Lesson Plan: Sectors of the Economy

The Primary Sector of the Economy

From a film, American Harvest, that shows the wide variety of American businesses and industries that produce the materials needed to manufacture Chevrolet cars, this segment focuses on the primary sector of the economy and raw materials.


The lesson uses a 1951 promotional film from Chevrolet to explain the sectors of the economy. Using three clips from this film, students will be introduced to the concepts of primary, secondary, and tertiary economic activities. Based on these examples, students will develop definitions of these concepts and explain how each work together in a functioning economy.



    To begin class, have the students brainstorm a list of jobs that people have. They should sort them into three categories. For each category, have them develop a label and explain what they have in common.


    After reviewing the students’ list of jobs and categories, use the handout to have students view video clips exploring the three sectors of the economy (primary, secondary and tertiary). Students will use the chart and questions to develop a definition for each economic sector.

    Handout: Sectors of the Economy (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 1: The Primary Sector of the Economy (9:58)

    • List the types of jobs and activities discussed in this clip.

    • Categorize the types of economic activities featured in the video.

    • Develop a definition of primary sector activities.
  • Video Clip 2: The Secondary Sector of the Economy (7:25)

    • How does the video clip show the transformation and refinement of raw materials into other products?

    • List the types of jobs and activities discussed in this clip.

    • Develop a definition of secondary sector activities.
  • Video Clip 3: The Tertiary Sector of the Economy (2:35)

    • How did the specialization of the primary and secondary activity expand economic opportunities for everyone?

    • What types of jobs and economic activities shown in this video clip are made possible by “putting America on wheels”?

    • Based on this, develop a definition of tertiary sector activities.

    Review students’ answers and the definitions they developed. After addressing any misconceptions with the three economic sectors, have them either discuss or provide a written response for the following prompt:

    • Using examples from the film, explain how each of the three sectors work together in an economy.
  • Quaternary and Quinary Sectors- Read the ThoughtCo. article on the sectors of the economy. Based on the explanation of the quaternary and quinary sectors, develop a list jobs and examples that would be included in each of these sectors. In your opinion, are the quaternary and quinary categories needed to understand the economy?

    CIA Factbook Research- Using the CIA Factbook site, choose a country other than the United States. Research their economy. Explain what their major primary and secondary sector exports are. Identify what percentage of their economy makes up each of the three economic sectors. What assumptions can you make based on this information?

    Your Community’s Economic Sectors- Develop a survey to gather information about the type of work and economic activity people in your community engage in. Perform this survey using people from your class and community. With this data, analyze which sector and specific types of economic activities are most prevalent. Explain why you think these patterns exist in your community.

    Recategorizing Economic Activities- After learning about the ways of categorizing the sectors of the economy, develop a new way of organizing economic activity. Explain your rationale and include examples of economic activities and jobs that are included in each category.


    • How is the creation and sale of an automobile an example of the interconnectedness of the three economic sectors?

    • The film highlights manufacturing from the 1950s. How has the location and process of manufacturing changed since then?

    • Why is it import for economists and geographers to be able to categorize economic activity into sectors?

    • What factors might cause a country to have a higher percentage of workers in the tertiary sector than the primary and secondary sectors?

Additional Resources


  • Agriculture
  • Coal
  • Factory
  • Farm
  • Herder
  • Industry
  • Iron
  • Lubricant
  • Mining
  • Open Range
  • Ore
  • Primary Sector
  • Raw Material
  • Refinery
  • Rubber
  • Secondary Sector
  • Smelter
  • Steel
  • Synthetic
  • Tertiary Sector
  • Textile


Economics & Financial LiteracyGeography


High SchoolUniversity