Grade 3-5

I Have No Money, Would You Take Wampum?

Updated: October 18 2019,

Through the use of folk tales, history, and the students’ own experiences, students will recognize the inter-relatedness of goods, services, money. They will locate information about barter as a means of trade, use folk tales as an historical instrument.


 Teacher may wish to read or make copies of The Wampum Bird  folktale before the children's lesson starts.

In this lesson students will:

  1. Brainstorm and record situations from their own experiences that are examples of receiving:

    • goods for servicesmoney
  • goods for money
  • money for goods
  • money for services
  • services for goods
  • services for money
  • goods for goods
  • services for services
  1. Learn historical information about barter as trade.
  2. Determine if all barter is fair.
  3. Read about wampum as a medium of exchange.
  4. Recognize wampum as a forerunner of today's currency.
  5. Create a craft project to symbolize wampum.

Helpful prerequisites
Students will need some experience opening Internet sites.
Students will need familiarity with definitions for these vocabulary words:
goods, services, trade, currency.
Wampum History and Background provides helpful background information for the teacher.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize the inter-relatedness of goods, services, money.
  • Locate information about barter as a means of trade.
  • Use folk tales as an historical illustration of wampum.
  • Create a tie between wampum and currency.

Resource List


  1. Organize students in pairs or small groups. Introduce vocabulary words from the chalkboard or a chart. Discuss meanings.
  2. Pair the words, goods, services, and money. Ask for examples from the children's lives that would illustrate the situations:

    • Example– Money for Service
      "I mowed Grandma's lawn. She paid me $5.00."
    • Example– Goods for Goods
      "My friend traded me two of his baseball cards for a special one of mine."
    • Example–Services for Goods
      "I helped our older neighbor clean her garage and she gave me an old baseball mitt that belonged to her son."


  1. Ask/discuss how many of the situations recorded could not have taken place before money came into being.

    Ask/discuss how people long ago acquired goods and services without coins or currency. Note which student ideas are examples of barter and which use a medium of exchange (money). Point out that money can be more than coins and currency.

  2. Direct students to "The Barter System ". Ask students to read the story of barter and make decisions about the answers to the Pop Quiz at the end.
  3. Ask students to explain in their own words, WHY barter became too impractical, cumbersome, and complicated.


  1. Return to the primitive form of money in early North American history, tell or read the folk tales from "The Wampum Bird " site.
  2. Direct students to the "Wampum Belts Fact Sheet " which has pictures as well as more information.

    Read and discuss with the students.

  3. Photos of wampum and a short description of how to make wampum are available on these two sites.

  4. Close with a review of the key concepts and vocabulary words.


From this lesson we can conclude that money may or may not be found in a trade, and that trades may or may not be fair to all traders.

Extension Activity

Construct strings of wampum with purple and white construction paper. Cut 8" long slender triangles with a 3/4" to 1" base. Roll around a pencil to start. Tighten a bit, but leave space for yarn to pass through the "bead". Glue in place. String the paper beads on a piece of yarn. Students should share the string of wampum at home. Challenge boys and girls to tell families one idea (learned from the lesson) for each bead on their string of wampum.