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Paying Bills: A Financial Literacy Activity

  • Paying Bills: A Financial Literacy Activity

November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada and this year’s theme is Take charge of your finances: It pays to know! 

The following blog was written by Val Baggaley, a faculty member at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement. Val describes a financial literacy unit that empowered her learners to read and understand their utility bills.

My CLB 2L class has been working on reading utility bills for the past few weeks. Before this unit, the learners had many gaps in their ability to read utility bills. Because it is so relevant to their real life, everyone was engaged in this challenging, yet personally rewarding, unit.

After learning some basic vocabulary around reading bills, we focused on identifying:

  • what each bill was for (the company name or service provided)
  • how much was paid the previous month
  • how much was due this month
  • the phone number to call for problems
  • their account number 

Much of the time was spent simply learning to identify these parts of the bill. The students learned to locate the information on both real and teacher-made bills. Initially many of the students had not known who their utility provider was. They were confused by all the numbers on the bills. But by the end of the unit, all could tell me or point to the company name, the amount due, and the due date on real and mock-up bills.

One learner, who has been in Canada for nearly a decade, told me that this was one of the most important things she has learned at school.

To start, I used the utility bill from the ABCs of Practical Literacy Economics Literacy Activity section. I first introduced the bill using a point and find activity: point to the total, point to the account number, etc.

Then I found other bills on the internet or modified real bills. When using real bills, I whited out some of the extra information and enlarged them a bit to create more white space. The learners also enjoyed the following internet game: .

At the end of the unit, one learner, who has been in Canada for nearly a decade, told me that this was one of the most important things she has learned at school. Although her oral skills are very good, she never knew how much she had to pay each month. Instead, she took her bills to the bank and had the teller pay them for her. Now she can read the amount due each month before she goes to the bank to pay them. Now all the learners have a better understanding of the bills they pay.

What I thought was going to be a boring unit turned into a great learning experience for both me and the students. I look forward to teaching bill reading again.