Our Classroom Economy: As Easy As 1,2,3 and Totally Free!

By Angela Bunyi on April 8, 2011
  • 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

Piggy

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: 

JOB TITLE (# of positions 
              available)
JOB DESCRIPTION and DUTIES

PAY

Banker (4)

** Additional requirement:  A letter of recommendation from another teacher or adult to show that applicant is dependable, has a high level of integrity, and can handle this position. 

§     A banker keeps records for a single group of students (by table area).  This person must be good at arithmetic and a person of the highest integrity. 

§     The banker checks accuracy of deposits and withdrawals for 5–6 students on a weekly basis.

§     Bankers may assist in all things math related (e.g., passing out math materials).

$640 

Custodian (4)

§     A custodian keeps a specific area of the classroom spotless. 

§     The duties are separated into four equal portions. Each custodian is responsible for all surface areas, trash, and floors.

$650

Grader (1)

** Additional requirement:  A letter of recommendation (see above). 

§     A grader is responsible for correcting/grading papers in certain subject areas, but only for objective work (multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, etc). 

§     A grader sorts and passes out papers that are to go home from the office and weekly newsletters with graded work (always kept in the same location in the room).

§     I must have a high degree of trust in this student.

$630

Police Officer (2)

** Additional requirement:  A letter of recommendation (see above). 

§     The officer has a book with the names of all the students in his/her jurisdiction. If a student breaks any of the class or school rules, the officer keeps a record of that infraction in the book. 

§     The officer helps the teacher collect all the fines that students pay for breaking rules. The officer also monitors the restroom and walking lines, and assists with any possible bullying situations.

$610

Writer/editor (3)

§     A writer/editor is responsible for writing, editing, and producing a classroom newsletter in addition to the regular newsletter. 

§     The clerk is also responsible for general editing and for assuring a timely publication process. Any polls or surveys should be completed shortly before or after recess.

§     Student-run newspapers should be submitted for publication every other Friday (to be sent to students by Monday).

$630

Librarian (2)

§     The librarian is in charge of our classroom library and keeps bookshelves clean and orderly. 

§     This student maintains an up-to-date classroom library inventory. Students go to the librarian for help finding a book.

§     This student is responsible for necessary book repairs.

$620

Teacher’s assistant (1)

** Additional requirement:  A letter of recommendation (see above). 

§     The teacher’s assistant is a catch-all position with many duties. 

§     This student checks for parent signatures on agendas (if needed), writes down the lunch count and turns it in, and performs any other tasks as requested by the teacher.

§     This student listens to any advice or suggestions for our classroom economy.

$600

Energy/technology monitor (1)

§     The technology monitor makes sure the electricity/technology in the classroom is used wisely and efficiently. 

§     This student is responsible for lights (main and floor lamp), CD player, video/DVD player, air conditioner, fan, electric pencil sharpener, projection screen, and window shades).

§     This student is responsible for making sure no laptops are left unattended and that all are put in their proper place. 

§     This student is responsible for reporting any laptop problems via Schoolstation. General laptop assistance may be required as well.

$540

Communication director (1)

§     This student is responsible for conveying all missed work/communication to absent students.

§     This student also cleans the board, changes the calendar, and posts any information for Mrs. Bunyi.

$590

Hospitality/emergency (1)

§     This position is responsible for greeting and initially assisting all guests and visitors that come into our classroom, as well as greeting them in the office when necessary. 

§     This person is responsible for certain emergency situation protocols. This includes grabbing our emergency file and keys to bring to the teacher.

§     This person makes sure that when students are lined up in or outside of the classroom they are quiet, giving the high-five, and ready for the next task.

$580

Environmentalist/zoologist(1)

 

§     The botanist/zoologist takes care of our classroom pet fish.

§     This student is responsible for making sure we adhere to schoolwide recycling guidelines.

§     This student is responsible for the maintenance and appearance of the backpack area.

§     This student, with permission, may bring in observation stations for table tops (e.g., a bin with a beetle habitat).

$500

Substitute (2) §     The substitute performs jobs for absent students.

$575

 

Application 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 



Fees
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:

  • Rudeness
  • Dishonesty
  • Being unprepared
  • Missing or late homework

For more information, download my detailed classroom instructions for rent, bonuses, and fines.

Auctioning

Auction

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. 

Picture 8

You can download both the PDF and Printshop version below. 

Job Duties, page one (PDF) and page two (PDF)

Job Duties, page one (Printshop) and page two (Printshop)

IMG_2378[1]

Teacherpay
Photo: Students that attended before-school sessions received additional money in their account. I found this note attempting to figure out weekly, daily, and hourly pay on a student's desk.

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.

 

 

 

 


 

Comments

Hi Angela, I am getting ready to start my last semester of grad school in the fall and then do my student teaching in the spring. I am actively trying to prepare myself for my first classroom NOW because I don't want to be scrambling next summer trying to put together a management plan while I'm also trying to look for a teaching job. My biggest concern is the behavior management. I LOVE Beth's classroom economy - but I know realistically I won't be able to keep it up, especially my first year of teaching.

I really like your idea here and I am just wondering if having the kids enter in their information on the computer is time consuming? I really want to teach 3rd grade, but since I have never had my own classroom, I probably will not turn down any grade I am offered.

I am really stressing over this! I don't like the idea of a marble jar or rewarding kids with "stuff" - my philosophy falls directly in line with yours when it comes to behavior expectations. I guess I am just so nervous about being able to keep up with whatever I choose to implement.

Another question I have is how do kids spend their money at the auctions? Do you print out money or are the transactions just done all on that site? I really like the idea of having the kids record their own deposits/withdraws and totaling up their own balances, but again - just so concerned about the time issue. I suppose I could require students to turn their balance sheets in each week and have that be part of a lesson, correct?

Help! As you can see, I'm freaking out!! Thanks so much for all of the time you take to write all of these posts. They truly are so helpful - especially to people like me who have no idea what they're doing!!

-Emily

Mandy,

You are correct on payday and auctioning.

I have never started the year with this, but that's just a personal choice (one more thing to worry about). If you start the year with this, it sounds like you have some good solid, plans. :)

Angela

Hi Angela,

Thanks for the post in regards to extrinsic rewards. I plan to read Kohn's book this summer. I am a huge fan of his. :)

A few more questions about the economy... Payday is at the beginning of the month, right? The auction happens then too? What about at the beginning of the year? Do you give the kids starter money? I am thinking I might go with a paper credit/debit book to start since I will have younger students, at least at first. Thanks, Mandy

Rebecca,

The first of the month is when students are paid. It's also when we hold our silent ebay style bidding for class items (eg- teacher desk swap).

If they fail to do their job, I sit down with them for an official warning. After that, I can fire them. I have only fired one student before, and because they couldn't pay their bills they were evicted (which means they can only complete work at their desk). Depending on when the firing occurs, students can earn additional money by picking up side jobs to make ends meet. For example, I offer a small amount for a student to check desks and chair pockets, along with the backpack closet. This is a daily rate vs. a monthly salary.

I hope that helps!

Angela

How often do you pay? What if they fail to do their job?

Mandy,

Totally agree with everything you wrote about maintenance and rewards. More than one reader has mentioned a dislike for extrinsic rewards, so I think I am going to create a post on this next Friday.

For your 2/3 classroom I am confident this would still work. I would suggest more third grade bankers be hired to help with credits and debits or creation of a paper banking tablet to do the same thing.

Best,

Angela

I love this idea and have also been stressed out by all the maintenance that some require. I want to use a class economy b/c I do see the great value, but it also has to be one I can maintain and be consistent with. Thanks for all the ideas!

Do you think I could make it work with a mixed 2/3 classroom? I am moving down from grade 4, but not sure about making it work. I really want to b/c I am tired of trying extrinsic ideas knowing that I want my kids to be more motivated but not by rewards.

Thanks, Mandy

Samantha,

Thanks for the kind words. I have just been blessed with this opportunity of sharing with other teachers for the past three years...I am sure you have just as much to offer!

And I'm glad to hear you think it's detailed. I tried to keep it as simple as possible as this post is geared for teachers who are balancing many things at once and/or have tried a classroom economy system with some frustration.

Best,

Angela

WOW, Angela. I love it. I started a classroom economy in my class years ago. I've stuck with it but I am not that satisfied. THANK YOU so much for writing this VERY detailed post. I have a long spring break so maybe I can vamp up my system while on break. Not to sound corny, but you are such an inspiration!

Alison,

Great to hear that you find this post useful. I really think you will find it easy to incorporate into your daily schedule.

And the Extra Mile Club originates from Oregon teacher, Heather Renz. I consider her site the most comprehensive and loaded classroom site on the web. Google her and you will find her Extra Mile Club questions. Essentially, she lists many questions by category and students try to learn and answer as many as they can to be in the club. I started using it four years ago and stopped last year. Students were "quizzed" during recess and sometimes while eating in the classroom. We did keep a tally of our high point earners, and it was a big deal. Lots of fun....just didn't make time for it this year. :(

Angela

Hello!

Love your posts because they are always so helpful :) This idea is great, and I am really contemplating using it with my fourth graders next year!

I was looking at your Part 2 of the Economy document, and I noticed something about the "Extra Mile Club Challenge." I was just wondering what that was in your classroom? It sounds interesting & like something I might want to try :)

Thanks for everything, Angela!!

Hey Lindy,

For fines/bonuses...

~ For bonuses I simply say something like, "Ben, I really like how you X, go ahead and put $X.00 in your account sometime today." Because we have an intervention block where no new instruction is permitted, it's an easy time for students to add it. I never worry about students putting money into their account.

~ Now for fines, I might be in another boat. I also ask students to deduct fines as well and tell the police officer of their "district". The police officer then shares their notes on Monday with the bankers. So far, it's worked for us.

~ And banker duties, in our room, only occur on Monday routinely. Here are the "problems" found by my bankers today: a student added money without a description (illegal transaction) and another student did not deduct their rent. The student then gave the banker a correction fee for doing the extra work. The banker was able to place the fee money in their account, as a result.

~ Checks and balance books. I do have blank checks on my site, but the balance books can be found on Beth's link. I no longer use checks or class money and think that was my primary area of stress (printing, time, verification, etc.). You can download it though under my site at- www.mrsbunyi.com/ classroomeconomy.html.

Happy Monday,

Angela

Thanks for posting on this topic! I've been looking to update my classroom economy, and this really does seem manageable! I know you were wanting to keep the post simple, but I was wondering about these 2 things:

Can you describe in more detail how you manage fines/bonus pay? I think I'm reading that job is left to the bankers to perform daily. Is that correct? Do you have something specific that they use for record keeping?

Also, it says "the removal of checks and balance books (available on request) for purchases and rent." Do you happen to have a master for those books that you'd be willing to share?

Thank you again for this fabulous idea!

Lindy

Okay, as requested I have now added the reminder sheets for each position. It can be posted on the student's desk or binder after being copied and laminated.

I have included my Printshop file as well, so that changes can be made as desired.

Angela

Julie,

I have the perfect post for you. I wrote it two years ago when I was teaching in a single-wide portable with...drumroll...26 kids. It required a lot of changes, including removing the teacher desk entirely out of the room. You might want to look at these two resources. The second link has a larger image of the classroom.

It's titled Classroom Design: Taking Lemons and Making Lemon Meringue Pie. http://blogs.scholastic.com/3_5/2009/05/classroom-design.html

Also, I had a newspaper (and NPR, actually) post about working in a small classroom. http://www.murfreesboropost.com/news.php?viewStoryPrinter=12970

Regarding other penalties...I don't. However, if you are working with limited space...you could still have something like bean bag chairs and pillows for rental space and items to use outside of the desk. It doesn't take up much space and is easy to store.

And good luck with your job arrangement next year. That sounds interesting!

Angela

You mention that those who can't pay their rent must stay at their desks. Do you have any other similar "penalties". Next year, I will have 2 different 3rd grade classes (half day each) and I'm not fortunate to have a large classroom with the amenities you have. I'm considering trying this, just not sure logistically how I could work it out. Suggestions?

Great questions...and keep asking away. I didn't want to put too much on this post just to show how simple it can be, but I do have some additional forms that can help you.

I have checklists for each position. You can copy it, laminate it, and place it on the student's desk. It can include job duties and dates. Bankers, for example, will check accounts on Monday for accuracy. In general, they just view the accounts to see if anything looks fishy. Was the rent deducted? Was the auction item paid for? Have they paid back a loan (this is now permitted-if a reasonable, and agreed upon interest is created)? I am not home to pull up those documents, but I will get them on this post within 24 hours.

Glad you are ready to try this out with your classroom. I think you will love it!

Angela

Angela,

I've been looking over your class econ documents and I like how you've set things up.

Another question for you...

How do your bankers "verify" banking activity? Do they use a form you created for that?

I'm sure I'll have more questions as I begin to set things up to experiment on my current class. Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

J

Josh,

Glad to hear I am not the only one that didn't enjoy the maintenance involved with a full-scale classroom economy in place. I SO prefer this method because it makes our day run smoother and more efficient. There's just about zero maintenance and upkeep on my side. I don't even think about it, in fact. It's just in place and works.

So, to answer your question, yes to jobs shifting every quarter or semester.

Glad to hear you are interested in trying this plan out. Let me know if you have any questions!

Angela

Also... do you keep the same jobs the entire year? If not, how often do you switch up jobs? I can see us doing it maybe once a quarter, or maybe even a semester.

J

I LOVE this idea! I had done a classroom economy in the past, but like you said, the maintenance was awful. I love the idea of "online banking". I might just give this a whirl. :)

Josh

Post a Comment
(Please sign in to leave a comment. Privacy Policy)
top
RSS Subscribe ButtonSign up to get these great teaching ideas delivered automatically.Subscribe now >