Our Classroom Economy: As Easy As 1,2,3 and Totally Free!
- Grades: 3–5
For several years I launched a detailed classroom economy, primarily based on Rafe Esquith's work, but the maintenance was more than I was willing to keep up. However, this year I was determined to launch a classroom economy that was as easy as 1,2,3 and totally free, so that I would also sustain it. Read on to learn how we have created and maintained a classroom economy that won't break your time bank account.
Photo: A student bid and won our latest classroom auction to swap desks with me for the month.
The Power of a Working Classroom Economy
Recently I had a meeting during my planning period that ran longer than expected, and my time to pick up students from special areas came and went. I was under the assumption that my room was covered. Later, I found out it wasn't covered for about ten minutes. Nevertheless two students "hired" as police officers entered the classroom at the scheduled time and passed out trade books for students to read. Students read quietly until a 6th grade teacher walked by and asked where I was. According to my teaching neighbor, students were on task and doing exactly what was on the schedule. That's pretty impressive. That's the power of a classroom economy.
Classroom Economy: As Easy As 1,2,3!
Step 1: Create Free Online Bank Accounts for Your Students
With Smart Piggy Bank, you can set up all of your class bank accounts in fewer than twenty minutes. The site was created to "help parents teach kids about money," and it also works in the classroom. I like that it has the look and feel of a real online banking system. Deposits and withdrawals all include a memo line, which must be completed for each transaction.
In our class, we all have the same format for our user names and passwords. This makes it easy for me to log on, for students to remember their log-on information, and for bankers to check the accuracy of deposits and withdrawals.
Step 2: Interview and Hire Students for Classroom Positions
Stop and think about what you need help with in the classroom. Wouldn't it be nice if you always had someone who made sure lunch counts were turned in, backpacks were in order, library books were placed where they belong . . . and so on? When I sat down to create classroom positions, I started with the following positions, pay, and duties:
After I posted the positions online, my students were offered applications. Throughout the week, I conducted interviews during recess and hired students. A few jobs require a reference, but you can opt out of that one if you choose.
Download the classroom economy application.
Step 3: Provide Real-Life Income Situations
Once students were hired, I informed my class that silent auctions for various privileges and spots in the classroom would occur after payday. In the meantime, students were permitted opportunities to earn or lose money towards that auction.
Some Ways We Earn Additional Money:
- Perfect attendance for the month
- Agenda signed daily
- Performing community service outside the classroom
- Being caught being good
Some Ways to Lose Money:
- Being unprepared
- Missing or late homework
For more information, download my detailed classroom instructions for rent, bonuses, and fines.
Before our pay period ended last time, I sat down with my class and asked students to think about free items/privileges they were interested in purchasing with their money. Here is that list:
~ swap desks with the teacher for the month
~ sit on a yoga ball as a chair replacement
~ rental ownership of 1/2 the couch with one visitor allowed every other week
~ gum chewing privilege for the month
~ drop a low grade
~ skip a lesson and read instead
~ rental ownership of the wicker chair or director chair in the room
~ rental privilege of sitting by the classroom door in an arm pillow
Photo: Students bid for items of interest in our silent classroom auction.
In addition, parents donated a few educational tools such as mechanical pencils, which are considered a real treat, for them to purchase.
For the silent auction, I simply took plastic cups (pictured above), labeled them with the items up for auction, and informed students that each item would go to the highest bidder, with one helpful clause. You would only pay one dollar more than the second highest bidder. That would mean, for example, that the winning bid of $800.00 would actually be $601.00, based on the second highest bid of $600.00.
For our last auction, students were permitted to bid on items for the last thirty minutes of class. It is important that you have perfect attendance on this day, so that all students have an opportunity to bid. Students are allowed to bid on up to four items.
Once students have been informed of the winning bid price, they can decide on a rental fee for other students to use their item. Supply and demand naturally follows and often results in some modifications on prices and terms. As requested, here are some forms that will keep the job duties in order:
Job Duty Post-It Note Reminders
Simply print (in color) and laminate. This could be posted on a student's desk or at the front of their binder.
You can download both the PDF and Printshop version below.
And it's really as easy and as free as that. Feel free to modify this plan, to launch a classroom economy that works for your class. I also highly recommend that you look at Beth's economy plan that has all the bells and whistles — and more! You can compare our two plans and perhaps settle on something in between.