Sunday, February 8, 2015

How to Make a Classroom Bank Machine

The wisest thing I've ever done to help my literacy learners become comfortable with an ATM--something they had indicated via our needs assessment was important to them--was build an ATM from a cardboard box. Fortunately for me, all our students use the same bank, making the resource hunting part of this unit easier for me.

To give students lots of scaffolding for this lesson, we spent a week working with Fatima Goes to the Bank and the following week building our skills with the vocabulary needed for just ONE type of transaction--a withdrawal. These are words such as savings, chequing, select, and receipt. You'd be surprised how manageable these screens can be if you help students learn to scan for the words they DO KNOW while ignoring the big ones they don't know. For example, out of "no more transactions," they can find and understand "no more."

After learning how to withdraw and getting lots of practice with the simulated screens in class, the learners requested that we repeat the entire process with the deposit transaction. So that took another week. We combined it with learning to write cheques. After writing each other $20 cheques, those cheques were what we put into our deposit envelopes.

I found this unit on using an ATM to be very successful. Students learned that they needn't be intimidated by all those options on the screen as long as they can scan and find the option they need. By working with TD Bank's online Green Machine tutorials* and the classroom ATM that had been modelled after those screens, students got to the point of knowing exactly which question was coming next. Not only that, but learners had a lot of fun taking turns standing behind the cardboard ATM to flip the screens and push the bank card, receipt and money out through the proper slots while the student customer stood facing the "machine," ready to receive each one in turn.

Of course we also talked about ATM safety points, such as protecting your PIN, not counting money until you're in a private and safe place, where and when NOT to use an ATM, and other safety concepts.

Finally, we took photos of ourselves using the classroom ATM and built a story book around the process. That was our reading material for the following week, providing lots of recycling of the same words and concepts.

What you will need for a classroom ATM:

  • a cardboard box from your local liquor or grocery store
  • a utility or exacto knife
  • card stock on which to draw the keypad (or my photo of it printed out in colour)
  • packing or duct tape
  • ruler
  • markers
  • a life-sized print-out of a bank card to paste below the card slot (direction must match ATM)
  • one presentation portfolio or lightweight binder with enough plastic sleeves to hold all your screens
  • one copy of my editable ATM screens (Literacy - Banking and Money)
  • classroom money (at least four twenties)

  1. Insert 8.5 x 11" screens for a given transaction into the plastic sleeves in the same order in which they appear on the Green Machine.
  2. Use strong tape to affix one cover of the binder to the top of the box in such a way that the plastic sleeves hang down onto the face of the ATM and can be flipped back out of the way one at a time.
  3. Use a ruler to sketch out then a knife to cut four slots: one for the bank card, another for the receipt to come out, a slot for deposits, and a large bottom slot from which the money can emerge. (Study a real TD Bank ATM so you know where these slots really are.)
  4. Paste the picture of the keypad or draw a PIN pad on a separate piece of cardboard and place it in front of the machine or attach it like a fold-out flap.
Voila! You have a classroom bank machine.

Also very helpful in teaching ATM use at any level are TD Canada Trust's own screen-by-screen tutorials and GCF's ATM, an interactive simulator. Or check out this Canadian ATM simulator.

Please do let me know if you end up using any of these ideas. I would be so happy to know it.


  1. This is so great! Thank you!

  2. This is so great! Thank you!

    1. You're welcome! Not sure why I never saw this comment back in 2016. ;) --KM

  3. My students enjoyed this unit very much! Thank you for everything!

  4. Way to teach, teacher Kelly!!!

  5. I have a simimilar set up for the library check out machine!! Can't wait to try your bank machine idea!

    1. Ha, ha! Very cool. Kindred spirits we are.

  6. Thank you SO much for creating this, showing pics, including plans and sharing. I used it with my level 2 Ss and they LOVED it. It's so much better to use this than to match pictures and words on a handout. You are brilliant and oh, so generous.

  7. Dawn, you're so welcome! I feel gratified each time I'm made aware that some teacher somewhere has used these plans and that it was a hit with Ss. --KM


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