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April 8, 2011 Our Classroom Economy: As Easy As 1,2,3 and Totally Free! By Angela Bunyi
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.

    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: 

    JOB TITLE (# of positions 


    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).


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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).


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.




    §     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).


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



    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 

    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.



    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)


    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.








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