Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The History of Paper Money

Wilma Horton
Miami-Dade County Schools


Exploring the history of paper money helps students gain a new appreciation of this taken-for-granted aspect of their lives. Imagine using something that has a history of over 1300 years!


The student applies a variety of response strategies, including rereading, note taking, summarizing, outlining, writing a formal report, and relating what is read to his or her own experiences and feelings.


-Computer(s) with Internet access and drawing capabilities
-Paper and pencil or pen
-Overhead projector (optional)
-LCD projector for PowerPoint projection (optional)
-Crayons, coloring pencils, markers, photos (materials for funny money creation)


1. Go to the bank and ask them to photocopy two of their largest denomination bills. They’ll probably ask for ID. Explain that you are teaching a unit on paper money. They can make the copies smaller than the normal size of the actual bill.
2. Read and familiarize yourself with selected Websites. (See Weblinks)
3. Draft general questions that the students must answer after researching the Websites. For example, some the historical background explains why certain objects were selected to be on the money.
4. Prepare a graphic organizer (concept map) for the board, overhead, or PowerPoint presentation. Students will use this map to organize the facts they find while researching the history of paper money.
5. Create student list for computer sharing.
6. Compose computer behavior rules. (They can be the same as classroom behavior rules.)
7. Draw an example of funny money to show students (can be drawn freehand or computer generated).


1. Show photocopies of high denomination bank notes, for example, a copy of a $5,000 or $10,000 bill.

2. Review the graphic organizer (concept map) on board, overhead, or PowerPoint presentation. Explain to the students that as they research the Websites on the history of money, they are to organize the facts and answers that they find on the concept map. To verify cooperative work efforts, the concept maps must reflect both information they have found as well as information that their partners have found.

3. Have a student read aloud the History of Money questions that they must answer through research. Remind them that they are to design their own currency and must “model” their money after the real legal tender with a personalized touch.

4. Demonstrate computer behavior rules and social interaction rules.

5. After students are paired at computers, encourage them to share their answers in a cooperative effort. On the Internet-selected site (See Weblinks), students read the historical background of the items that are on the paper money.

6. After reading the historical background of real money and the objects on the legal tender, the students design their own money by selecting objects from their personal lives to be included on their particular personalized funny money. For example, they may want to draw or include via computer a picture of their dog on the face of the bill of “legal tender.” On the back of the bill they may want to have a photo or drawing of their very own house. The wilder the bill, the more creative juices they will generate. Teacher may ask students to write a sentence or two as to why they selected particular objects for their funny money.


As a formative assessment instrument, the student fills in a concept map on the facts about the history of paper money. The concept map of each student must reflect information by his/her partner to fulfill assessment demands for goal three—cooperative workers. As the teacher circulates among students during their research, s/he may visually verify cooperation. The actual production of a funny money personalized paper money bill by students can be a formative or summative assessment. The money creation is an end product or an on-going product. Use own criteria to determine this.

Web Links

Good general history of money and bank notes' composition and printing.
Currency History of Paper Money Production

Photos of actual old money and showing the relationship to gold.
A History of U.S. Paper Money

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