Section 1: Needs vs Wants

Learning Outcome

1.1 Review the personal resources available to them to realise their needs and wants and analyse the extent to which realising their needs and wants may impact on individuals and society.

3.1 Explain how scarcity of economic resources results in individuals having to make choices; predict possible consequences of these choices.


In this section students identify needs and wants and differentiate between the two. They do this through analysing case studies and taking part in the Giant Steps game. Comparing needs and wants will lead to a greater understanding of the allocation of personal resources.

Key Learning

  • Understanding the terms needs and wants
  • Distinguish between needs and wants
  • Identifying their own needs and wants
  • Consider factors that affect needs and wants: trends, fashion, influencers, advertising and marketing, sustainability, age, culture

Learning Experience

Watch this clip from episode 5 of the CCPC sponsored TV show “How to be Good with Money” and encourage the students to work in groups and offer their responses to the questions below.

  • What is your definition of a need and a want (these are available in the summary document below)?
  • Does Rachel spend her money on needs or wants?
  • What are some of the consequences of spending your money rather than saving it?
  • What are some of the choices Rachel had to make and why did she make them?
  • If you were in Rachel’s position would you do the same? Why/why not and explain?
  • Was there any ‘opportunity cost’ for Rachel, did she miss out on buying something because of the choices she made?

Possible Assessment

Ask students to examine Seán’s case study to both identify and differentiate between spending on needs and the spending on wants that they find.  Students can work in pairs or groups to discuss these spending habits to classify them into needs and wants.

Case Study – Seán

When this activity is completed, provide feedback by facilitating a classroom discussion in order to identify the student’s answers and assess the factors that influenced their decisions.

This can be expanded upon by asking students to identify some of their own needs and wants and discussing how a scarcity of economic resources effects the choices they have to make.


Giant Steps game

Different people have different needs and wants when it comes to their spending.  In this activity, we will look at what this means for the present and future financial well-being of a range of people.

Student Worksheet: Giant Steps – Needs & Wants in Action

  1. The class are going to participate in a role play to help understand that different people have different needs and wants when it comes to their spending.
  2. Ask the class if anyone has ever taken part in a Giant Steps activity before and encourage those who have to help you explain how the activity works.
  3. Explain that each student will be given a card with a description of a person. They should take a few minutes to think about the character on their card and what life might be like for them.  If they want, they can make up some more details about their character. They will then be asked to imagine how their specific character might respond to a set of statements (the teacher may want to give a short example to illustrate this clearly to students).
  4. Distribute one Giant Steps role card to each student.
  5. Once students have had a chance to get into the role, invite them to stand, ‘in character’, at one end of the room.
  6. Explain that you are going to read out statements (Giant Steps statements). After each statement is read the students should be able to:
  • Take a giant step if they agree that the statement applies to their character.
  • Take a baby step if they partly agree that the statement applies to their character.
  • Don’t move if they think the statement does not apply to their character.
  1. Emphasise that the aim is not to reach the end (where you will be standing). Instead, the purpose is to enter into character and experience what it would be like to be that person.
  2. Read each statement aloud, allowing sufficient time for students to consider the statement and decide whether or not to move.
  3. When all statements have been read, ask students to remain standing for a few minutes.
  4. Ask the students standing closest to you which statements motivated them to move, and which ones they felt did not apply to ‘them’. Ask the students at the back the same questions, and also ask how they felt when they could not move.
  5. Check to see if any students with the same role cards are standing in different places. Ask them to talk about their character, and to compare why one moved when another one did not.
  6. Invite students to sit down.
  7. Facilitate a whole class discussion using the following as prompts:
  • What did you think about this activity?  Did you like it?  Why?
  • What did you learn about the needs and wants of different individuals?
  • If you could give some advice to the person on your role card what would it be?

If space or the movement requirement is an issue in your classroom perhaps you could draw a ‘race track’ on your blackboard/whiteboard and assign a lane to each character. You can then use a set distance to move a character down the race track depending on whether the students agree, partially agree or don’t agree with the statement. For example you could progress a character down the track four inches if they agree, one inch if they partially agree and no movement if they disagree with the statements read aloud.

Or have students working in small groups (say 3-5) with one student from each group taking the steps which the other group members decide are appropriate. The teacher reads the statement and the group discuss it very quickly (15 – 20 seconds) and instruct their standing group member to take the required steps.

Discussion & Reflections

In the above we looked at different scenarios and examined the difference between a need and a want. We also identified some of your own needs and wants and identified what you might have to do to achieve these. Do you feel better equipped to recognise the difference between needs and wants? What surprised you about your own needs and wants?

Section 1: Summary

JCT poster – Additional teachers’ resource

Linking Learning Outcomes

The students’ engagement and learning are optimised by a fully integrated experience of learning in Business Studies.

Learning outcome;

  • 1.1 links to 1.2, 1.3 and 3.1
  • 3.1 links to 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.9, 1.10, 2.3, 3.2, 3.3, 3.10, 3.11

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