Today’s post is to answer the many questions I have received regarding my classroom economy. Economy is a loose term because it isn’t tied to students completing classroom jobs but tied to their behavior. We call this system the paycheck system.
Implementing a classroom economy
Disclosure: None of this information is or was my idea. My school had this already in place long before I came around. I am merely describing what it is and how it works. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas so that you can set up a system that works for your classroom.
System of Earning dollars
Students can earn and can earn dollars based on their choices in class. We connect dollars to the core values we want our students to exhibit: community, curiosity, and courage.
I verbally share when a student earns a dollar: “Ericka, what a great question — plus 2 dollars for showing curiosity.” As a school, students can earn these dollars from all teachers and administrators. We have an online database where we can track these dollars called Kickboard.
The paycheck system promotes positive narration and keeping the positive visible. Instead of saying, “You should assign yourself to a book,” I can say, “Juan, plus 2 for assigning yourself to a book.” I have recognized a student’s positive behavior and reminded the rest of the class what they should be doing. Win-win.
Students choose to not earn dollars (notice I didn’t say lose dollars) when they make choices that are distracting (opposite of community), off task (opposite of curiosity), or fill-in-the-many-blanks that students come up with (opposite of courage).
Here is a real-life example that happened yesterday: “Brayan, you are not earning your curiosity dollar because you are not taking your notes. Please pick up your pencil and start writing.” (Note: This is not my first step on the behavior pyramid, but it is the third/fourth when a consequence is earned.)
All of this is documented on their weekly paycheck. Students start the week with $140 (this starting balance assumes that each student will earn $3 in each class), and then dollars are added or subtracted for their final amount.
They receive a paycheck one pager that documents both dollars earned and not earned over the course of the week. Teachers can write comments when they add/subtract dollars. This paper goes home on Mondays to get signed by parents and returned the following day. I have one tracker that I display that shows which students made “Payday” which is maintaining a balance of $140 by the end of the week. You can see that my students are excelling!
Students visit the Green Jay Store once a week to spend their hard earned paycheck dollars. Students can purchase free dress passes (we have uniforms), gum passes, school supplies, technology lunch, and many other privileges.
Setting Up Your Own Classroom Economy
I imagine that you could still do something like this in an individual classroom. Students could carry a tracker with them where they record their credits and debits. Perhaps it looks just like a check register (this is aligned to TEKS 6.14(C) balance a check register that includes deposits, withdrawals, and transfers ), or it could be similar to a sticker chart.
Note from Noelle: One of my schools used PBIS, so we had a generic system for rewards and rewarding the positive behavior we desired to see. In another school, I used tickets and a raffle in my individual classroom and just kept things simple. It is easy to hand out tickets, there is little recording required, and its up to the students to keep track of their tickets. At the end of two weeks, I would allow students to put their tickets in a raffle. This does mean that some students wont win anything, but it did allow the prizes to be bigger. If you wanted everyone to be able to earn something, then you could create some sort of store with cheap and/or free incentives. Need ideas, see this post!
Whatever it might be, find a way to acknowledge all the great things you are seeing on a daily basis in your classroom. Monthly or weekly, you could open up a “store” where they could buy privileges or small prizes.
The paycheck system motivates students to earn dollars by making good choices and helps teachers to notice the students who are making the right choices. As teachers, it can be easy to fixate on the 2% who aren’t following directions instead of the 98% who are. Do you use a classroom economy or similar system in your classroom or at your school? What management/incentive systems do you use?