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Hands-On Activities in the Accounting Classroom

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Accounting. Just the mention of the word and students fall asleep. But, accounting does not have to be boring. There are many ways to incorporate hands-on learning in the accounting classroom.

Now, I am a firm believer that when starting out and learning the basics of accounting, it should be done with paper and pencil, not computer simulations. I have been doing this for years, and students who learn accounting basics the old fashioned way convert it to memory much better. That does not mean we don’t mix it up and have fun in the process. Here are some ways I like to incorporate hands-on activities in my accounting classroom.


An oldie but a goodie. Have students play Monopoly (or Johnsonopoly as we call it in my classroom) and keep track of their transactions in a general journal. Students absolutely love this. Almost daily I get the question, “Are we playing Monopoly today?”

Not only are the students practicing their accounting skills, but exercising soft skills as well: communication, negotiation of trades, and counting money. These skills are lost on most students today in a society that swipes a card and never handles cash.

Depending on where you are in your accounting cycle, you can also have students post transactions into general ledgers and create worksheets, balance sheets, and income statements.

Sidewalk Chalk

I am always up for spending some time outside on a nice day, and so are the students. So, sometimes we grab the tub of sidewalk chalk and take the learning outside. My favorite time to do this is when we are learning T-accounts, which usually take place in August, so, great weather.

I take a list of transactions outside and read them to students as they draw the corresponding T-accounts and correctly identify the debits and credits. Not only are we reviewing our transaction parts, but we are soaking in some much needed vitamin D.

Hand-On Petty Cash

One of the topics I have found challenging for students is the establishment and replenishment of petty cash. Just running through the steps on paper wasn’t clicking with them, so I created a hand-on activity to simulate the replenishment of petty cash.

Students are given a pencil box with $100 in fake money. This is their petty cash. We then run through rounds where they receive receipts and have to “reimburse” their employees for those expenses. After running through three or four receipts, students will go through the process of completing a petty cash reconciliation form, balancing their cash box, recording the reconciliation transactions on the general or cash payments journal, and writing a check to replenish petty cash. We run multiple rounds which have helped students master the recording of transactions for replenishing petty cash.

Digital Manipulatives

Reviewing with digital manipulatives is another way to add variety. Click and drag resources are a great way for students to review and rest their hands from the tedious writing which comes with accounting (my students number one complaint). I always use these digital manipulatives as a review while I check for understanding. These can also be great assignments for virtual learning days.

Accounting does not have to be a “sit and get” class. It is important to keep the students moving and to keep them on their toes. They will stay more alert and retain more knowledge. If YOU are not having fun teaching it, the students are not having fun learning it, so make it exciting for everyone.

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