Stock Wars: Bringing Wall Street to your Classroom

Using interactive apps and structured assignments, you can make the stock market accessible to all students.

By Bethany Bodenhamer

stock market

The Stock Market can be a very abstract and complicated concept for students to grasp. With complex and specific terminology, multiple markets, and hundreds of tickers, a unit on Wall Street is a difficult one to learn out of a text book. Help your class fully understand the basic concepts and workings of the markets by implementing a month or six-week long simulation in which they research, buy, sell, and trade stock, all while explaining their decisions to do so. 


Thanks to the technology that tablets offer, and the increasing presence of these devices in schools, this simulation can be done within the walls of your classroom. I taught this unit on a set of iPads that I checked out from the school library two to three times a week. What is great about this lesson is that those with smartphones can download the app on their phone and continue the activity when not in class. 


After some research and playing around with a few different apps, I chose to use the app StockWars. This free app is a true simulation of the values of real markets and stocks. It also has an easy interface that students understand, and a simple way for teachers to track the trades their class is making. Other available apps with similar features worth checking out include TradeFieldsThe Investing Academy, and Fantasy Stock Picks. My advice is to play around with a few of them and choose one that would work best for your class. 


This unit must be very structured with strict guidelines and tasks. Without such, your young investors can quickly feel lost and confused and will not get the full effect from this unit. 

1. Sample Schedule

To avoid confusion, have action items every day for them to complete. Here is a sample weekly schedule for how I navigated this unit:

  • Monday - Stock Wars Simulation: Research and make a minimum of one purchase or sale. 
  • Tuesdays - Current Events - Current event article assignment based off economic news. 
  • Wednesdays - Stock Wars Simulation - Continue to research. Make a minimum of two purchases or sales. 
  • Thursdays: Class Project Day
  • Fridays - Stock Wars Simulation: Review and debrief portfolio from week. 

2. Vocabulary

Now before you can even allow your class to start investing, they must have a basic understanding of core economic concepts. Some key vocabulary you will want to introduce and teach them includes (but is not limited to) the list below:

  • Market
  • DOW
  • S & P
  • Ticker
  • Portfolio
  • Stock exchange
  • Securities
  • Capital gains
  • Stockbroker
  • Stock index
  • Bull market
  • Bear market
  • Range
  • 52 week
  • Open
  • Vol/Avg
  • Mkt cap
  • P/E
  • Div/yield
  • EPS
  • Shares
  • Beta
  • Inst. own

3. Main Concepts

As with the vocabulary, you will want to cover overarching questions such as: 

  • What is a stock?
  • Why do companies offer stock?
  • What makes stock prices fluctuate?
  • When should you buy/sell stock?

I highly recommend answering the above questions through an attainable example. For instance, find a company they are all incredibly familiar with (Apple, Nike, McDonalds) and share the story of how and why they went public. 

4. The Simulation

Once you feel your students have a basic understanding of the what the market is and the way it works, they are ready to engage in buying and selling of shares. I begin each week of this unit with a “research day” in which we spend the class period reading news from the Google Finance page. Without research, pupils cannot make educated decisions on why they are buying certain shares. I always insist that investors explain the reasoning behind their purchase, so that I know the trades are not being made in haste or without purpose. I also make my class track everything through detailed handouts that are collected and recorded. While I did not grade based on success of trading, I used a rubric to award points for completion of assignments, logical reasoning for purchases, and thorough answers of questions. 

Ideally you will find that by teaching the market through current events and simulated trading, your students will remember these concepts for years to come. Furthermore, you will hopefully succeed in diffusing any intimidation with the market and your young investors will continue their awareness and knowledge of current economic events. 

Lesson Planet Resources:

Taking Stock

This lesson plan incorporates a great hands-on way to teach the vocabulary prior to investing. Group made terminology posters would make great visuals for the walls of your classroom during a Stock Market unit. Furthermore, this lesson addresses the important concept of why the market fluctuates the way that it does. 

Here’s Your Chance to Make Millions in the Stock Market

This is a 3-part web based activity in which students take an interactive tour of the history of the market, learn different methods to make money in the market, and discover the difference between short and long term investing. This thorough lesson would be a great supplementation to any stock market unit. 

How Does the Stock Market Really Work?

A presentation focused activity in which groups learn the fundamentals of the Stock Market and create a presentation to share with their peers. Through project and problem-based learning throughout this activity, scholars are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through a portfolio project.