Classroom Economic System

I’ve loved the idea of having a classroom economic system ever since taking an Economics for the Teacher class in college. Some reasons for having such a system are

  • it’s fun
  • students learn responsibility
  • math skills improve
  • students learn financial and real world math
  • students learn about economics
  • students have a part in their classroom
  • less work for the teacher (once the system is in place)

It gets tricky to implement the system outside of elementary school when the same students are not in your classroom all day. There’s always the issue of finding enough time for all 5 periods (or fewer depending on if classes are blocked), but I think that allowing a few minutes at the beginning of class, during breaks and lunch, and when students finish work is acceptable. After all, students don’t want to jump straight into work when they come into your classroom; they’ve just come from another subject and need a moment to breathe.

Rafe Esquith writes a bit about his classroom economic system in There Are No Shortcuts. Some jobs that he lists and that I found on the internet or came up with on my own include:

  • banker (1 for every 5 students)
  • janitor (3)
  • police officer (monitors behaviors) (3)
  • attendance monitor (1)
  • clerks (pass out and collect papers) (3)
  • librarian (keeps track of in-coming and out-going books, writes recommendations, may give an occasional book talk, and keeps the library organized) (1)
  • gardener (waters plants) (1)
  • table/desk washer (3)
  • absent work monitor (can explain what assignments were done to student who were absent; files all worksheets; fines students for needing extra copies if they lost theirs) (1)
  • pencil monitor (because students so frequently come to class without a pencil, I will have pencils in the class with huge flowers or something large taped onto them. It’s his person’s job to make sure the tape is staying on and that the pencils are sharpened to minimize sharpening during the lesson. This person also makes sure the pencils are collected at the end of the period). (1)
  • display monitor (hangs up student work, hangs up abandoned/no-name papers) (2)
  • planner monitor (writes due-dates on master planner in classroom; writes notes for the teacher about how far the class got in each assignment to help the teacher remember where to begin class each day when classes become out of sync) (1)
  • current events reporter (brings in newspaper clipping or notes from a news story about what is happening in the world/the city; student may share in class once per week or upkeep a bulletin board with the information; students may alternate weeks that they will look up current events but both students will work on the bulletin board together) (2)
  • rent monitor (makes sure everyone pays their rent. This student may meet with the banker to get a list of anyone who hasn’t paid and will be in charge of getting the money from that student or enforcing the rule that if a student can’t pay his rent, he sits on the floor) (1)
  • grade monitor (students show proof of getting an A to this student and he/she will write them an invoice) (1)
  • supervisor (makes sure all jobs are being done well; will report to the banker and teacher if a student isn’t doing a good job and should not be paid) (1)
  • work station monitor (makes sure there are enough resources and that they are in working condition, such as glue, scrap paper, pencil sharpener, etc.) (1)

There aren’t enough jobs for each student in the class to have one, but I’m working on coming up with more.

On the first day of school or so, students are given a brief overview of each job, collect the job descriptions of the ones they’re interested in, and apply.

The idea is that students get paid once or twice per month for doing their jobs, and they must pay rent to sit in their seats. Therefore, everyone must have a job. Monetary incentives are given for As, having perfect attendance, finishing a book, writing a book review for the class, doing a book talk, researching a current event for the current events board, etc. When students get an A, have perfect attendance, etc., they must go to the appropriate person whose job it is to monitor that aspect of the classroom economy. That person will write each student an invoice which will be taken to the banker. Upon payday, the banker will add up the money and write one final check to each student.

Money is charged when students are tardy, turn in an assignment late, need another copy of an assignment that students have lost, are rude/mean, have late rent payment, are dishonest, etc. When students are charged money, they are docked pay and given a ticket from the appropriate person. If they were tardy for example, the attendance person will write them a ticket. The tardy student will write a check to the attendance monitor which will be given to the banker. If a student loses a paper and needs another, they will go to the absent work monitor. That person will then issue a ticket. If a student is mean or rude, the teacher will call him/her on it, and the police officer in that student’s jurisdiction will issue a ticket to the rude student. If students don’t do their job, they are docked their pay or not paid at all.

The banker writes the checks to the students at payday. When students deposit or cash their checks, they keep track of the amount in each student’s account (for simplicity’s sake, let’s say that there are no savings accounts, just checking), collect rent checks, and cash checks. The banker will collect all invoices and accept checks for issued tickets. That’s a lot of work for one student to do, so there is one banker for every 5 students. Because it’s the most work, they are paid the most.

Rafe has auctions every so often at which students can spend their money. Money can also be spent on books (your local bookseller may be willing to give you a box of advance reader copy (ARC) books for free), coupons for lunch with the teacher, buying one’s seat (for 3x the rent price so one doesn’t have to pay rent), or buying another student’s seat so that the student must pay the owner each month. Other incentives may also be offered such as sitting in the teacher’s chair/a beanbag chair for an allotted amount of time.

It’s a wee bit of a complex system, but I think it can work like a well-oiled machine provided there is enough time. Not every student would do every job every day. For example, the librarian would organize the books maybe once per week, especially since there may be multiple classes with a librarian in each. Each job would have a monthly schedule made by the teacher.


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