Sunday, February 5, 2012

Classroom Economy

As many of you know I have been using a points system since just before Christmas to reward students for making appropriate behaviour choices. Students earned check marks for listening, doing their work, behaving appropriately etc. At the end of each day, we would draw names and the students with the predetermined number of points would get to go the Treasure Box for a prize.

This system is pretty basic behaviour modification. It works for short periods of time but does not work over the long haul.  I am not a big fan of behaviour modification programs in general. In the short term they can keep a teacher from losing her mind (that would be me who was going to lose my mind if the chatting at the carpet didn't stop pronto!) and help students to train themselves to a certain behaviour (in our case it was more listening, less talking!)
I was starting to find that the Treasure Box system was not working for me anymore. The behaviours that needed changing have changed for the most part (and I am happy to say that they have changed for the better!) The students still love getting to pick out a treasure (aka dollar store junk toy) but I want them to think beyond the getting of something. I want a system that will be a learning tool (and ideally meet some of the PLO's) NOT just an incentive to get stuff.
I have found a way to encourage good choices AND meet some of the PLO’s we have for Math and Social Studies. In my explorations around the web I have come across a lot of great ideas. One of them is from Beth Newingham who is a grade 3 teacher in Michigan. She does something she calls the Classroom Economy. Students earn credits for doing their classroom jobs and for making good choices during school time. They earn debits for failure to do their work or for making poor choices. Her system is fairly complex since she is dealing with grade 3 students but the concept is one that I really like.
So, we are going to be starting our own classroom economy experiment. Students will continue to earn points for their choices and work habits. We are going to create a bank (which has been named Turtlepond Bank of Kitchener by the students or TBK for short) where students can either cash in their points for Turtle Dollars OR they can put their earnings into the bank for safe keeping.

Once a week, students will have the opportunity to go to the Turtlepond Store where they can purchase things from the Treasure Box (prices range from $10-$30)OR they can buy coupons to get certain privileges or experiences. Things like being able to stay in the classroom for lunch with the teacher or get first dibs on the computer or sitting at the teacher's desk to do all seat work. 
I found a bunch of coupons at this one site called Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations where she does something similar only she uses "fuzzies" (pom poms) to pay her students and they trade them in once a week. Then I made some coupons for the other ideas the kids thought up. 

We are on week 2 of this experiment now and it is going great. Generally, students earn around 5-7 points per day if they are consistently making positive choices. I have not been taking points away for poor choices but do put an X on their box if they make a poor choice. If they get 3 X's in one day then they lose any of the points they may have earned for that day (I am happy to say that this has only happened once. Most students see that X and get their act together!)

We have assigned bank managers and tellers that rotate each week. They are using the calculator to figure out amounts and enter them into the bank ledger. At the store, students have been volunteering to work. They use the ticker tape machine to create receipts and stamp them with the PAID stamp I bought.

Probably the most interesting thing to me is watching which kids spend their points right away and which ones save them up. And a really bright spot for me was on Thursday last week when one of the students used 15 of his points to buy something at the store for our new student (who had not been with us long enough to accumulate enough points to buy something). It made my heart ache just a wee bit to see such generosity in action.