How to Use a Classroom Economy

What is a classroom economy?

When I first started teaching in 2004, I used red tickets, you know the ones that they use for raffles? I would give them to students who were on task or when I caught them being good. They used these tickets for the bathroom, a new pencil or they could save them.

I had a store full of stuff to buy that I kept in a bin in the closet, I also included in there extra recess, lunch with Ms. McKinsey, homework passes, sit with a friend, teacher for the day and the biggest prize was a “Date with Ms. McKinsey”. This was the highest prize!

Now this was years ago when times were different and I worked at a private school. But I had a group of 3 boys that saved every single ticket they got for the “Date with Ms. McKinsey” and they cashed those red tickets in for the date. They all decided to go together and I took them to lunch and to the beach. We had so much fun!

Times are sadly different now, no dates with students allowed. But there are still many ways to motivate. 

A Re-Vamped Classroom Economy

I have since re-vamped my Classroom Economy System into a much bigger program that is used by thousands of teachers around the world. 

We now use Apple Bucks, previously Frog Bucks, and students are actually paid each day. Coming to school is their job, just like teaching is my job, and now they have to pay taxes as well! What better time to learn about the sting of taxes than when you are in 2nd grade. I love the look on their faces when I pass out their “paycheck” and then walk around and take some back. We discuss where their taxes go each time so they understand the concept.

When they do their classroom job, they are paid, but don’t forget they have bills too. It costs money to rent their desk, buy extra pencils when they lose theirs, or to get an extra snack. There are fines for speeding in the hall (aka running), having a noise violation (screaming in the classroom), disrupting the peace  (being off task when the class is not). Students can earn extra money when they show kindness to others, are caught being good or help out in other ways.  CLICK HERE for A FREE CLASSROOM ECONOMY UNIT.

What are the Apple Bucks used for?

I no longer have the store or treasure box (though you still can, see below for ideas) but in my class we use this classroom economy as an introduction to our Economics Unit. I teach them Economics from start to finish and we learned about Needs and Wants, Being a Producer and Consumer, Farm to Table, Goods and Services and Supply and Demand.

Students actually start their own small business and use their money to buy supplies for their products, rent a space for their business, pay for their business license and marketing. In the end, they can use their leftover money to go shopping in our Classroom Marketplace and buy from their peers. But if they close their shop, they aren’t making any money. Should they hire an employee?

This unit teaches so many life skills from earning, saving and spending, to the cost of running a business (on a much smaller scale). Students see the value in what they have. 

Store/Treasure Box Ideas

For those who want to do the Store or Treasure Box, here are some ideas of what to include:

TIP: It is a good idea at first to have Your Store open once a week or more so that students see what is in there and have the desire to save, then move it out to every other week. Only have your store open on certain days.

Students need to see the need to save their money, so some of these items should be priced high. Prices can go up and things can go on sale. 

  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Dollar Store Items (Toys, Toiletries, Hair Ties, Scrunchies)
  • Happy Meal Toys
  • Thrift Store Items (Stuffed Animals, Games, Toys, Books)
  • Stuffed animals
  • Book marks (These can be handmade to cost less)
  • Books
  • Crayons (Hit the Back to School Sales)
  • Markers (Hit the Back to School Sales)
  • Bracelets (These can be handmade to cost less)
  • Friendship Bracelets or necklaces
  • Landyard key chain supplies
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Bathroom Pass
  • Drink Pass
  • Hot Chocolate (Make it in the classroom)
  • Donuts
  • Homework pass
  • Get out of math for the day
  • Tech Pass (go on a device to play a game)
  • Lunch with teacher
  • Change their seat pass
  • Date with teacher (one on one time during recess or at lunch. You can play a game together, do a little craft, draw)
  • Teacher for the day
  • Principal for the day (get permission)
  • Free Dress (uniform schools)
  • Snacks

If you are interested in a FREE Classroom Economy UNIT, CLICK HERE.

If you want more information about the Economics for Kids Unit, click here for the Blog article or CLICK HERE for the actual UNIT.


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