Money Brings Happiness in the Classroom!

At the beginning of my ESL classes, I often hand out strips of paper with a single warm-up question that can be answered relatively quickly (I haven’t timed them, but I think the average is 10 seconds). This gives students an incentive to arrive on time to get a few points and partake in an interesting warm-up discussion. Some examples: What do you often dream about? What is your greatest fear? If you changed your name, what would it be? Recently,  I gave them this question:

How much money do you need to be happy?

They quickly began to pencil in their answers; as each student finished, I collected their strips of paper. One student was taking longer than the usual 10 seconds. We joked that he must be writing quite a lot of zeros! He turned his in and we discussed the amounts everyone had written. The lowest was “$20” – the highest was a tie between “too much” and “whatever Jeff Bezos has.”

Then I asked them, “Do you know of a word in English to describe an amount so large that it can’t even be counted..?” Being ESL students, they were stumped, so I explained that they can use the term “a zillion.” I then passed out zillion dollar bills. They beamed and were amazed because they look and feel like real money. One student said, “Wow! Now I can quit my job!” Another said, “I’m going to buy a house – and I’ll be getting some change back!” One asked “How many zeros are in a zillion?”

I asked them, “So, now do you feel happier?”  

The answer was a resounding “Yes!”

For a few minutes, these students smiled and laughed together, helping to build connections and community in the classroom, something that just may bring more happiness than a zillion dollars.


2 thoughts on “Money Brings Happiness in the Classroom!”

    1. You can get bulk packs (million, trillion, zillion, commemorative bills, etc.) through online sources like Amazon (if you want to add to Jeff Bezo’s $230,000 per minute salary!)


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