Using Children’s Literature to Teach U.S. Money

As most, if not all, of us know, March is National Reading Month in the United States. Of course every day is reading day in our classrooms, but this month we get to put an extra bit of emphasis on the skill. Anyone who’s been around my site much knows that I love to be as cross-curricular as possible and always strive to include multiple skills in my lessons. This year I’d like to put a special spotlight on how I combine reading practice with money vocabulary and skills.

It used to be obvious, if someone moves to a new country, that person will need to learn the currency of that country as quickly as possible. The fact that we use credit/debit cards for virtually everything these days may have lessened the urgency of acquiring this skill, but it is still an important one to master. We do a lot of different activities to practice the names and values of different U.S.A. coins and bills (such as Eggcellent Activities: Coin Eggs), but today I’d like to specifically focus in on some of our favorite pieces of literature about the subject. The first two books were part of my post entitled Picture Books…In Math? but are so good they deserve a second look. The last, a Shel Silverstein poem, is a nice quick activity that can be slotted in when you have an extra few minutes.

Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday

The Alexander books by Judith Voirst are some of my all-time favorites! When we work with this book, I usually read straight through it, showing the pictures, and allowing students to simply enjoy the story the first time. After that, we do various activities including using play money to follow along with Alexander’s adventures, keeping a running total as we read, and even writing our own word problems based on the story.

The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money

The Berenstain Bears is a classic series I remember my parents reading me as a child. Stan and Jan Berenstain’s stories always impart good lessons in a fun way. When using children’s literature with my older learners, especially my adults, I always encourage them to learn from the book themselves but also to go home and read the books to their children as well. It empowers my students to be part of their children’s English education, which is important as many of my students feel guilty about not being able to help their children in this way. This particular book doesn’t have specific amounts of money to follow along with, so I use it for general comprehension and discussion of idioms and common phrases related to money.

“Smart” from Where the Sidewalk Ends

Who doesn’t love a good Shel Silverstein poem? My students love them, they even make the final exam in pronunciation class a little more fun! This particular poem is another good opportunity to practice the names and values of different U.S.A. coins and keep a running total as you read. It’s also a great way to compare and contrast, seeing how a larger number of coins doesn’t necessarily result in a larger value of coins. The text is short enough that we can complete the activity in just a few minutes, making it a perfect way to start or end a larger lesson on the topic.

One thing I try to always do when using literature to teach anything is make sure every student has his/her own copy of the book/text. I do use my document camera to display it on the screen, but I like students being able to hold the book themselves. Sometimes it’s not possible to have enough copies for every student, but I strive to have no fewer than one copy for every two students. I find this enhances the lessons and makes it easier for students to complete activities. Happy teaching, everyone!

Here are some of our favorite U.S.A Coin practice activities that don’t involve specific texts:

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