How to Implement a Classroom Economy

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Here goes!

I have been using a classroom economy in my fifth grade classroom since I started teaching. I absolutely LOVE using it and the kids do, too! It has, however, undergone many changes over the past few years. For example, in the beginning, I was rotating jobs every 1-2 weeks as many teachers do. Now, I have the students apply for a job and they keep it for HALF A YEAR. It saves so much hassle for me and the kiddos really become experts and learn responsibility for maintaining a job. They also train the next round of "employees" for the second half of the year, which I adore!

How we start:

The kids DO NOT start out with any money. This isn't Monopoly, friends! They don't get money until they EARN it. However, I let them know that I'm covering their first month of rent (for their desk), so they have a grace period to save up. 

Students apply for a job during the first week of school. I go through all of the job descriptions, then have them write out their top 3 choices and explain why they would be a good fit for the job. Every classroom will be different, but here is my latest list of job options and their salaries:

(5) Bankers  $650
Distribute payday and collect rent once a month. Also give out homework bonuses on Fridays, help with auctions, clip chart, and team manager payments.
(1) Equipment Manager $650
Responsible for taking out and returning all of the Grade 5 playground equipment for morning and lunch recess.
(2) Receptionists $650
Switch off answering the phone when needed by saying “Grade 5, student speaking.” Should also change the date on the board if needed.
(2) Marquee Managers $600
Write messages on the marquee for each day.
(5) Dragon Keepers $500
On the assigned day, the student cleans Leo’s terrarium, gives food and water, and reports any problems to Miss Slama.
(2) Clerks $500
Passes out papers when needed. Must learn to pass to person “A” and give the correct number of papers to that table.
(1) Librarian $550
Organizes the book nook library daily and checks out books using our online classroom system.
(1) Chromebook Keeper $550
Ensures all Chromebooks are plugged in and charging at the end of the day. Any missing Chromebooks that have been left out will be reported to Miss Slama.
(1) Horticulturist $550
Waters classroom plants when needed.
(2) Homework Helpers $550
Sorts homework papers on their assigned days.
(1) Desk Scout $500
Checks student desks once every 1-2 weeks and tells Miss Slama who is the winner of the Clean Chameleon!
(1) Supply Supervisor $500
Cleans and organizes the supply center when needed.
(1) Attendance Assistant $500
Brings items up to the office for absent students. May also write down their assignments when needed.
(1) Substitute $500 with potential bonuses.

Other jobs I've had in the past include line leaders, lunch count, lunch bucket, custodians, and police officers.

Each student receives one of these index card cases to keep their money. In the past, I've used basic white envelopes that the students decorate, but these cases have been an AWESOME investment. 

You can snag them from Amazon here:

Print LOTS of paper money. We call ours "CLASS CASH" and I print mine from which is a FANTASTIC and FREE resource. I only use some of their items, but the printable bills are perfect. I use colored paper, as you can see from the photos. They have all kinds of different denominations, but I've found that these work best for my fifth graders: 20's, 50's, 100's, and 500's. The younger your kiddos, the smaller the bills you'll want to use in order to make the math simpler. 

Earning Money

My students earn money in four main ways:

1. Monthly salaries from their jobs
2. Homework Completion ($100 per week, but -$20 for any incomplete day)
3. Working as the team manager (rotates weekly) 
4. Moving their clips up on the behavior chart

They also receive bonuses on their birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc.

Spending Money

1. Rent

Each student pays rent for their desk at the beginning of each month. Mine pay $700, but you can adjust it for what works in your room. They also have the option of saving up and BUYING their desks for $2,500. Many of my students go this route and are super proud to eventually be desk-owners. I've even had students purchase OTHER students' desks... which is quite a feat!

2. Fines: 

$20 - leaving the classroom during instruction (bathroom within 30 min of getting back from recess, retrieving a forgotten book)
$20- a new copy of a print-out if it was lost
$20 - retrieving an item from the "finders keepers" bin. These are mainly erasers and pencils that I find on the ground at the end of the day. It also includes items that get taken from students when they are distracted during class. 
$50- Chromebook left out at the end of the day (not in the cart) 
$50-100 - Moving a clip DOWN on the behavior chart

3. Prizes

I sometimes offer prize options such as the use of a special coloring book or lunch in the classroom with 2 friends. I haven't done this lately, but it's an incentive I've used in the past. I'll just randomly offer them as coupons to anyone who wants to purchase. 

4. Auctions

This is what the kids REALLY save their money for. Some teachers do this every month, but I do mine three times a year and make them pretty large. It can be helpful to ask parents for donations. I buy things from Dollar Tree and the Target Dollarspot throughout the year and often use Scholastic points for incentives as well. I also sometimes regift small soaps, office supplies, and other knickknacks. You'd be surprised what kids get most excited about! You could also offer homework passes, lunches in the classroom, etc. 

I make sure to very explicitly explain the rules of an auction. I also have the students count their money and have a friend double check. They then write this number on a post-it and stick it on their desk. This helps keep students from overbidding. 

My bankers switch off tracking who buys what and counting the purchase money by using the auction tracking form from

How to run the whole thing smoothly:

This was the trickiest part for me. Rent days and paydays were always insanely CHAOTIC. I finally found a system this year that saved my sanity. For my class of 26, I have 5 bankers. Each banker is assigned a color group (as pictured below). On their assigned day of the week, they will pay their color group. 

For example, my students receive their salaries once a month, near the 15th. The green banker pays his/her folks on Monday, the yellow banker on Tuesday, etc, so that by the end of the week everyone has been paid. I put these dates on our classroom calendar so it is very clear. On each envelope, I've written the amount the student makes, so the banker just needs to count out the cash and distribute it in each envelope. They get the cash from me on their assigned day and then bring the extra back. 

It's much the same with rent. During the first week of the month, each banker has an assigned morning when they go around to collect rent from their group members and then sign off that they have paid. If a student buys their desk, the banker must have me sign off on it, and then they no longer collect rent from that student.

This is what my rent log looks like. It does not include August or September because that's the grace period (we typically start the last week of August). When a student buys a desk, I simply sign across their entire section. 

You can get this page as a freebie (either with or without September) from my TPT Store!

Lastly, for homework, I give $100 a week for everything being complete and turned in on time. If anything is missing on a day, a student loses $20. I track this on a "Homework Tracker" sheet. I typically distribute this money myself while my students are in art class, but you could also have your bankers do it. 

You can also get this editable resource for FREE from my store!

Woo! That was a lot! I hope you found this helpful. If you have ANY questions, feel free to drop a comment below or message me on Instagram @teachinginteal

Guided Reading and ELA Centers in 5th Grade!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

When I started at my new school last year, I came into a new reading program. I was used to doing almost all of my reading instruction WHOLE CLASS, but my school uses a guided reading model all the way up to 5th grade. I definitely had to rethink my reading block! I had done centers in the past, but wanted a really clear way to maximize the time and make the transitions clear for the students. 

Here's how I do my guided reading block!


We have Guided Reading/Centers Monday-Thursday from about 1:10-2:00 and I rotate through four groups. This means each center is 12 minutes long, with about 30 seconds for a transition. 12 minutes can fly by, so the students have to work on getting those transitions DOWN. I found a FANTASTIC resource by my friend Kristen of Chalk & Apples, and it has made centers SO easy. 

There are tons of different icons that can be easily swapped out on different days or weeks. I change mine up all the time! In a typical week, I do guided reading with leveled passages on Monday and Wednesday, and we do literature circles on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 


My students are grouped according to DRA levels, because that is what my school uses. You might use AR, Lexile, or another measure. I have four groups: Low, Low-Mid, High-Mid, and High. Each group has a number, but I assign the number randomly so it doesn't match up to skill level in any way. I have 24 students in my class this year, so there will be 6 kids in each group. If you have a larger class, you can still make it work by having your higher groups work on their own while you work with a lower group and just check in! 


I LOVE this close reading resource from Fifth in the Middle. I bought the entire bundle so I have TONS of options. 

Each reading comes in four reading levels, but they are on the same topic and look the same so students don't notice. There is also a paired text that I try to use for morning work toward the end of the week. 

There are several pages of activities for each passage, and I often have the students start these at the table with me after we've read the passage out loud. 

When it is their turn for guided reading, the students come to me at our back table with a pencil and a highlighter. I give them their sheets for that day and discuss what we will be looking for while we read (unfamiliar words usually) and we begin reading. I like to make sure each child reads, so however I have to break it up to make that happen. After reading through, I ask them to scan through again to find specific information. This changes week to week, so one time it might be looking for transition phrases, and another it might be looking for dates to create a timeline. Then, we talk about what everyone found and work on putting together the information on the worksheet. I, of course, provide a lot more scaffolding and support to my lower readers, while my high readers are able to do the activity on their own. 


On the days that we have literature circles, the students still come to the back table with me, but this time they bring their lit circle book (which varies) and their lit circle binder. In their binder, they keep all of their jobs and their reading schedule. I have used about a GAZILLION resources for lit circles (including online blogs), but this one from Pocketful of Primary is my absolute FAVORITE:

It is SOO easy to adapt to groups of different sizes and I found it very user-friendly for both the kiddos and for myself! I organize the jobs using a hanging file I found on Amazon.

You can find it here:


So what do the kiddos do during their other blocks of time? Here's some options I cycle through:


Partner Reading
Each student has a partner from their reading group that they meet up with for this activity. I typically use "I Survived" books or similar short chapter books. I stock up through Scholastic! I have 6 shared books for the entire class, and I place a sheet inside the front cover so the students can write their names and where they ended each day they read. I always have new books ready to go for the students who finish. I do this strictly for fluency, so I don't do quizzes or worksheets. 


Silent Reading (KBAR)

In my class, we call silent reading KBAR- Kick Back and Read. When we do a whole class KBAR, I sometimes take it outside. 

Spelling (Spelling City)
I typically use Spelling City for centers, but sometimes do a worksheet instead.


Vocabulary (Quizlet)
Quizlet is AMAZING. I love using this for vocabulary! The students really enjoy it as well. 

Keyboarding (KWT)

This is a tough one since monitoring the students' finger placement is so important. I don't do this OFTEN as a center, but throw it in now and again.


If we are working on a longer project (such as the state report), I have the students use this chunk of time for that. Otherwise, I sometimes provide a prompt or allow them to free write. Here's one of the resources I use:

If you've never used this site, CHECK IT OUT! It's one of the best ways to get some extra grammar practice into your day! Be aware that the initial set up takes a bit of time because the students have to select a bunch of their favorites from different categories: books, tv shows, movies. What's neat is the site uses their preferences and their name + their friends' names when building the practice sentences. The kids get a kick out of it!

Task Cards (small group)

Students work with their reading group and record their answers on individual answer sheets. I have a huge selection of task cards that I keep in one of these bad boys from Michael's:

Cursive (Can Do)
I love that my school teaches cursive, but in fifth grade, we don't have a lot of specific time for it. To keep the kid's practicing, I assign pages from our cursive book during centers.

Reading Comprehension (Reading Plus)
We use Reading Plus, but there are many online reading comprehension sites. Use whatever your district provides or what works for your class!

I will occasionally throw in a review game for the kids to play with their small group. The key is they have to be short and not too loud! 

Comment below if you have other questions or want to add some advice on running smooth ELA centers with Guided Reading!

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