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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Fair Share for Our Schools: A Multidisciplinary Curriculum: What Are Needs and Wants?
View the Short Video: Campaign for Fiscal Equality: Students Speak Out

Lesson Materials (word document)  

Aim: What are needs and wants?

Objective: Students will understand the difference between needs and wants and evaluate various needs and wants in the home.

Standards: New York State Social Studies Standard 4 (Economics), Key Ideas 1 and 2

- scenario worksheet
- journal/notebook for each student
- chart paper
- index cards
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

Instruction: DAY ONE

I. Survival Scenario

a. Describe “survival scenario” below:

“Imagine you're on a sinking ship like the Titanic. You've only got a little time to take three of the following things with you. What would you want to take with you to the deserted island in the distance?”


Yu-Gi-Oh Cards jacket
water bottle with water matches
skateboard swimming suit
make-up your Bratz doll
crackers a baseball glove

“Circle the 3 things you would take and write about WHY you would take them.”

b. Distribute worksheet and ask students to complete them independently.

c. Whole class gathers to discuss their individual responses. The class can focus their discussion on why a given item was chosen. As the students share their choices, the teacher writes them on index cards and places them into unlabelled categories (such as the example). Example:


The teacher should draw attention to these groups and ask students to offer explanations. The discussion should result in a definition of needs and wants (similar to "Needs are things we must have to survive in life. Wants are things we desire to make us more comfortable or happy."

II. Read Aloud

a. Teacher reads aloud A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams and prompts students to identify needs and wants in Vera's childhood story.

III. Homework: "Make a list of things from your home. Pick two or three things from each room in your house. Write them in a list on this paper" (see attached HOMEWORK SHEET).


I. Household Inventory

a. Students gather in learning groups of 2-4 children and compare lists. They then must decide, as a group, how to categorize each item on their lists (either as a need or a want).

b. Whole class gathers to discuss their group lists. Teacher can read an item from a list while other groups guess how it was categorized. Disagreements and discrepancies can be tied into the focus question for the read aloud: is the chair in "A Chair for my Mother" a need or a want?

II. Read Aloud

a. Teacher summarizes the plot of A Chair for My Mother and asks students to think about Vera’s family’s needs and wants. The teacher then reads aloud the story. At the end, students discuss with a partner the focus question (“Is the chair a need or a want?”) before writing a written response.


Students will demonstrate understanding of the differences between needs and wants if they correctly categorize their list of household items. Students who have an original and thorough understanding of needs and wants will offer a justified answer to the focus question.

Subject Areas:
Social Studies
Language Arts

Grade Levels:  K-2

About the teacher:

Daric Desautel came to the classroom as part of the New York City Teaching Fellowship, through which Daric received a Master's in Education at Adelphi University. Daric has been teaching in East Elmhurst at PS 228, The Early Childhood Magnet School of the Arts, for 3 years. Daric’s involvement in this community has informed his interest in policies that effect English language learners and immigrant and economically disadvantaged communities. His experience as a "graduate" of NYCTF has fueled my interest in policies surrounding teacher training, recruitment, and retention.





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