Activity 32: Price Survey

▶ Duration:  25–30 min
▶ Aim:  Practise pronouncing dollar-and-cent values
▶ Summary:  Students interview each other on the cost of some common items.

Go back to Oral English Activites


This activity begins with an overview of how to correctly pronounce dollar-and-cent values. Then to practise this knowledge, students first guess the prices (in US dollars) of some items, and then interview other students about the prices they guessed.

The teaching aim is to practise the pronunciation of prices, but for the students there is the added interest of trying to guess the correct price (the answers are revealed at the end of the activity) and the opportunity to learn about the cost of living in America.

Of course, you could use the currency and prices of a different country, but even as an Australian I have to admit that US dollars are the "obvious choice" in a Chinese classroom.

Make enough copies of the survey sheet so that every student can receive one: price_survey.doc (html preview).

A few items, such as the Dixie Chicks CD on the survey or Harry Potter 5 in the examples below, might already be out of fashion by the time you read this, so change them if you like. I researched all these prices on internet shopping sites such as ,,, etc.

Model and Drill

Before the activity starts, write the following example on the blackboard:

$62.78     Sixty-two dollars and seventy-eight cents

Drill this pronunciation, particularly the sentence stress, which falls on "sixty" and "seventy" (there is also minor stress on "dollars" and "cents", but in this activity it is not necessary to discuss this). I recommend clicking your fingers to show the stressed syllables (both when you model the sentence, and when the students drill it), as this is a method that I have found very effective. You may also note other speech phenomenon, for example I followed these steps:

  1. Drill slowly, pronouncing every word clearly.
  2. Now explain that when speaking faster, a native speaker will probably pronounce the "and" as /ən/.
  3. Drill this pronunciation.
  4. Now explain that a native speaker might also pronounce the "t" in seventy as /d/.
  5. Drill this pronunciation.

Now drill some shorter ways of pronouncing this price:

  1. Erase "and", and drill "Sixty-two dollars, seventy-eight cents" (the sentence stress does not change).
  2. Erase "cents", and drill "Sixty-two dollars seventy-eight" (the sentence stress moves from "seventy" to "eight").
  3. Erase "dollars", and drill "Sixty-two seventy-eight" (the sentence stress moves from "sixty" to "two").

Ask the class, can we say "Sixty-two point seventy-eight?" (No, we never use "point" with dollar-and-cent values).

Price Survey

Elicit the Chinese RMB to US Dollar exchange rate.

Write some example prices on the board, to give the students some idea of US pricing. After writing the name of each item, pause and let the students guess the price before writing up the correct value:

1lb of potatoes$0.79(explain that "lb" stands for pound, 1 pound = 0.45kg = 0.91 jin)
Loaf of bread (1.5lb)$1.99(indicate the size of a 1.5lb loaf with your hands)
Harry Potter 5$16.19
Cheapest bike$79.64

Now hold up the survey sheet. Explain (or show on the board) that there is a list of items in the first column, and the second column is labelled "Me". Ask the students to guess the price of each item in US dollars and write it in the "Me" column. Encourage them to use interesting values (as in the above examples), not just whole dollar values. Check:

While the students are completing this, complete your rough drawing of the survey sheet on the blackboard. Once the students have filled in all their guesses, briefly demonstrate the survey activity. Write a student's name at the top of one of the columns, and ask them for one or two prices: "What does one pound of apples cost?", "What does a CD cost?", etc. Correct their pronunciation of the prices if they make any mistakes. Fill in the prices on the board. Write another student's name at the top of the next column, and ask them for some prices too.

Instruct the students to fill in all the rows for each person that they survey. Start the activity.

At the end of the activity, ask some students for feedback, for example what was the highest price they heard for apples? What was the lowest price? Then read out the original prices:



If you like, you can also introduce vocabulary for talking about discounts. Either before the students start carrying out the survey, or at some point during the survey, mark a discount on one of the items on the board. For example, 20% off bread would make the price $1.59. Make sure you do the math, because the English way of indicating a discount is different to Chinese: a 20% discount in English means a "0.8 zhekou" in Chinese.

Drill the following sentences for describing discounts (vary the percentage and the item during the drill):

There's a _____% discount on __________.
There's _____% off __________.

Then ask the students to put a discount on one of the prices in their "Me" column. During the survey, they should describe this discount to the students that interview them.
Rating: 4 stars