunity costs.