Let Uncle Jed Help You Teach Social Studies

No matter how many times I read or listen to Uncle Jed's Barbershop (by Margaree King Mitchell), my eyes get misty. This short children's picture book, rich in historical and economic content, connects with our deeply held feelings about justice, sacrifice, and love. This book will give your students an affective connection to important topics in social studies.

Topics addressed

Uncle Jed's Barbershop serves as an entry point for multiple topics. Some of these include opportunity cost, budgeting, saving, segregation, sharecropping, the Great Depression, and bank failures. Both SMART and Promethean white board files accompany the book and are available from the St. Louis Fed website (stlouisfed.org/education_resources/uncle-jeds-barbershop/).

An Uncle Jed lesson from the Philadelphia Fed

Andrew Hill, economic education adviser at the Philadelphia Fed, wrote a wonderful lesson plan for Uncle Jed's Barbershop thatincludes many of the topics that the book addresses. The lesson plan's main activity, which involves groups of students playing a fun card game, has each student setting and trying to achieve a savings goal. When they roll the dice, they face either an income-or expense-generating event. Students record these events on a simple budget document. All the income and expense event cards are relevant to a kid's world rather than the adult world. You can find this lesson plan on the Philadelphia Fed website (philadelphiafed.org/education/teachers/lesson-plans/UncleJedsBarbershop.pdf).

Links to other lesson ideas for Uncle Jed

Topic: Sharecropping
Furman University's Upcountry History Museum has an excellent lesson, which includes a simulation for students, for teaching the economics of sharecropping. Using plastic cups and beans, students distribute funds among the different players within the sharecropping system. After participating in the simulation, they can see how sharecroppers could become deeply indebted to landowners and how the system mirrored slavery. You can find this lesson at upcountryhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/microsoft_word_8_reconstruction_redemption_8_1.pdf.

Topic: Segregation
The Library of Congress (LOC) website is a rich resource for social studies educators. The LOC compiles primary source sets on a variety of topics in U.S. history, including the "Jim Crow" period of segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. You can access the teacher guide on this topic at loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/civil-rights/pdf/teacher_guide.pdf. (Please be aware that this teacher guide references some primary sources from the era that have disturbing content.) The LOC also has primary source analysis tools for teachers to use with students. Access the teacher guides and the blank student tool at loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/guides.html.

Topic: The Great Depression
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has two versions of their Great Depression curriculum. Version one is designed for teacher-led instruction in the classroom and can be found at stlouisfed.org/education_resources/great-depression-curriculum-unit/. The curriculum includes six lesson plans with SMART board files to accompany them. There are also PowerPoint versions of the SMART board files.

Version two is part of the St. Louis Fed's online instructor management panel. This interactive—and free—tool allows educators to assign students the Great Depression lessons, which they then complete online. Each student takes a pretest and then a test to document their progress on the content. Teachers can post their own discussion and polling questions for students. Student responses are available under the teacher's login; test scores are recorded in the teacher's gradebook in the instructor management panel. Teachers can register at bts.stlouisfed.org/econ_ed/online_learning/.

Topic: Bank failures
The Gilder Lehrman Institute offers teachers a vast collection of resources for teaching history. The institute has a simulation that teaches about bank failures and the Great Depression. Students learn by role-playing bankers, depositors, and borrowers. The lesson includes primary-source suggestions. You can find the lesson at gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/great-depression/resources/banking-basics.

By Sherilyn Narker, economic and financial education specialist

March 5, 2014