Play the game by going to the Spent website.

This video tells you more about the game:



Aims: for students to become more aware of the issues faced by workers on low incomes, to use vocabulary related to these issues and to discuss the issues raised in the game
Resources: Spent game, one computer with Adobe Flash player per 2-3 students, bingo card
Age: 15-18, Adult
Level: B1+
Time: 30 minutes plus optional extension


Before the lesson

  1. Play Spent and note down some of the vocabulary used in the game. Choose a mix of language that may be new to your students as well as some they may already know.
  2. Use this to prepare a bingo card with around 20 words and phrases. You could use this example:
    run out speeding temp take-home pay
    keep afloat a physical bumper numbing gel
    IOU road-legal root canal dent
    pitching in landlord loan curveball
    fitness regime yard sale paycheck let you go

During the lesson

  1. Introduce the concept of the game by asking students if they think they could survive on $1,000 per month. Invite them to talk about the problems they might face.
  2. Tell students they are going to find out by completing a video game. Explain that the game will also help them learn some useful vocabulary and learn about life for poor people in the USA.
  3. Hand out the bingo cards and explain that the words and phrases are all used in different parts of the game. Invite students to explain what they mean and how they might relate to the story. Tell students that they will use the context of the game to check the meaning.
  4. In groups of two or three, students play the game and underline each word or phrase if and when it comes up in their story. They then put a tick if they understand the meaning from the context of the game.
  5. Students play the game for a fixed period of time, trying to get through the month and checking off all the items on the card. Once their time is up, the winner is the group that survived longest and collected the most words and phrases on the card.
  6. Students use the words and phrases on the card to orally reconstuct the story of the month. Get feedback from different groups about what they did and if and how they survived.


Depending on your students and the time available, you could:

  • check your students’ honesty by including one or two words on the card that are not actually used in the game
  • play part of the game whole-class, and then set it as a homework task
  • focus exclusively on business English terms used in the game
  • ask students to write about their experience as the character in the game
  • ask students to give a presentation on some of the issues raised in the game
  • set up a debate in which students role play employers and other characters in the story and have to reach an agreement on policies such as the minimum wage and health insurance
  • get students to evaluate the game, e.g. was it useful or realistic?
  • ask students to write a report comparing the reality of life for low-income employees in the USA with people in their country.


Do you feel you could use this lesson idea with your students? If so, how would you integrate it into your curriculum? How would you make sure your students used English?

Can you think of any other ways of using Spent in the classroom?

This plan is partly based on an idea taken from Digital Play, the award-winning blog and book about digital games in English language teaching written by Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley. Buy the book or visit their site!



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