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TV411: Utility Bill and Reading a Bar Graph


Main Website:
Tech Product/Equipment:
Computer and projector, Mobile devices for students, Computer

Activity Description

TV411 Reading a Utility Bill

This site has many activities which can be done independently by a student or in a class with a group of students. This will be a Basic Math activity. Students will watch the Utility Bill video, then they will do the online activity, Reading Charts and Graphs . Finally, students will work on online problems or worksheets from other sites..

The site also offers a wide variety of other topics in video format, many with worksheets or other resources to use. See the More Ways section below.


  1. The video linked above comes from Vimeo which may be blocked at your school. So test the site to be sure the video will play at your school.
  2. Preview the video using the Example Web Site link (above) and the Reading Charts and Graphs online activity at the site. Set the volume appropriate for your classroom.
  3. There are some other online activities and printables on reading charts and graphs. You may want to try them and if you do, you will need to decide on a way to get your students to the online activities. See the Teacher Tips section for ideas.


  1. Introduce the topic of reading graphs.
  2. Play the video about Utility Bills for your students.
  3. Go over the Reading Charts and Graphs activity at the TV411 Web Site.
  4. Assign students working in pairs to go to the English Zone Web site. Have the students practice the activity online.
  5. Give students the printed worksheet you selected from Common Core Sheets site. Select the green button at the top of the left column, How to Use Worksheets , to learn about different ways to use the worksheets.

Teacher Tips

  • Beware of the advertising sections on each page. Avoid them and teach your students to do like wise.
  • Discuss math vocabulary with the class before watching the video. Show different types of graphs.
  • To get students to an online resource, you can make it a Favorite or Bookmark the site on each computer browser, e-mail them the link, e-mail a word processing document with the link in it, or post the link on your class Web page.

More Ways

  • The TV411 Web site has many other basic math and life skill activities including those on figuring area and Tiles, Budgets in Place, Carpenter Math, Estimating a Job and Tracking Weight Loss. Web lesson topics include Using a Calculator, Pricing a Job, Place Value, Line Graphs, How to Read a Bar Graph, and Comprehending Business Problems. To find these, select Math on the navigational bar near the top of the page. Videos are included as well as lessons and worksheets to download.
  • If you are looking for reading, writing, vocabulary, basic science, and finance, the site offers a variety of other entertaining videos and other resources. Titles you may be interested in include:
    • Reading: Summarizing, Poetry, Campaign Literature, Glossary, Leases, Road Map, Globe, Medicine Labels, Newspaper Headlines, Newspaper, Restating legalese
    • Writing: Creative & Personal Writing, Grammar, Writing for Work & the GED
    • Vocabulary: Words with Multiple Meanings, Using Dictionaries, Learning New Words, What is a Thesaurus?, Compound Words, Homonyms, Medical Words, Prefixes, Suffixes, Synonyms and Antonyms
    • Basic Math in Everyday Life: Figuring Area, Budgets, Multiplication, Carpenter Math, Estimating a Painting Job, Computing Take Home Pay, Tracking Weight Loss, Utility Bills, Ratios in the Kitchen, Computing Averages, Comparing Cell Phone Plans, Math and Money Schemes, Travel Math, Unit Pricing, Football: Percentages, Decimals, and Probability, Basketball: Percentages and Fractions, Fractions and Rhythm, Store Discounts, Smart Shopping, Tipping, Basic Geometry in Origami, Baseball: Perimeter
    • Science: Bacteria, Heat, Carbohydrates, Photosynthesis, Elements

Program Areas

  • ABE: Adult Basic Education
  • ESL: English as a Second Language
  • ASE: High School Diploma


  • Low
  • Intermediate
  • High
  • Intermediate Low
  • Intermediate High
  • Advanced

Lesson Plan


Ask the question, What is a utility bill? What does it measure? How does it measure that? Have students pair up and answer the questions.

As a class make a list of all the utilities they can think of. (electricity, water, and gas are basics but you may also include sewage, trash, TV, internet, and phone)


Before the lesson print examples of utility bills. example bills (digital) Electricity billGas billcombined Electricity and Gas billcombined Electric and Gas billResidential Bill including Electric, Water, Sewer and Refuse, How to read your natural gas bill.

Have you ever looked at a utility bill? Hand out examples of utility bills. Have student pairs examine the bills. Gather the class together to create a list of questions they might have about utilities. Sample questions: How do utilitiy companies measure how much  your home/apartment uses? How do I read a utility bill? What do these words mean? Make a list of vocabulary words: ie kWh, billing cycle, meter, rotating outages, on peak

Engagement Enhancement

Using the digital sites your printed utility bills from, show several of the bills to the class. Discuss the parts. Have student pairs discuss the different parts.

Show the video Utility Bills from TV411.

Student pairs discuss the video, trying to answer questions generated by the class.

Gather the class together to discuss the answers.

Engagement Enhancement

Student pairs go through the three activities at TV411: How to Read a Bar graph. After sudents have gone through the activities in pairs, gather the group and ask, What did you learn, what was confusing? 

Engagement Enhancement

For more practice with bar graphs, have student pairs go to English Zone Practice 1 and Chart Reading Pracitce 2


For a paper evaluation, design and print a worksheet assessment at Common Core Sheets. 

Use the assessments to determine if students can read and understand graphing examples.

Enhancement Extension

Student pairs gather together utility bills (from home or from internet) and create quiz questions.

Students take the classmade quiz.


  • Math
    • Consumer Math
    • Decimals
    • Whole Number Skills
  • Reading
    • Consumer Skills
    • Critical Thinking/Decision Making
    • Vocabulary


  • Measurement and Data
    • 2.MD.10, 3.MD.3 - Represent and interpret data.
    • 5.MD.2 - Represent and interpret data.


grammar, math, reading, Antonyms, apostrophes, Bacteria, basic computation, Basic Geometry, basic math, basic science, Budgets, calculator, Campaign Literature, Carbohydrates, Carpenter Math, Comparing Cell Phone Plans, complex sentence, Compound Words, Computing Averages, Computing Take Home Pay, Cover Letter, Create a Data Sheet, Decimals, dependent clause, division, Elements, Estimating, figures of speech, Figuring Area, finance, Fractions, fragments, globe, Glossary, Heat, Homonyms, independent clause, Learning New Words, Leases, line graphs, Medical Words, medicine labels, Model Resume, Money Schemes, multiplication, newspaper, newspaper headlines, Percentages, Perimeter, Photosynthesis, Poetry, Prefixes, Probability, Ratios, reading legal documents, reading road maps, science, sentence fragment, Smart Shopping, Store Discounts, subtraction, Suffixes, Summarizing, Synonyms, Thesaurus, Tipping, Tracking Weight Loss, transitions, Travel Math, tv411, Unit Pricing, Using Dictionaries, utility bill, Utility Bills, video basic math, video sentence fragments, videos, vocabulary, Words with Multiple Meanings, Writing for Work, addition

Creative Commons License

CC BY-NC-SA:This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.