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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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
Payscale and salaries
Raises, promotions, layoffs, and getting fired
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)
Supply and demand
Profit vs. expenses
Endorsements and effects of advertisements
Job application essays (FREE draft planner)
Job interviews (recorded and assessed using OpenSchool ePortfolio)
Monthly bank and class store
Student created items and stores
Supply and demand simulations
Local bank tour
Various writing prompts based on lessons and other activities
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.
MyKidsBank: run an online class bank simulation all year long!
Beth Newingham’s Scholastic Top Teaching post about classroom economy
Beth Newingham’s Classroom/Teacher website: Trust me, you want to explore her site for classroom economy inspiration and much, much more! Don't hate me when you're up until 2:00 a.m. because you can't stop reading the information on her site!
Brainpop, Jr. videos about economics: needs and wants, goods and services, spending and saving
Brainpop videos about economics: taxes, comparing prices, assembly lines, budgets, interest rates, supply and demand . . . and more
Hands On Banking: a free, fun, and engaging financial program from Wells Fargo
OpenSchool ePortfolios: document student achievement, projects, and progress throughout your classroom economy instruction and implementation. I voice recorded every student interview and used the built-in speaking/listening rubrics to assess my students on their performance. The best part . . . I can instantly share that live documentation with their parents!
Job application essay and interview draft planning page: I created this to help my students plan both their job application essays and verbal interviews.
Job interview speaking and listening rubric: This speaking/listening rubric was found for FREE online from The Solution Tree. I hope it’s useful for you if you choose to hold interviews for jobs with your students!
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!
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!