How old were you when you learned to deal with money?
Depending on the age of your students, they may or may not have learned how to do this in their own language and with their own currency so it is important when talking about money in English classes not to focus on math. Luckily money is an easy prop to make and is involved in lots of real life situations so talking about money is an excellent chance to do a role play activity.
How to Teach Money Skills
As if numbers were not hard enough, talking about money just complicates things. Use the warm up to practice numbers by playing Bingo or another number game. Then you can generate interest in the topic by asking how much things cost. Having props on the desk that you know the cost of and students should know the cost of will have them intrigued from the moment they walk through the door. Waiting to talk about the items on the desk until after the warm up will engage them further.
Now that you have already introduced the question “How much does this cost?” or “How much is this?” you can model the response when students tell you their answers. If a student says “500 yen!” you can say “It costs 500 yen. Very good!” or, to elicit another response, “It costs 500 yen! Really?” Use whatever the local currency is in these lessons. For advanced or business students, it is important to learn about different currencies but for primary school students, dealing with just one is sufficient. Certain currencies will be more challenging to teach because for instance with $1.25 you could teach students to say “one dollar and twenty-five cents” or “a dollar twenty-five.” Be sure to settle on one structure to use so that your students will not be confused.
Ask students to think of items that cost certain amounts of money for example $1.50, $5, $10, $20.75, $50 and $100. The cent amount is obviously not that important but it gives students more practice saying these amounts correctly. You can list the items in columns on the board for students to use later on in class. This is usually very interesting because young students sometimes have a very odd perception of cost and their suggestions may be totally off.
Have students write down an item and its cost. It can be any item and any cost they choose. Once everyone has written something down, have students walk around the class asking “How much does it cost?” and writing the answers down on a worksheet. Students should respond like this “The *insert item name* costs *insert cost.*” based on what they initially wrote on their worksheets. Students should get ten answers and ten signatures to complete the activity.
Now you can introduce a model dialogue or a role play activity. Students already have lots of practice asking and answering the target structure so expand this to include more phrases and create something similar to a real life conversation. For a short activity simply write the model dialogue on the board with some blanks where students can fill in an item and cost using the lists you made on the board. For a longer activity have students work in groups of 3-4. You can give each group a different location or scenario to build their role play around. Each student should have a minimum of two or three lines. As a class you can come up with some extra phases before handing out the scenarios. This way, students have material on the board to draw from when creating their dialogues. Perhaps this first class period can be for writing and practice. You can encourage students to bring in props for the presentation lesson. It is up to you whether or not students have to memorize their lines. If not, you could provide props and students could complete the whole activity in one class period.
If you are teaching in another country, conclude the section on money by showing students the currency from your country. You can compare the appearance of your currency with the currency students are most familiar with. Students usually find this type of activity quite interesting.
Money can be a confusing topic for students.
A common error is saying “dollar” for instance, at the wrong point in the sentence and dealing with cents or large numbers can also be frustrating. After some practice, your students will get the hang of it.
Tara has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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