Seems Like a Million Bucks

K, 1, 2
This lesson centers around a beautiful piece of literature entitled, Sam and the Lucky Money. The students observe Sam as he makes a difficult decision between what he wants and what he knows is right. The students explore the benefits and costs of giving.
PrintOne-Hour Class Period
The learners will:
  • relate the decision that Sam made to his/her own experience.
  • define and give examples of wants and needs.
  • differentiate between a profit and nonprofit business.
  • brainstorm places in the community that help people.
  • create red envelopes and design a lucky four-dollar bill.
  • decide to which nonprofit group they would like to make an imaginary donation.
  • The book, Sam and the Lucky Money (see Bibliographical References)
  • Magazine or other pictures related to wants and needs (food, toys, house, clothes, etc.)
  • CD or cassette of Raffi’s “All I Really Need” (see Bibliographical References)
  • Red construction paper
  • Crayons
  • Light green paper cut into dollar-size rectangles
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Chim, Karen. Sam and the Lucky Money. New York: Lee and Low Books Inc., 1997. ISBN: 1880000539.

  • Raffi. All I Really Need. Baby Beluga. Rounder Records, 1980. ASIN: B0000003HD


  1. Anticipatory Set:What could you do with four dollars? Brainstorm a list of ideas. Encourage the students to think of a wide range of ideas from selfish to selfless, from practical to impractical, from healthy to unhealthy. Then ask them to silently pick their favorite or most likely choice. Tell them that you are going to read a story about a boy who has that choice. Ask them to listen to how the boy makes his decision.

  2. Show the book, Sam and the Lucky Money. Point out the title on the front. Then show the Chinese characters on the back. They stand for “Lucky Money.” Explain to the students that this title is located on the back cover because in China this would be the front of the book. Chinese is read from right to left.
  3. Remind them that you have read two stories that have taken place in China. Ask them to listen to this story and decide if this story is set in China too.
  4. Read the story and use the following questions to engage the students in discussion:
    • Does this story take place in China? (No) What clues gave you this answer? (Sam doesn’t speak Chinese—When the bakery woman spoke Chinese to him, he didn’t understand. The money he got for Chinese New Year was in dollars, not yen, or Chinese money.)
    • Where does the story take place? Why is the location important to the story?
    • How does Sam feel about his four dollars at the beginning of the story? (He feels rich. He is happy.)
    • How does Sam feel the first time he sees the old man with the bare feet? (Surprised and scared)
    • What did Sam want to spend his money on at first? (Sweet treats at the bakery) Why didn’t he buy anything there? (The tails on the fish cookies reminded him of the old man’s toes. Then there was a noise outside.)
    • What did Sam want to spend his money on next? (Toys at the new toy store.) Why didn’t he buy anything there? (He didn’t have enough money to buy the things he wanted.)
    • Now how does he feel about the four dollars? (Angry—He wonders “what four dollars is good for.”)
    • How does the old man act when Sam’s mom gives him a quarter? (Like it’s a million bucks)
    • How did the old man influence Sam in his decision-making? Has anyone ever influenced your decision-making? How?
    • Why do you think Sam gives his money to the old man? (He needs it more than Sam does.) How does Sam feel about giving his lucky money to the old man? (Good, lucky)
    • Whenever there is an act of philanthropy, there is also an opportunity cost. What opportunity did Sam give up in order to help the old man? Did it feel worth it to Sam? How does he feel about the man after he gives to him? (He has respect for him.)
  5. Discuss the difference between wants and needs. Show some pictures to the students and ask them to identify or sort them into wants and needs. Ask them to define needs (things you need for survival: food, shelter, clothing). Then ask them what they should do if they know of someone who doesn’t have what they need.
  6. Sing “All I Really Need” by Raffi. See Bibliographical References.
  7. Explain the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Name some nonprofit organizations that help people who are hungry or homeless. Name some organizations that work for profit. Explain what a profit is. Encourage the children to name some places where they personally are involved in economic exchanges.
  8. Art project: Make red envelopes and lucky money. Allow children to fashion their own envelopes from red construction paper, scissors and glue. They may draw designs on the outside.
  9. Pass out the rectangles of light green paper. Have children write a number four in each corner of the rectangle like a real dollar bill. Recall that there is always a picture of a famous person, usually a president in the middle. Have them draw a person of their choice in the middle. Remind the children that there is no such thing as a four-dollar bill.
  10. Now have the students decide to which nonprofit place they would like to pretend to give their four dollars. Write the name of the place on the four-dollar bill.
Observe student’s participation in discussions.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Define the terms "profit" and "not-for-profit."
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Explain the difference between wants and needs.
    3. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Give examples how people give time, talent or treasure in different cultures.