In October, I wrote a blog post “Camp Careers: Let’s All Pitch In” and I shared how my students apply for jobs and build a work ethic and connection by owning their individual responsibilities to keep our classroom running smoothly. This blog will be a continuation where I share how our classroom cash fits into this too.
Let’s take a walk back to September so that I can share how I set up our classroom cash to help it run smoothly and efficiently. I don’t begin classroom cash from the first day of school. I spend a few weeks talking it over and sharing it with my students. This year, our local credit union came and spoke with us about spending, sharing and saving our own money. It was a great conversation about how to manage money so that you don’t spend it all in one place! This was the perfect precursor to rolling out the money because it gave students some great background knowledge on how spending and saving worked.
After our visit, I explained to the students how this concept works with our classroom cash too. This was right around when we were applying for jobs and I explained how by doing these jobs, they can earn a salary. I also use this opportunity to chat with students about how if I don’t come to school and do my job, then I might not earn money. Likewise, if they need too many reminders about doing their jobs, they might not earn their full salary either. Students can also earn Reykdollars (our currency) for bringing folders back to school, keeping their supplies organized, or any opportunity I find to praise them for their positive behavior or kind actions. Our school is a PBIS school, so I use our currency to recognize students when I notice a positive action.
Each Friday, we have The S’more Store. Students can choose to spend or save the money they have earned throughout the week. I have a variety of coupons with rewards ranging in price points. For smaller amounts, students can purchase candy, pencils, a teacher shout-out, giving the spelling test, or a very popular “buddy pass” where they can bring a stuffed toy from home to keep at their desk for the day. Higher price points include breakfast with me, choosing their own seats for the day or even earning indoor recess. A lot of my prizes are cost-free to me and allow for some great relationship building too!
Classroom cash is great for building some real-life skills while practicing math concepts too. Second grade is prime time for introducing students to regrouping, so I find that Reykdollars really reinforces and exposes them to this concept all year long. It’s the reasoning behind why I include 3 different “bills” – 1’s, 5’s and 10’s— because it allows them to practice exchanging their bills for change and maneuvering them to reach the desired spending amounts. This was an unexpected result that I hadn’t anticipated when implementing my system, but students often bring it up when we start practicing this skill in math. It’s a great way to tie their learning back to real-life situations and it really increases their buy-in.
Another reason I love our classroom cash is that it instantly and effectively differentiates behavior for students. Students are not competing in any way and their adventure with Reykdollars is uniquely their own. Some families set goals with their students, some students spend every week, and some save until the end of the year. I also love that I can use the Reykdollars to target specific behaviors within students and they may not even realize.
As I mentioned earlier, our school is a PBIS school, so in order to make sure my system aligns, I make sure that I’m not using our money as a bribe, for example, “If you sit quietly, then I will give you a Reykdollar” but more of me noticing them sitting quietly and handing them one saying, “I noticed you are sitting quietly, here’s a Reykdollar.” I’ve noticed, magically, all students around the targeted positive behavior magically sit up a little straighter and quieter. However, if I notice that Ali has a really hard time walking in the hallway, anytime I catch Ali walking in the hallway, I’ll definitely make a big deal with Reykdollars. This allows me to create a positive intervention in a way that is going to relate directly back to our classroom.
Classroom economies are so flexible because you can set the terms. Want to do a store every week? Awesome. Want to do a store once a month? Also, awesome! There is so much room to make it your own and still use the positives to help your students gain financial literacy, responsibility and practice math skills. Students and parents are able to easily and efficiently buy into the simple system and I spend WAY less of my own money on prizes and gimmicks for my students.
What kind of management system does your school implement? Have you ever used a money economy within your school or classroom?