Money! Money! Money! Symbols Create Images

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SWBAT describe connections between key ideas in a text.

Big Idea

Symbols make the images more clear!


  • What is Money? by Jennifer Waters
  •  Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: imaging, informational text, headings, illustrations, captions, bold words, map, symbols, main idea, details
  • Set up the whiteboard
  • 'World Currency Symbols' chart - put on the screen during the 'students' turn' portion
  • blank paper for each student


This was a great book to use because it tied into our Social Studies unit. I like the informational text features in this book and the clear wording and illustrations. You could show this book to the class or use an Elmo to let students read with you.

 ** "Imaging" is the term that my district uses for "visualizing". In order to stay true to the district expectations, I'll continue to use this verbage. Visualizing is a critical skill for 2nd graders because they need to 'go deeper' in the text. By visualizing as they read, they are creating and tweaking images in their minds as they actively read. This kind of 'close reading', forming images using text, verifying and changing those images, and ultimately comparing their images to the author, creates critical readers and deepens comprehension.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Common starting point

  • "Today we are using the imaging/visualizing strategy with informational text. This strategy helps us organize information and connect ideas, which will be REALLY helpful in 3rd and 4th grade."
  • "We'll be finding main ideas and details in our text today. Look over the informational text features that I listed.  Do you remember what they are?" (headings, illustrations, captions, bold words, map, symbol)
  • Spend a few moments reviewing these text features. The students need to know the names and more importantly, how they help them comprehend. 

Teacher's Turn

20 minutes

Introduce the task

  • "I brought this informational text because it has ideas about the Social Studies topic we are discussing. There is a lot of information and longer paragraphs, so it would really help if we could use imagery to organize the information. We can connect the ideas and make an image."
  • "When we organize information, we can 'cut down' on the writing and words to make it easier to understand by using symbols. Symbols help us share information easily because they are universal - everyone understands them. Today we'll look at how symbols make it easier for us to understand information."
  • "Here are some common symbols - what do you think they mean?"  (I wrote a '+'  '&'  '#'  '@' on the board and let the kids guess.)  "Can you think of some money symbols we might use?" Here's how I got the kids thinking about symbols and some coin symbols that we put on the whiteboard.
  • "We'll read through the book first and think about some of the symbols they show for money. When we use imaging with informational text, we need to understand the whole process before we visualize so we need to finish the whole book."  In this example, I explained the task before I read.


Modeling & Practice with math symbols in an organizer

  • Read the book, noting the text features as you read and mentioning what you could use symbols for. Feature the informational text features (headings, map, bold words, etc) as you read.
  • "I'll go back to the chapter called 'trading'. This sounds like a number sentence that I use in math. I can show the ideas using a symbol." 'candy bar=50 cents'
  • "On page 9, there are different kinds of money. Here's a page of World currency symbols that shows the different symbols for money around the world. I'll pick one that is the equal to one dollar and write that on the board."


My goal here is not that the kids can do math. The true purpose of this lesson is for the students to realize that using symbols to create images lessens the wording and makes for a clearer images. The Common Core Standards ask students to connect ideas and create a clear image to describe the connection between those concepts (RI.2.3). Using symbols allows students to simplify the image with fewer words, universal symbols, and improve comprehension.

Modeling and Guided Practice with an organizer

  • "The book describes ways that bills and coins are made. How do we create an image for making something? Can we use a main idea circle surrounded details? What about an organizer with steps?" Discuss and guide students to the idea of using 'steps'.
  • "Look at page 14 about how bills are made. If I'm using steps, what is first?  Yes, inked plates press the picture onto cloth like paper. Remember we can sketch the information quickly to show what is happening." Draw a simple sketch.
  • "What goes on the organizer next? - cuts the bills".
  • "Last we write the starched bills are stiff and last longer."
  • This was the completed whiteboard when we were done with the practice.


When you are reading informational text, make sure the kids are familiar with the topic. My goal was that the kids would see some common symbols (+ @ $) and be able to understand that they add meaning to text, without extra wording. I was not focused on teaching all of the money symbols, but it did tie into our Social Studies unit about money around the world.

It is really difficult to teach a new social studies concept while reading a new book. We had discussed the vocabulary and basic concepts in a Social Studies class the day before (for example) and then read this book and discussed how the information can be imaged/visualized.

Students' Turn

20 minutes
Explain the Task
  • "Let me review the 3 images that I created."  Here's my review for the students.
  • "Now it's your turn to create some images. You need to create 3 images that use symbols and show how to organize information."
    • an image about what people can trade? (page 7) 
    • an image that show the kinds of money and what is the same as a dollar. Use the 'world currency symbol sheet that I put on the overhead.
    • an image that shows how coins are made (pages 16-17) This is how I explained and tasked kids to make a coin image.
Students Work
  • As students work, walk around and help as needed.
  • This is one example of my students' work.
  • Do some formative assessment. Do they understand what they are doing? I found one student using 2 symbols.  We discussed it and he realized his error.

Organize and Connect Your Ideas

15 minutes

Reflect on your work

  • "I see lots of different ways that you organized your ideas - symbols in great images that help us connect ideas and understand what we read." This is my review why we are using symbols.
  • There are lots of different kinds of symbols on your paper.  Who wants to share their images with the class?"
  • Reflect as a class - "Was it easier to use symbols than to write out words like 'equals' and 'euro' and such? If you were traveling to another country, would it be easier to read words or use symbols? What other ways could symbols help us?"

Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

Students with academic challenges may need help with these concepts because there is reading, math and conceptual images involved. I would pair them up with a partner to work.

Students with higher language may be able to explain better about their symbols and use more sophisticated math skills. Perhaps they could show several symbols for money, instead of just one.