Alexander Used to Be Rich

3, 4, 5

Students compare how they spend their time to how Alexander from Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday spent his money. They discuss positive incentives for donating money and make a plan.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • compare and contrast choices of a book character to choices in their own lives.
  • choose action they can take to share their resources with others in need.
  • describe the opportunity cost of philanthropic giving.
  • Viorst, Judith. Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. New York: Atheneum, 1978. ISBN: 0689711999
  • prepared blank chart to be filled in by students (See Instructional Procedure for the chart sample.)
Teacher Preparation 
After reading the book, students work in groups of three to answer questions about the story (Answers provided here for Handout One).
  1. What choices did Alexander have with his money/income?  (spending now and saving for a walkie-talkie)
  2. What positive incentives (a good reward for his action) prompted Alexander to spend his money?  (renting a snake, bubble gum--items looked attractive)
  3. What negative incentives (a punishment or bad effect) made him sorry he spent his money? (lost money for using bad words, rental time ran out, ran out of money)
  4. What resource is scarce for Alexander?  (money)
  5. Give examples of unwise decisions Alexander made with his money.  (lost money for using bad words, rented a snake, etc.)
  6. How do you think Alexander felt about his spending? What will he do next time? Have you ever felt this way?
  7. What are “impulse spending” and “buyer’s remorse”?
  8. In the story we hear Alexander say “Saving is hard.”  Do you think this is true?  Why or why not? 
  9. Why do you think Alexander didn’t choose to donate any of his money?  (He wasn’t thinking past his own wants.)
  • common good: working together for the benefit of everyone
  • save: to keep or put aside for future access
  • invest: to put resources, such as money, in an account or in an organization for the purpose of growing the resources’ value and/or impact
  • spend: to use money or resources for something you want or need
  • donate: to give time, talent or resources for a charitable purpose with no expectation of something in return
  • incentive: positive or negative factors that motivate or influence people

Students complete the following sentences regarding philanthropy, or their personal resources for giving. Philanthropy is giving time, talent or treasure, and taking action for the common good.

I can give my time by   ______________________________________________________
I can give my talent by  ______________________________________________________
I can give my treasure by  ____________________________________________________
  • Viorst, Judith. Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. New York:  Atheneum, 1978. ISBN: 0689711999
  • Williams, Vera. A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams. Greenwillow, 1984. ISBN: 978-0688040741


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the students if they are good spenders or savers of money. Listen to their responses about whether they like to spend or save, given the opportunity. Remind them that they have choices (spend, save, invest, or donate).

  2. Tell students you are going to read aloud a story about a boy who had a little money to spend. Tell them to listen for positive or negative influences that affected the way that Alexander acted with his money. Read aloud Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst. After reading, have students work in groups of three to answer the questions on Handout One.

  3. Meet as a whole group to review the groups’ answers. Each group shares their answer to one question and adds to the discussion of all the answers.

  4. Discuss how Alexander’s choices are like and different from what they would choose. Discuss positive and negative incentives they have for earning, saving, spending, and donating money.

  5. Tell students that money and time can be spent in responsible ways. Make a chart with the layout shown below, leaving plenty of room to write in each row. Have them brainstorm ways they can use time and money in positive ways to help themselves, their families, their communities, and the world.

  6. After brainstorming, ask them to choose one of the ways they can donate time or resources to help others learn about money or get needed resources. Discuss opportunity cost when you have students identify what choice they give up when they choose to donate time or treasure. They discuss positive incentives for donating time or treasure.

  7. Have students select a project and plan to carry it out.

Cross Curriculum 

Start a penny war to raise money for an agreed-upon charity. Each team chooses a charity to support and starts a jar for saving pennies. Over a given time, they collect pennies and add to the jar of their choice. Adding coins other than pennies counts against their score but adds to the charity. So they may add silver coins to a competitor’s jar in order to win. At the end of the time, the team with the highest score wins the game, but all the charities win overall. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize that volunteering requires freedom of choice.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> in philanthropic giving.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.