Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Classroom/Grade Level Economy

Long before I started working at my current school, the 8th grade team had established a grade level currency called "Cat Cash" after our Wildcat mascot.  I'm always amazed at how much harder and longer students will work on an assignment when there's a dollar or two of Cat Cash attached to its completion.  I even have kids who will choose Cat Cash over candy as a prize when we play games.  They know the value of a buck! 

While we give out Cat Cash for good deeds, good work, meeting goals, and other positive things, we also fine children for breaking rules (chewing gum, being unprepared for class, and - the big one - being disrespectful to substitute teachers).  I've never really gotten on board with the fines as much as my co-workers. 

Our rewards are typically one event per marking period.  The students must pay a set amount of Cat Cash to attend the event.  We try to schedule these events for half days so we aren't interrupting instruction as much.  We've had movie days, the chance to each lunch in a teacher's classroom with dessert provided by the teacher, sports, a dance during the school day, and more.  Our last incentive is a raffle and we let kids cash in all of their money for raffle tickets. 

I'm adding a new element to the grade level economy for my students.  They can look at it as a reward or a punishment- it really depends on their level of personal responsibility.  I am completely fed up with freely handing out pencils, cap erasers, and the like to children who are simply not interested in being prepared for class.  If you need a pencil literally every day, you are not being responsible.  I am sure kids could make it through several days on one pencil if they were being careful.  (Just to make it clear, I'm not talking about kids whose families cannot afford to purchase school supplies.  In those instances, I am more than happy to provide a child with packs of pencils, reams of paper, binders, and the like, but I do not want to be handing out supplies on a daily basis.) 

To combat this pet peeve, I'm introducing the class store.  Students will have the opportunity to purchase items from the store at the very beginning of class using their Cat Cash.  After that, they'll need to make do by borrowing from someone or improvising.  I'm stocking the store with the bargain basement basics as well as some decorative items for fun.  I don't care whether they buy the items because they want them or because they need them, but I do hope it cuts down on the pencil parade! 
Do you have any tips for how to hold students personally responsible for coming prepared to class?  What have you tried?  Leave me a comment and let me know! 

Miss B

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