A classroom economy system will help students take ownership in the classroom. It can also help with learning real-world financial literacy in a fun way. Setting up your classroom economy strategically will pay you dividends down the road.
First, decide what you want your cash to look like. Ask yourself what will be the easiest way to print off more cash in the future. Will you prefer a version using colored ink, black and white version on white printer paper, or black-and-white version on colored printer or construction paper? Once it is printed, it will have to be cut and sorted. Please keep in mind some students like to keep a lot of cash on hand and buy a bunch of items all at once. You will want to have extra money on hand. I would make more of the denominations that you will use more of according to your pay scale (if you decide to have classroom jobs) and reward system.
Second, decide how you will store your cash. Make it easy on yourself! Store it in a way that you can grab the money quickly. You will not want to take up class time to search for money. I usually keep my most common denominations in a rubber band and carry it with me when we leave the classroom so I can hand it out right on the spot. Furthermore, if we are going to an assembly or event, I will take a higher denomination with me and tell my students that I can’t wait to hand these out to students who are role models. Make sure your money is not left out in the open. This is an unnecessary temptation for students.
When you introduce the cash to the students, you will want to get them excited about the classroom economy. First, show them what the money looks like. Next, tell them how they will be getting paid. Then, show them what they can earn whether it is tickets (free for teachers) or prizes. Last, tell them how they can lose money or be ”fined.” If you are able to, you can show the “fine” sheet on the board for visual learners.
Consequently, there are usually a lot of questions during this time. Tell your students to wait for their questions until you are done explaining. The more information you give, the less questions there should be. However, there are always the inevitable “what if” questions. The most common question I get is what if I’m fined and I don’t have enough money. This is a very good question. I have my students develop a savings account before they can spend money. I tell them to keep $50 in it. For example, if a no-name paper costs $25, then you would want more than $25 in your students’ savings account so that they are prepared for other purchases or fines.
Maybe you are already using another behavior system. You can still keep that system or just use the classroom economy. Just like other behavior management systems, it’s important to be firm in the beginning when using a classroom economy. I like to use the cash as a reward; however, there are times when there must be a consequence for the students’ actions. For instance, if you choose to fine students $20 for talking, then follow through.
My students are paid $10 for good behavior each day. You can increase or lower this amount depending on your need for good behavior. You can track good behavior by having a student fill out a behavior think sheet, keep your current behavior system, or use a “fine” ticket which you can have the students fill out and they must return it with a parent’s signature. You can put out a tracker to have students checkmark the box to track fines for behavior or make it a student job.
There is also the option of giving out “desk citations” for messy desks or bonuses for clean desks. This will remind students to keep their areas tidy without having to constantly repeat yourself.
For example, I like to have the “bankers” put the behavior reward pay in students’ mailbox. But if you prefer, you can put them on desks. A bonus for using the mailbox is that it will encourage students to check their mailbox without having to remind them! A drawback to putting them in the mailbox is that it could be more likely for a student to take the money without anyone seeing or say they didn’t get the money. I use the “police” as a student job to watch everyone in the class.
Classroom Jobs are a win win! Why do all the work yourself when you have students who want to help? By implementing jobs, it will help students become responsible and take ownership in the classroom. Find tasks in your classroom that you already do that students can do. Or maybe there is something that you know you can’t do because of time; however, a student could do it to make the class run more efficiently. If I have a student job for attendance or lunch count, be sure to double check the work. I like to create as many jobs as I have students. Sometimes this is not possible and then I create a “substitute” and/or “week off” job.
In addition, I set the pay per day at $5 and paydays are on Fridays. Just like the behavior reward pay, I prefer to have the job enforcers put the pay in students’ mailbox. But if you prefer, you can have them put them on desks. I rotate jobs weekly. But this can be changed bimonthly or whatever works for your class. Additionally, you can have students fill out a job application weekly or monthly to have an idea of what students are interested in.
Special privileges and rewards using coupons are not as hard on your pocketbook. Students seem to like and get excited about the coupons just the same as toys, if not more! I usually open the class store on Fridays. I don’t make it a daily thing unless they have met a goal. And I never open the store when there is a substitute. Recently, I implemented “store clerks” for our store and that is going well. I have students that are called “job enforcers” who have clipboards and check off when students do their job.
Additionally, you can take your class store a step further and have your students purchase pencils, erasers, highlighters, and even rent their desk.
Some teachers decide to let their students choose where to keep their money. Be sure to remind them to keep it in a safe place. You can also give your students a paper wallet, plastic sandwich zip bag, or have them keep it in their pencil pouch. I tell them if they lose their money, I will not replace it.
Furthermore, a classroom economy can tie into financial literacy. This is beneficial because it can be taught all year long instead of in one or two lessons. You can use a debits and credits ledger, income and expenses sheet, or a simple log. Students can keep this log with their money or another location they use frequently and won’t get lost.
Overall, a classroom economy system can help your classroom run smooth with the help of your students.
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