The Color of Money: An activity with finance idioms

Later this week I plan to publish a video about Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the U.S.  The very name of this day along with its significance in the retail world makes me think this is a good time to share money-related idioms with students. I’ve selected five that not only relate to finance, but also make use of colors.

Step 1 – Present the following five idioms: in the red/ out of the red, in the back, not (worth) one red cent, a golden opportunity, (see) the color of someone’s money. Ask first if any students are familiar with the expressions. Give short definitions to clarify the meanings. More context can be provided later.

  • in the red = in debt, losing money/ out of the red = out of debt, now with profit
  • in the black = not in debt, showing  profit
  • not (worth) one red cent = having no value
  • a golden opportunity = a chance to be very successful, often in terms of money
  • (see) the color of someone’s money = want to see if someone actually has the money to pay for something

Step 2 – Check student’s comprehension of the idioms by having them match the idiom to a photo that illustrates its meaning. See my suggestions on my Color & Finance Idioms_handout. Note how I contextualized each idiom in a sentence.

Step 3 – Have students work in pairs. Assign an idiom to each pair. (In large classes, some idioms will be assigned to more than one pair.) Ask them to create a short dialog that includes the quoted speech from the matching exercise.

Step 4 – Have pairs read their dialogs to the class. At this point, you may suggest other common contexts for these idioms to be used.


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