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Kickin’ Class Jobs Up a Notch: Classroom Economy in Action

By Lindsey Petlak on October 9, 2013
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Most likely, you already use student jobs in your classroom. Why not kick it up a notch? Use a classroom economy system to take student jobs beyond mundane tasks while integrating Common Core State Standards, behavior management, and real-world learning! Read on to discover management tips, academic ideas, and FREE resources.


Classroom Econo-WHAT?

Real-world, project-based learning is a keystone to my educational philosophy and classroom practices. When I discovered classroom economy as a way to seamlessly merge classroom behavior management and rewards, student jobs, math, social studies, and hands-on learning, I knew I had found a true gem to add to my “bag of educational tricks!” Never could I have imagined the enrichment implementing an economy system would bring to every aspect of our classroom. Through our classroom economy, students are learning real-world financial literacy skills, character education, numerous math skills, social studies concepts, public speaking opportunities, teamwork, and more. 

Put simply, a classroom economy is a system to:

  • track, manage, and reward student behavior

  • develop character education and teamwork

  • teach basic (to advanced) economic principals and financial literacy

  • integrate CCSS in math, ELA, and speaking/listening standards

  • provide real-world, project-based learning opportunities centered around economic principles


It All Began with Beth Newingham

Anyone who knows me as an educator knows what a HUGE fan I am of the one, the only, the FABULOUS Beth Newingham. I started following Beth’s classroom and teacher blog years ago, and kept right on following her when she joined the Scholastic Top Teaching blog team. She has inspired me in immeasurable ways, with classroom economy being at the forefront. After reading Beth’s classroom blog and Top Teaching tutorial posts on classroom economy I was hooked and immediately began laying out plans to implement this comprehensive system that covered everything from behavior management to financial data analysis. Do yourself a favor and peruse her posts linked above and in the resource section below. You will find fantastic lesson plans, resources, and more — just waiting to inspire you to dive into your own implementation of classroom economy.


Our Cruisin’ Classroom Economy

Since first being inspired by Beth’s class economy endeavors, I’ve implemented the system in second, third, and now fourth grades, tweaking each grade level to make it academically appropriate. As I’ve gained experience using classroom economy, I’ve taken the liberty to jump off Beth’s springboard, to make her ideas work best for me and my students from year to year, blend them with our class themes, and integrate as much technology as possible.

Here are some highlights of how I’ve tailored classroom economy to fit our current group of cruisin’ kids. I hope you take tips from this post, Beth’s fabulous ideas, use the other resources listed, and make classroom economy customized for YOU and your class.

  • Since our year-long theme is “retro road trip,” we pretend like our earnings are our travel money. 

  • Our class jobs have fun nicknames that coordinate with our theme. For example, our classroom cleaners are called “roadside cleaning crew,” class librarians are called “travel research specialists,” and office runners are called “open road cruisers.”

  • We collect "traveler's checks" each week and cash them monthly at our “Roadside Bank.”

  • Once checks are cashed, students visit the “Route 125 Souvenir Shop.”

  • I align CCSS to any classroom economy practices, lessons, or student activities.

  • Check out the management tips and FREE resources information below for ways I have streamlined the process of implementing classroom economy to make it easier for teachers as well as integrate as much technology as possible!

Students complete a job application. Students anxiously await being hired! Bankers check Class Dojo points for paycheck totals. It's PAYDAY! Cash your paychecks at the class bank. Items for sale in the souvenir shop. It's time to shop! Don't forget to total your bill, calculate change, & get your receipt.


Don’t Let the Econo-Crash of 2008 Happen in Your Room!

We have A LOT on our plates as teachers. Don’t let implementing a classroom economy be another task you’re trying to juggle and let the ball drop. Use the management tips below to make running your classroom economy efficient, effective, and worry-free for you and your students.

Pace Yourself: Some people change class jobs weekly and have payday/store weekly, too. For me, that was too much to handle. So I gave myself permission to have job rotations once each trimester, with checks paid weekly, but class bank and store only monthly to bi-monthly. I’ve found this especially effective with older students, as they need time to improve job skills, save money, and use our souvenir shop more effectively.



Class Dojo: In the past, I’ve used pencil and paper debit and credit recording systems and had students record their tallies for each category at their desks, as well. To streamline the tracking of positive and negative behaviors, as well as class job completion, I have found Class Dojo to be a lifesaver! Rewards or consequences are instant, the tool engages students, parents, and teachers, and data tracking and reports are hassle-free and effective. Find out more about ClassDojo, including frequently asked questions in order to utilize it with your classroom economy today!


Positive and negative points categories from Class Dojo translate to financial credits and debits.

MyKidsBank: Since online banking is the norm in 2013 and certainly the future, I’m trying something new this year — MyKidsBank online banking simulation and tracking system for classrooms. The artificial bank operates similar to a real online bank and is controlled by the classroom teacher. Using this online tool, a teacher may set each account to have weekly deposits, withdraws, transfer funds, and more. It teaches students to track their earnings from good behavior choices and hard classroom job work, as well as spending, saving, and more!  Find out more about MyKidsBank, including FAQs, in order to utilize this tool to make your classroom economy successful and extend student learning to include 21st century-learning skills via technology integration.



Parent Volunteers With SignUpGenius: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Planning for, setting up, and introducing students to class jobs, classroom economy, financial literacy, payday, bank days, and souvenir shop routines can be challenging and seem overwhelming at first. Having extra hands on deck to help set up and manage some of the routines, or asking parents with careers in the financial industry are great resources to tap into. To make requesting and managing parent/community volunteers painless and efficient, I use SignUpGenius. Check it out for use when asking for classroom economy volunteers, or class volunteers and donations for any need!


Keepin’ It Real

Classroom economy used to manage and reward behavior and student job contributions sounds fantastic, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The true value of implementing a classroom economy lies in the REAL-WORLD learning opportunities that seamlessly tie life long financial literacy to math, social studies, English language arts, and speaking and listening skills. Can you believe the cumulative list of skills and activities below that you may incorporate into your classroom economy system through hands-on, real-world learning experiences? This list is continually growing and changing, but it’s a good place to start if you are just beginning a classroom economy, or perhaps you will see some new suggestions you can add to your current class economy routines!

Academic Skills and Lessons:

  • Economics basics and essential academic vocabulary

  • Descriptions of class jobs and responsibilities

  • Character traits of high quality employees

  • Characteristics of good public speaking and interview protocol

  • Wants vs. needs

  • Spending vs. saving

  • Debits vs. credits, bank transactions

  • Creating and maintaining a budget

  • Customer service and cashiers

  • Currency

  • Payscale and salaries

  • Raises, promotions, layoffs, and getting fired

  • Job equality

  • Shopping cart total and change back (addition and subtraction)

  • Purchasing multiple quantities of an item (multiplication)

  • Sale pricing (fractions, decimals, and percentages)

  • How to write a check

  • Inflation (of goods prices and salaries)

  • Taxes

  • Supply and demand

  • Profit vs. expenses

  • Endorsements and effects of advertisements

Student Activities:

  • Job applications

  • Job application essays (FREE draft planner)

  • Job interviews (recorded and assessed using OpenSchool ePortfolio)

  • Weekly payday

  • Monthly bank and class store

  • Student created items and stores

  • Supply and demand simulations

  • Taxation simulations

  • Local bank tour

  • Various writing prompts based on lessons and other activities


Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Financial literacy is such a hot topic that numerous quality resources supporting the aforementioned skills and topics are readily available. The best part about the ones listed below . . . they are all FREE! Take advantage of these valuable resources that will assist you in managing your economy system, provide lesson plans, and inspire you to start a classroom economy ASAP.



Big Dreams of Enterprise City

If you want some REAL inspiration, check out Enterprise City. Read about their mission, programs, and offerings for schools and teachers. I had the pleasure of touring an Enterprise City while visiting a school in Texas. It was amazing! Not only did we have the opportunity to see the layout and learn about how an Enterprise City works, but I was present on a day when they were actually having classes participate in day-long simulations. The experience left me speechless and has given me something to aspire to. My dream is to write a grant to bring a real Enterprise City to my area. Fingers crossed!




Share in the Entrepreneurial Spirit

  • Do YOU use classroom economy with your students?

  • If so, how have you made it customized to the needs of you and your students?

  • Do you have great RESOURCES to share? If so, please post!

  • Are you almost inspired to dive in, but not quite? Ask me any questions you have.

  • What about a classroom economy leaves you most excited?

  • I’d love to read your posts, answer your questions, and learn from your ideas and experiences!


Comments (5)

This is a really inspiring and awesome post! Im super excited to use a token economy in my classroom this year. I noticed that you are using two different tools to manage tracking points and bank accounts, my school uses an app called LiveSchool and in the app you can track points and manage student bank accounts. The app also generates paychecks for students every week for you! Just thought I would throw out one more tool other teachers who are interested in creating classroom economies can use to streamline their systems!

We just studied token economies in educational psychology. I hope to use your ideas and Beth Newingham's when I begin teaching. Thank you


Thank you so much for reading and commenting! How wonderful that you just studied token economics in educational psychology. I'm impressed that as a student you are already seeking out teaching blogs to follow, and think that's a great step toward being an amazing teacher once you graduate. I know I've learned many of my best teaching practices from following other blogs (like Beth Newingham's!!). Best of luck, and I'd love to hear back from you regarding how implementation goes for you when you try this in your own classroom some day.

I'm so inspired by this and will check out th beth posts as well. Fantastic ideas in here!

Thank you, Dean! I remember how inspired I was when I first stumbled upon Beth's classroom economy information. I hope you even a fraction as excited as I was when I read her posts!
If you have any questions or comments as you try to implement this in your room, feel free to let me know. Remember that nothing about this is written in stone and that you should feel free to take our suggestions and make them work for you. Thanks for reading and for commenting.

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