Surveying Class Interests for Creating a Classroom Business
At a Glance
Connect IEP Goals: Begin by aligning classroom business models with individual student IEP objectives, as needed.
Gathering Insights: Use tools like surveys and brainstorming sessions to understand students' interests and inclinations regarding the business.
Refining Ideas: Present feasible business models to the class, further narrowing down to specifics, ensuring the chosen path aligns with class interests and practical capabilities.
Welcome back to our ongoing series on creating a classroom business where we are framing the undertaking of a class business in terms of meeting student goals.
In part 1 of this series we looked at some reasons why students might benefit from a classroom business and in part 2 we looked at some broad categories of classroom businesses, the goals that different models can help to support, and some example products that could fit within those models.
Today we are focusing on a vital component of any successful classroom business: the interests and goals of the class itself! As teacher and leader, it is your job to gauge the class’s collective preferences and fit them as best as you can with the model and products you ultimately choose.
Similarly, it will be a matter of your best judgment exactly what components of the business can be directly planned by the class and the spaces where establishing your own framework will make life easier.
In the course of gauging class interests, it is worth considering a few major goals:
- Connecting various student goals to a conducive business model.
- Getting a sense of the specific products your students are interested in working with.
- Getting a sense of what types of jobs students are most interested in performing.
Of course within a classroom business there are only so many types of jobs that can be done, but there is enough variety across the example models that it is worth getting a sense of which students gravitate towards which jobs, and which models are most supportive of those concentrations.
Because every student and classroom is unique, the goal is not so much to get a perfect clear cut answer on what to do (although that is great if you find one!) but rather to have a pretty good idea of the information we need to make a good judgment call on what will be the best fit. So let’s talk about some ways we can do that!
Check in with student IEP goals.
If you like to check in with your student’s IEP goals from time to time, early in this project is an excellent time to do so. Since part of the purpose of starting a classroom business in this way is to do so with a goal-based framework, identifying some specific IEP goals for each student that could tie back to a particular business model is a great starting point. Do lots of students have socially focused IEP goals?
Maybe a model that is more heavily focused on person-to-person sales is the right fit. If there is more focus on executive functioning and establishing routines, models that more heavily favor a clear production or hours of operation schedule might work out better.
While the core purpose of such a project should be to help students advance toward their goals, it is also OK for you to make a judgment call early on to focus on a narrower number of models that seem best suited to your particular classroom, and your direct interface with the class can be done with an already narrowed down list in mind!
Spur thinking and gauge interest with a simple survey.
For another step that can be great to take prior to active class discussion on the topic, a simple survey can help you gather some of the planning information you need and help to spur student thinking on the topic as opposed to introducing the idea cold and immediately soliciting feedback.
Surveys are also great to compare against your impression of what you think your students will gravitate toward so that you have some time to react and prepare if your class response is quite different from what you were expecting.
Questions can relate to preferences about specific products to sell, the types of jobs a student might be most interested in doing (sales, assembly, checking the numbers, opening and closing procedures, etc.), and some of the creative decisions like ideas for a business name and how the class might want to decorate the workspace.
The best part is when you start the class discussion on this topic students should already have a strong frame of reference through which to share their thoughts and preferences!
Offer an early brainstorming opportunity.
One of the more fun parts of a business can be brainstorming the creative components, and giving students the opportunity to do so early on can help establish a great baselines on what direction you may go as a class.
One the floor is opened up you may find everyone gets very excited about the idea of doing a delivery service, or they may get caught up in how they want their storefront to look.
As teacher you have the opportunity to guide students toward what is feasible for you from a time and money standpoint, but it can also help to answer questions you may have at this stage about where differing student interests ultimately coalesce.
Once we’ve had the chance to get lots of ideas out there and using all of the information we have gathered, we can start to set some parameters around the ideas presented to see what holds up.
Share some business models that feel like the closest fit.
This is a space where as a teacher you can begin to share with students some of the ways that class business models can work based on which ones seem closest to the ideas that they are most excited about and fit in with their goals and preferences.
Does everyone seem excited about making crafts for a particular holiday? An “Order, Production, Delivery” business model might be the best fit. Is there more interest in making sales and interfacing with people? “Order, Delivery” or “Hours of Active Operation” may work better.
This is a space where you can begin to broadly outline how each model is meant to work and the class can discuss how their ideas might fit in with them. It is also a space where you can talk about the types of products that a given business model is best suited to.
Solicit ideas on specific products and details.
Once the class is in the ballpark of how they want their business to operate, we can take a closer look at some of the products that fit best with that model and ask the class what is most exciting to them.
If our business model is well suited to nonperishable snack foods, what types of nonperishable snack foods do we want to sell? If we are making crafts for a holiday, what craft and what holiday? If the model focuses around filling recurring orders once a week, what does the class feel would be interesting to make on a weekly recurring basis? If the business will include a storefront and hours of operation, how will it look?
And based on how we answer those questions, what aesthetic choices might your students want to make with regard to how the business presents itself? In a perfect world, these choices will fit in with the parameters of the business model that the class is settling into, but this is also a great place to highlight interesting ideas and ask how they will fit into existing plans.
While it is preferable to have students in charge of as many decision points as possible, you are well within your rights when you simply are not able to support a particular decision with the time and resources at your disposal.
We hope that part 3 of this series has offered a sense of how you can begin to connect the disparate interests and goals of students in your class into a singular business model as well as to begin the process of building in student ideas without getting too far away from what is feasible for you as the person who will be ensuring everything runs smoothly.
Now that we are in the ballpark, next week we will talk about taking our ballpark idea and hammering it out into a full business plan. Until then if you have any experiences you would like to share or other topics you would like to see covered, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see you next week in part 4!