Using a Classroom Economy
What is a classroom economy?
Very simply, a classroom economy is a way that students can earn a currency, collect or save that currency and then use it to ‘purchase’ rewards. It is often reduced to the idea of a store or shop but thinking of it as a while economy is much more valuable. When students earn their currency and make considered decisions on how to spend it, they are leaning valuable lessons. Not only practically, in mathematics and reasoning, but also in team building, collaboration and also it supports behaviour management and positive reinforcement.
How do I get started?
Before you start a classroom economy you need to make some decisions. You will need to decide on the currency you will use, how you will track this currency, what they will be able to purchase with the currency and also the practical aspects. These decisions need to be made before you start, it is a good idea to involve the students in the decision-making process as they can have great ideas you may not have even thought about.
The chosen currency of your classroom will depend on how you like to operate in your class. You can give out merits, class bucks, tokens, raffle tickets or anything you feel would make a good currency. I strongly suggest keeping a digital record of how much each student earns as well as giving some kind of physical representation of the currency. For example, I used raffle tickets to great success. The children are given raffle tickets, but I also recorded how many raffle tickets each child had received. You can of course do all digital or all physical, but I found that with just a physical currency there were issues such as lost tickets or mixed-up tickets. With a completely digital currency you lose the feeling of achievement that children get from ‘earning’ a physical object.
On the subject of earning the currency, you can give out coins or tokens for what ever you deem appropriate. Children can earn them for meeting goals, putting in effort or going above and beyond with work. Following directions first time, supporting their classmates and generally being a good student. The nice thing about this currency is that you can give students falling behind the chance to catch up and earn more without making it unfair to the rest of the class.
I use a simple spreadsheet to track the currency. I coupled the excel sheet with a mini white board where I would make tally marks if I wasn’t able to get to the computer straight away. As long as there was a way to record what each student (or group of students) had earnt.
The items your students can purchase do not have to cost you any money. They do not have to be physical things at all. For example, you can give them rewards such as choosing the music for the entrance or exit. They may earn 5 minutes extra break time. A get out of jail free card, to let them off homework that week or even a very expensive item such as being called a different name for the day. These items could all be for sale in your ‘class store’.
There are some practical aspects to consider. You need to think about when you will allow shopping to take place. I used to have shopping hour on a Friday afternoon, students were able to check on their balance, look through the ‘product catalogue’ and make selections and plans.
If managing each individual student seems like a lot, you can start with teams. Allow them to pick teams and earn currency as a group. I would let them choose their own teams as it made for less issues when it came to purchase decisions.
You can start a classroom economy very easily and grow it over time. It is a great behaviour system and wonderful learning tool.
If you would like more information on how to set up your classroom economy and for information on gamification in general grab my free guide
I also provide a complete classroom economy pack in my store; you can get it from my store.
I’m a primary school teacher in Kent and I create teaching resources to help and support teachers as well as saving valuable time. My resources are available in my store and I also run The Teacher Escape Rooms Membership, where teachers can access and learn about using escape rooms in the classroom to further teaching and learning.