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A Token Economy and Fifth Grade Financiers

By Cara Bafile

"Because I work in a private school, parents have to pay tuition for students to attend," shares Beth Moore. "As the year goes on, students realize how much money their parents are putting into their education. A few students even have a true awakening to the sacrifices made on their behalf."

Students track deposits and expenditures.

Moore's students come to that realization because being a fifth grader in her classroom isn't just an educational obligation, it's a paying gig. Like many other teachers, Moore incorporates economy into her behavior management system, but her approach, refined since her student teaching experience, is unique in its complexity and power to motivate.

"In our system, the kids learn about paper money, including checkbooks," Moore told Education World. "They have to apply for jobs as well as work their jobs. When a student is disruptive or not following procedures, he or she receives a fine."

WORLD OF WORK

Students are introduced to the behavior management system at the beginning of the school year. Moore relates their work as students to real-world jobs. They discuss homework, being respectful, helping others, and doing the right thing. Together, Moore and her students define a set of rules, or laws, for the classroom in order to have a successful year, and create a system of fines as consequences for breaking those rules.

Students are paid a weekly cash salary.

Every year, the jobs students perform in order to earn their "pay" are based on a class theme. Last year's job titles were nautical in nature. This year's theme is space, so the jobs relate to roles on a space ship. Any task that can be completed by students is fair game -- passing out mail, handing out salaries, taking attendance, writing down assignments, delivering messages, managing recess equipment, holding doors, posting work on bulletin boards, and more. Moore's current class is so small that some jobs have been combined. "Salaries" for the various positions vary, but if students go above and beyond expectations, they might earn a bonus.

"Students like the fact that if they do their jobs, they get paid. They like paying for things, and they like to apply for different jobs," reported Moore. "They love to count out their money, and I think they actually enjoy filling out a checkbook too."


Emerging Economy

There’s no need to adopt all facets of a token economy such as Beth Moore's all at once. The fifth grade teacher recommends starting small with classroom jobs. Next, give students "salaries" for their work in the form of coins or classroom currency. The checkbook is another strong step.
For additional ideas, Moore suggests The Ultimate Kids Money Book by Neal S. Godfrey, a resource she uses for her own program.

Admittedly, the fifth graders find it frustrating to lose some of their money to taxes, which are paid in the third quarter. They also don't care for paying into their savings, at least throughout the year. At the end of the year, however, when they get the money back, the students love it. Another fee the students dislike? Desk rental!

A "FINE" IDEA

Students appreciate that the system is consistent though. They understand well what to do and what not to do, and what to expect when they make poor choices. The fifth grade classroom has had some stiff penalties. Each day, the first fine is $5.00. As more fines are levied, the amount doubles. Moore instituted that policy because students struggle most with behavior issues at the end of the day.

"If I give out three fines, thats $5.00 for the first, $10.00 for the second, and $20.00 for the third," Moore explained. "Ive actually had it up to $320.00. It only took once for that to happen though. The student who had to pay the fine was really bummed and the rest of the class felt horrible."

Money thats collected through fines goes into a "kitty." Every two weeks, the names of all students who did not receive any fines during that period go into a drawing for the kitty.

Students are paid on a weekly basis. Sacred Heart Elementary School is a Catholic school, so students pay a tithe; they also put money into their savings. Each amount is 10 percent, which students compute and remit with a handwritten "check." Moore holds those checks for reference.

"MOORE" IN STORE

Each quarter, Moore's class operates a "store," where they sell things to one another, as well as to other students at the Fowler (Indiana) school. Moore provides other teachers with classroom cash to distribute as rewards one week prior to the sale. Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders participate in combined morning exercises, and Moore gives out her classroom money in the form of "Energizer Bunny" awards based on effort. Older and younger students receive $20.00 awards, but her students play a game in which the young students choose a hand and receive either a $1.00 or $100.00 bill. It is popular! The fifth graders love to sell items to the younger students.

A student writes a weekly check to "savings."

"The students come up with an idea, advertise it, and then sell it on the day of the store," says Moore. "Some of my students work in groups and split the money. Some students have sold used books. Some have sold movie tickets they got a theater owner to donate. Some have made food products. Last year, some students raffled off an item, and some sold mystery bags. It was amazing."

At the end of the year, students calculate their total savings and place the amount in their checking accounts. During the last week of school, an auctioneer visits and students bid on items and "pay" for them.

Parents remark that they appreciate the emphasis Moore puts on saving, and note that the system encourages students to talk more with parents about their behavior in school.

Students make and sell goods in a school store."

Sacred Heart fourth grade teacher, Beth Klinker, and sixth grade teacher, Gidget Master, have joined Moore in teaching aspects of economy. In fourth grade, students earn change and keep it in a piggy bank. Sixth graders are studying business and acting as "suppliers" for the fifth grade store. Theyve written and performed commercials, made order forms, and produced goods for Moore's class to sell. Most of those students are still in debt from the previous year and are working to pay back loans from their teacher.

"I really enjoy doing this and feel that if the students learn anything from the activity its that if you work hard, you will succeed," Moore added. "The anticipation that occurred last year was beyond my wildest dream. They were so excited to get to have a checkbook and earn money. They know it isn't real, but they are excited nonetheless."

 

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®             
Copyright © 2011 Education World

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