There's a lot riding on those first few lessons of term with our new students. Getting to know them, helping them transition from GCSE, setting routines and expectations, identifying students who might be on the wrong course all whilst simultaneously trying to inspire a love of economics and also get on with the course because there's a crazy amount to teach: it's a tall order.
I've collected together a range of activities from around the web which you might find helpful for the start of term.
#1: Dialysis Machine
In this activity students are required to allocate 30 hours of dialysis machine amongst a number of patients. Since more than 30 hours are needed, it is a nice introduction to scarcity.
I use this classic as part of taster or induction days, but it would work equally well at the start of term. A great exploration of opportunity cost in the healthcare system, it helps to quash the misconception that Economics is solely about finance early on in the course. It's also a good way to get students talking, which is helpful if they don't know each other. I find it helpful to encourage students to categorise the basis on which they are allocating: age, (in)ability to pay, how much they've already paid into the system etc.
#2: Is Economics a Social Science?
I love these articles which show cover the opposing articles. On Team Yes is Raj Chetty, a Harvard professor writing for the New York Times. On Team No is Alan Y Wang, student writer for the Harvard Crimson.
There's plenty of scope to build an activity from these. You could use them as the basis for a debate or an argument map or, if you want to get an early look at their writing skills, for an essay. If you intend for students to write précis of their weekly reading, this would be an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how it's done: model the process on a visualiser with one argument and then set them off to summarise the other by themselves.
#3: Pin Factory
This activity is my favourite part of Specialisation: I made it in my first year of teaching and have done it every year since. I'm not normally a proponent for fun for the sake of it, but this hands-on activity allows some nuanced discussion of the Division of Labour, plus I'll always take the opportunity to reference the history of economic thought when one pops up.
You can buy the activity for a mere £2 here and you can click here to read why I've started to sell some of my resources (it's a riveting read).
#4: Numeracy Test
Is it exciting? No. Is it useful? Yes.
Tutor2U has come to the rescue once again for those tricky cases where a student hasn't quite made the entrance requirements but you have a sneaky suspicion they'd do just fine (last year, the student with the weakest maths GCSE result was head and shoulders top of the class in Econ). Best news is, it's free! You can get a copy here.
#5: I, Pencil
Based on Leonard Read's seminal essay, this video from the Competitive Enterprise Institute beautifully demonstrates the complex nature of production of even simple products, like a pencil. It's pretty profound stuff - certainly ticks the 'awe and wonder' box.