Managing a Classroom Economy that is Super Simple!

I use class money ad I blogged on iTeach Third about how I keep the system simple and still motivating! Here is the post...

I am excited to share some simple strategies for making a classroom economy work in your classroom.

I have used a classroom economy before and could never keep up with it. I was supposed to pay the kids and I totally forgot for weeks on end. I was supposed to sell coupons and I just never found time for the sale. After feeling terribly guilty, I would sell the cute coupons- but then the students actually wanted to use them! I didn't have time for that either! "I am sorry that you bought a show-and-tell coupon. I have 38 standards to teach today and there won't be time!" "I know you bought a lunch with the teacher coupon, but I have two meetings and photocopies to make during my 15 minute lunch." By Christmas, the economy just faded away.

This year, I rethought the entire process! I found ways to make it super simple on ME! And it doesn't take any extra time!

First, let me explain why I feel so passionate about using an economy:

  • I don't have a behavior clip chart and so I needed some way to reward students and to hold them accountable for their choices.
  • Students are more motivated when they actually get something that is tangible. Students will work harder for this piece of paper than they ever did for a clip up.
  • Students gain experience with counting money.
  • Students must make decisions about spending and saving money. This is a huge life skill!
  • Fines can be assessed privately so that students are not embarrassed. 
  • When the money comes out- my kids all turn into SUPER students! They see the reward and they will turn it up a notch! 

In previous years I paid students for classroom jobs and turning in their homework. NO MORE! I told my students that behaving, taking care of the classroom and turning in their work are things that I expect them to do. They do not get paid for these tasks. I don't want to create a classroom of students who will only do a job if they get paid. That is laziness! I don't don't get paid for making dinner, mopping the floor and paying the bills. There are tasks that everyone must do each day that they do not receive compensation for. Kids may as well learn this lesson now.

In my classroom students earn money for going ABOVE & BEYOND the expectations! Some examples include:

  • Helping classmates
  • Excellent participation
  • Compliments from other staff members or substitutes
  • Extra classwork (fast finisher activities) done in a way that shows significant effort
  • Exhibiting positive character traits
  • Explaining strategies
Since there isn't a payday in my classroom, I am able to keep up. I walk around my room with a stack of classroom money. I just drop a $1 and a compliment when I see the above and beyond behavior. Other students will hear my compliment and it will push them to work harder. 

Isn't this set of class money super cute? It comes in B&W too. My sweet friend Amber made it! You can get it HERE.

I have a really important rule in my classroom: You cannot ask for class money. If you ask for it, you won't get it. I will decide who gets the money and when. I tell students that the same task won't lead to money over and over. Additionally, I will be fair, but not every kid will be treated the same. A child who never talks will be more likely to get participation money when they speak up than the child who always offers answer. I am pushing each students to be their best possible self. Students know that asking or complaining about a difference in pay will lead to a fine.

I do not have a clip chart for negative behaviors, but I still need a way to hold students accountable. I use class fines. I always give a verbal warning, but then if a child continues to be off task, talking or disrespectful- they are fined. I decide the fine based on the offense. If you whine or complain- the fine will be doubled.

Students do not get paid to turn in their classwork and homework, but they do get fined for not turning them in! I don't get paid to make dinner, but there are consequences for not making dinner: starvation and whining children!

Last year I was having trouble with students who were losing important class papers such as math facts, centers work and spelling words. Now I am fining students who need new copies of papers! I tell them that they need to pay me for the time that it takes to make a new copy.

Finally, students accrue fines for late school library books.

Obviously a classroom economy would not be effective if the students didn't have something to spend their money on. I mean, I wouldn't care about my paycheck if I couldn't spend it all at Target! The problem I have had in the past was TIME. I started with a class store. That was pricey and hard to find the time to let kids "shop." So I decided to use coupons. Again, I didn't have time to sell them or to allow kids to redeem them. I needed a new plan...

Here are the ways that my students can spend their money:

  • Additional restroom breaks: I include this as a privilege rather than a fine. It appeases parents, but still holds kids accountable to not spend the whole day in the restroom. I am being sneaky here. Shhhh. 
  • Bring a stuffed animal to class: The animal must be small enough to sit on their desk. I always ask my students what the animal's name is and I talk to their animal during the day. They think it is funny. The best part is that it doesn't take any time. The student just hands me the money when they come into the classroom. No show-and-tell. Students understand that if the stuffed animals becomes a distraction, it will be taken away and money will not be refunded. I was surprised how many 3rd graders are still excited about this one!
  • Rent the MVP class supplies: Many teachers have a VIP basket, but I have a sports themed classroom so we have an MVP basket. I put fancy school supplies in the basket. It has smelly markers, mechanical pencils, colored pens, metallic crayons, stickers and more. Students LOVE this basket. For $5, they can rent it for the day. They just bring the money to me and grab the basket. Simple!

  • Extra treat at classroom parties: I have some sort of holiday party at least once per quarter. We always have some kind of treat at the party. Everyone gets the treat. Students can use their money to buy an additional special treat at the party. I ask parents to donate party treats so this is free for me. I am already having a crazy day- so this is a good time to offer them something to buy.

  • Extra raffle tickets for our book auctions: I do book auctions before Christmas break and before summer break. I collect books using my Scholastic bonus points and I purchase some of the $1 books. Every student receives a free auction ticket. If they wish, they can buy extra tickets so that they can increase the odds of getting their first choice book. I was already doing these auctions and so using the money doesn't not add any more work for me! You can read more about my book auctions HERE.

My suggestion to you is to think of special things that you are already doing for your students. How can you increase the fun for those who want to use the class money? Keep it simple! Kids are perfectly fine with simple! They really don't need elaborate class stores!