Applying Introductory Knowledge of GDP


This lesson introduces students to Macroeconomics through practicing the application of GDP. Students read two articles from The Economist. One of the articles profiles El Salvador and the role of GDP in creating an understanding of the role of crime in El Salvador’s economy. This lesson provides an opportunity for helping students understand the relevance of economics to larger social and political controversies — specifically the debate about migration from Central America to the United States.

Lesson Instructions

+ Opening Question (5 min.) [traditionally known as “Do Now” or “Bell Work”]

  • As the bell rings, students write an answer to the Opening Question in their class notes.
  • The question is: “What are some things you’ve seen that show you the country is in economic good times?”
  • Note to Teacher:  The Opening Question elicits responses about topics such as lower vacancy in strip malls, more new types of businesses (especially vape or CBD stores), fewer ads about bankruptcy/debt, news about low unemployment, relatives who were unemployed before the economic recovery.  All of these serve to demonstrate that there is a connection between microeconomics (the topic of the previous unit) and the overall economic performance of the country (macroeconomics).

+ Teacher explanation of macroeconomics (10 min.)

  • The teacher quickly defines the concept of macroeconomics, with students taking class notes.  This is a mini-lecture, simply as a preview of what will be discussed in detail over the next two weeks, and should last no more than 10 minutes. There is a link to the Google Slides attached to this lesson, but that link has also been added here.
  • Concepts to define: market economy versus command, aggregate demand, aggregate supply, and GDP.
  • Along with these concepts, the explanation can include the role of John Maynard Keynes in the creation of the field of modern macroeconomics.
  • Note to Teacher: Depending on the particular group of students and time demands, this part of the lesson can be skipped.  This mini-lecture provides context for the information in the readings, and frontloads some information for students who struggle with academic vocabulary.

+ Pair reading of two articles on GDP (45 min.)

  • Students read the two articles together — or, if needed, individually.
  • In pairs, they share what they underlined and explain their reasoning for choosing those phrases as important to the main point of the article.
  • The first article is “The Trouble with GDP” and the second article is “The Gangs That Cost 16% of GDP; Crime in El Salvador.”  It is recommended to provide students with both articles in a single packet.
  • Teacher Note: English Language Learners and other struggling students will have trouble with some academic vocabulary and also some British usages.  Regularly check in with students to ask them what words they are not sure of.  It is recommended to build a word bank on the whiteboard based on what you hear from students.

+ Individual work on assigned questions (20 min.)

  • Students write answers to the questions about the articles:
    1. Explain why it is a problem if gangs in El Salvador begin building up capital in addition to collecting extortion payments.
    2. How do the problems with GDP (1st article) make it difficult to measure what is happening to the economy of El Salvador (2nd article)?
    3. Evaluate the decision the government made to make a truce with the gangs. Was this a good decision for El Salvador’s economy? Why/why not?
    4. Using at least two details from the articles as support, write five sentences as an answer to this prompt: Predict what would happen if illegal economic activity in the United States becomes included in our GDP. Why is this a good idea or a bad idea?
  • These questions employ Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.  #1 is Remembering and Understanding; #2 is Analyzing and Applying; #3 is Evaluating; #4 is Creating.
  • Teacher Note: The questions above are listed 1-4, however the Google Slide chunks the questions differently.  This is to help draw students attention to how they can use their answers to the first three questions in order to address the fourth.  In addition, it is recommended to provide students with these questions as a separate handout (as a slip of paper).  If the students have the questions on their desk, the map of El Salvador the the illustration of territory in San Salvador can remain projected.

+ Pair-share of answers (5 min.)

  • Students share their answers with each other so that they are ready for cold calling.

+ Whole-class discussion of the role of GDP in macroeconomics (20 min.)

  • During this segment of the lesson, students talk with each other about how the concept of GDP has important limitations.  The discussion can begin with arguments in favor or against the proposition of including crime in GDP in the United States.
  • As students contribute comments, ask them to connect what they said to examples from the articles.
  • For at least two student comments that describe the application of GDP, pause the discussion so that all students can add what was said to their class notes.
  • It is recommended, toward the end of the discussion, for the teacher to guide students to connect this article about economics in El Salvador to the immigration debate within the United States.  This helps students to build an understanding of the relevance of economics to controversial topics in the news headlines.
  • Teacher Note: The discussion should result in a demonstration of student understanding of GDP and the role of macroeconomics in contextualizing social and political problems.

+ Exit Ticket (5 min.)

  • Students write an answer to the Exit Ticket question in their class notes.
  • Exit Ticket Question:  “What is the role of GDP in helping to understand macroeconomic conditions?”

Additional Resources for Teacher Training

Content Objectives

Students will know, at an introductory level, the core ideas of macroeconomics, especially GDP.

Performance Objectives

Students will be able to apply their knowledge of GDP to questions about crime and GDP in El Salvador.

Key Concepts/Vocabulary

Market / Free Enterprise: government officials minimize their interference in production and pricesCommand: government officials determine what gets produced and pricesHeavy Socialism: state bureaucrats determine production and distribution, but there is private propertyCommunism (in theory) / Collectivization: local worker councils determine production and distribution, and there is no private propertyAggregate Demand: total demand for all products (all price levels)Aggregate Supply: total supply for all products (all price levels)GDP: Gross Domestic Product, the total of all goods and services sold in the economy in a year

Essential Questions

What is the purpose of macroeconomics?

Modifications/Accommodations for Struggling Students

The articles can be further excerpted as a modification for struggling students. It is possible to complete most of the questions by only reading the article about El Salvador.

Modifications/Accommodations for ELL Students

There are several rare words, and British usages, in the articles. A word bank or word wall, prior to the reading of the article, is an additional accommodation.

Modifications/Accommodations for Students Who Need a Challenge

The full text of the article, “The Problem with GDP” has been included at the end of the document attached to this lesson.

Formative Assessment(s)

The questions formatively assess student understanding of GDP. The teacher can review their class notes to assess their understanding. In addition, the Exit Ticket is a formative assessment of the students’ knowledge of a basic understanding of GDP.

Student Self-Assessment

In the pair-share portion of the lesson, students self-assess their reading comprehension and their understanding of GDP.


URL for External Curriculum

Lesson Duration

100 minutes


This lesson ideally occurs as the introduction to a Unit on Macroeconomics.


  • Economics
  • Social Studies

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Other/Alternative Standard(s)

  • New Mexico State Standard: Economics IV.4-B.3. Understand the distribution and characteristics of economic systems throughout the world, to include: (e.g., characteristics of command, market, and traditional economies; how command, market and traditional economies operate in specific countries; comparison of the ways that people satisfy their basic needs through the production of goods and services);
  • New Mexico State Standard: Economics IV.4-B.11 Analyze the impact of fiscal policy on an economic system (e.g., deficit, surplus, inflation); 1. Analyze the historic origins of the economic systems of capitalism, socialism and communism;

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