So the beginning of the school year is here again! It’s probably the craziest time of the year (except for report writing time of course) and most teachers are trying to work out how to create the best classroom climate possible. One topic that’s probably buzzing around the staffroom table, is how to obtain student motivation and what kind of reward systems work.
As a classroom teacher, I have tried many reward systems. Some successful, some maybe not so much, but I think I have discovered something that works for everyone! That’s right. All year levels from prep through to 6. It never gets old, students love it and it teaches them how to value money. Talk about a real life context. And I can guarantee you won’t need to update your sticker collection.
I have been using this in my classroom for 4 years now and have never come across a student who hasn’t responded positively. I adapted the idea a colleague of mine shared with me a couple of years ago (thanks Nicole!) She used a similar system in her class using paper money.
It’s the credit card system. At the start of each school year I work with the children to come up with some agreements and allow them to take ownership over how the system works. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all roses and requires hard work during the initial set up, but once it’s up and running, it works perfectly! So here it is:
1. Each child is given a credit card. I usually make these online with a photo of each child and a template that resembles a credit card. I also add the place value system on it so that children can understand how it works when adding and subtracting money. These credit cards are laminated and children use the one card for the entire year by writing on them with a whiteboard marker.
2. Each day we have a, ‘dollar of the day.’ This can be decided upon by the teacher or students, and can vary from units or single digit amounts through to millions. It depends on the age of the children and their ability levels of course. It’s a good idea to start small and work your way up.
3. Students then come up with an agreement on how they can earn, ‘dollar of the day.’ We have a discussion about focussing on things that aren’t your usual expectations like using your manners, and raising your hand at appropriate times. But much rather lean towards being rewarded for things that require a bit more effort. Again, these can vary depending on the group of children. As children display these behaviours throughout the day, they are rewarded ‘dollar of the day,’ and can add that amount to their personal credit cards. There is no limit as to how many times children can be rewarded in a day. This document is then shared and displayed in the learning space for children to refer to.
4. Students are also made aware of the fact that although they can earn money, they can also recieve fines. Just like the real world! This teaches them that there are different consequences for different choices. Again, we work together in order to come up with a list of fines and the amount they are worth. If children are given fines, they must deduct the correct amount from their credit card. And yes, this also means children can end up in debt! This document is also shared and displayed in the learning space for children to refer to.
5. As students become confident with the system, I introduce the idea of ‘Bank Managers.’ These are children who can assist with adding and subtracting dollars correctly.
6. Once a week, generally on a Friday, I hold an auction in the classroom. This is the fun part. Children can spend the money they have earned. This is run like a ‘real life’ auction where I act as an auctioneer and children are required to place bids. Showing them a video of an auction helps to set the scene for them. Children can purchase objects from a prize box, bean bags to sit on for a week, stools, free time or a homework free week. The options are endless. Eventually I also introduce ‘Auctioneers of The Week.’ This is when children can bring personal items in from home and sell them. Sometimes I even auction off tables and the buyer becomes a ‘landlord.’ This makes them the owner for a week and allows them to rent chairs to other students.
As you can see this system can be easily adapted and changed. It also helps students to improve mental computation and value money. What more could you want from a reward system?