When it comes to classroom management, some of the most common struggles I hear about from teachers are the lack of respect students have for their learning space, and a desire to maintain a more organized classroom. If you are struggling with these, I urge you to consider utilizing well-developed classroom jobs, and a classroom economy system.
Imagine this. After completing a job application, students can be hired for classroom jobs that require detailed responsibilities. These class jobs are designed to help boost student ownership of their learning space, and connect classroom jobs to the real world. In fact, students get paid a salary for each job, which they can save up, or spend to purchase class passes that unlock special in-class experiences.
It is entirely possible for you and your students to work together in very productive ways to create a home away from home that is enjoyed and cared for by all. Here are a few tips for developing a classroom economy system that will help you do just that.
Brainstorming Your Class Jobs
Your first step is to brainstorm all the jobs you want students to complete in the classroom. As you brainstorm, try to think of all the tasks you might need to do before, during, and after school that students can help with after you train them. Creating classroom jobs that have meaning not only makes your list of tedious tasks shorter, it helps students feel they are integral contributors to the daily maintenance of a smooth-running classroom. This translates to a greater respect for classroom property, and more buy-in when you teach students how to stay organized, tidy, and efficient.
For each job on your list, create a job card that includes a job title, a weekly salary, a brief description of the job, and a list of important reminders that help students carry out the job carefully and completely. Taking the time to create more detailed job cards will make job training more productive and save you time in the long run. If you’re looking for a job card template, or a brainstorm starting point, this editable job card freebie can help.
Determining How Frequently Jobs Will Rotate
After years of implementing and modifying my Editable Classroom Economy Toolkit, I highly recommend switching jobs on a monthly basis. I used to switch jobs weekly, which was very time consuming. Then, I had a a few jobs that rotated on a weekly basis, and other jobs that rotated every month which was more manageable. Now, I change all jobs on the first Monday of the month, which is a breeze.
I only have to dedicate about ten minutes each month to switching job cards. If you decide to follow this rotation schedule, you will likely find students are more dedicated to their job position, and become experts at their job by the end of the month. In many cases, they may even re-apply for the same job in the months that follow.
Training Students To Complete Jobs Carefully
After your job cards are written, take time to train students on classroom jobs by using an interactive modeling approach. This helps students understand the exact thinking and skills required for each job. The interactive modeling approach I like to use in my elementary classroom is as follows:
- Read the job card while displaying it for students.
- Interactive model the job by showing students the steps and sharing your thinking aloud.
- Ask students what they noticed when you modeled the job.
- Repeatedly model the job for 1-2 days.
- Invite students to apply for the job.
The dedication my students have to their class jobs was taken to a new level when I started incorporating applications into our classroom economy system. In order to be hired for a job, students complete an application stating their qualifications. Applications can be completed at home, after students complete their bellwork, or anytime we have class shop. Once an application is submitted, I quickly read it to check for completeness. If the application is detailed, I add the student’s name to my application tracker and send the application home in the student’s weekly work folder so his/her parents can see it. If the application is lacking, I return it to the student and ask them to reread the job card, add more detail to their application, and resubmit when ready.
On the first Monday of each month, I pull out my application tracker and hire candidates for their new positions. If ever a student wishes to “resign” from a job because they feel it isn’t a match for them, they must give me their verbal resignation and finish their placement until the end of that week. If a student is hired for a job, and does not carry out the job responsibilities, they receive one warning. If performance does not improve, they are fired and another candidate is hired. This real-world connection is another strong motivator that boosts student dedication and responsibility.
FAQ About Job Applications
I receive many questions about the application process through Instagram DMs, blog comments, and email. Here is a collection of the most frequently asked questions and responses:
Do all your class jobs get applied for?
There are some months when I rotate the jobs and realize I have some jobs that are not filled. If this happens, I hang the cards for the jobs that need to be filled on our whiteboard and mention them during our morning meeting. Students always apply to fill those positions that same day. I wait until after school to hire for those positions so I have a quick moment to read any applications that were submitted.
What do you do if too many students apply for one job?
There are definitely more popular jobs that are applied for by multiple students. I simply use my application tracker to make note of everyone who has applied and work through hiring them one by one in the order I received their application.
Does every student have to have a job every month?
Students do not necessarily have a job every month. There are some months when they are “unemployed” and help around the classroom during tidy up time by picking up scraps, organizing their desk, and straightening the room.
Can a student have multiple jobs?
Yes, my students are allowed to hold multiple jobs as long as the timing of those job duties does not overlap. For example, I would not have a student working as a librarian and a recycler because both jobs must be completed during the last ten minutes of they day during tidy up time. I would have a student work as a librarian (which is an end-of-day job) and a messenger (which is a job that takes place throughout the school day).
How often do the students apply for jobs?
My students have the opportunity to complete applications if they finish their bellwork early, at home for homework, during tidy up if they finish their job early, and during recess or lunch if they are interested (in this case they take a clipboard and application with them outside). I have applications flowing in a different times, so I simply have students place them in a bin on top of our filing cabinet as soon as they are done. I read these applications after school and add the names of qualified applicants to my application tracker.
Do you keep track of the jobs each student has had so each student gets an opportunity to try each job?
I do not keep track of this because I like to make my economy system as realistic as possible. Not every student in my class gets every job, not are they interested in every job. Sometimes a students misses out on being hired for a job they really desire because another application was more thoroughly written, or another applicant showed more responsibility.
Paying Students for Classroom Jobs
Once students have been trained and hired for jobs, it’s time to create a system for delivering class job payments. A few questions to consider when planning to pay your students:
- Is it easiest for you to pay students every week or every month?
- Do you want to deliver cash to their desks, to mailboxes, or to pockets?
- Will you be responsible for payments or will that be a class job?
Here are the details on how we pay job salaries in my elementary classroom. Every Friday during tidy up time, our class Payroll Courier places payments in each job pocket. In the upper right corner of each job card, the weekly salary for that job is printed so this process is expedited and accurate. Students know they should not be anywhere near the job board during tidy up when the Payroll Courier is completing his/her duties. This helps to limit distractions during this important process.
On Monday morning, after students complete their cut, label, pocket routine for bellwork, they walk over to collect last week’s payment and read their job card for the week ahead if needed. Students stash their hard-earned cash in a wallet, which is kept in their desk. The wallets we use are very durable plastic envelopes from The Container Store. These study holders can last through multiple years of use, and help students maintain strong desk organization.
FAQ About Classroom Job Salaries
Do you deduct pay from students if they miss a day of school?
I used to do this, but I don’t any longer because it was too much for me and the Payroll Courier to track. If you want to try the approach of deducting pay for missed school days, I suggest making all your salaries are a multiple of 5. This makes it easy to divide the salary by five and deduct the accurate amount.
What happens if a student does not do their job throughout the week?
If a student is not doing their job, or they are being disrespectful or irresponsible when completing their job, I have a quick chat with them and give them a reminder of how important it is that we all put our best foot forward when completing our jobs so our classroom continues to be a special place where students are empowered with independence. If they continue to neglect their responsibility after this chat, they lose the privilege of having that job, and the next candidate is hired to replace them.
Setting Up A Class Shop
To complete your classroom economy, you may consider opening a class shop where students can spend their class cash on exciting experiences. Although you can certainly brainstorm your own “products” for your class shop, you can further develop student buy-in to your economy system by having them help with stocking your shop with passes that are interesting to them. Begin by hosting a class shop brainstorm session when students can think up different class passes they are interested in purchasing with their class cash. Remind students to think of realistic rewards that won’t cost money.
After you collect their ideas (and you’re always sure to get a few very creative suggestions) narrow them down to the selection you can realistically provide, and assign a dollar amount to each pass. A good rule of thumb is for your cheapest pass to be purchasable with one week’s salary and your most expensive pass to be purchasable after saving for a couple months. This provides the opportunity for conversations about spending and saving.
Once your passes are designed and printed, set a routine for how often students will be able to purchase passes. Every other Friday after lunch, our class shop opens for business. This is a 20 minute block of time when students can use their cash to purchase class passes and make cash exchanges. This is an amazing opportunity for students to practice counting money. If change is required for a transaction, I they are required to tell me how much change I owe them.
I highly recommend setting a firm limit on the amount of time each group has to make purchases. If you don’t, a half hour or more will slip by in a flash. In our classroom, I give each group of six students four minutes to shop for passes. While groups are shopping, other students are expected to fill out job applications, complete any work in progress, write in their journal, or read to self.
You may also want to set expectations for what students can do after they have purchased a pass. These questions can guide your planning:
- Can students hang their pass on the board immediately?
- Can students use multiple passes on the same day?
- Are students allowed to trade passes with peers?
- Are students allowed to return passes for a refund?
- Can students sell their passes to their peers?
In my third grade class, I only allow students to hang passes on the board for the first 15 minutes of the day while we are doing morning work. They are allowed to use as many passes within one day as they’d like. They are not allowed to trade passes with peers, sell their passes to peers, or return their passes for a refund. I find these expectations create a smooth-running system and eliminate classroom economy disagreements.
Are Your Ready To Launch Your Own Classroom Economy?
If you are looking to implement a classroom economy system that is efficient, requires little maintenance, boosts student responsibility, and gives students practice with money management, I highly recommend implemented the steps above. Your students will love being involved in this meaningful experience. Parents will appreciate the real-world skills students gain from your mini economy, and you will have a few extra minutes to plan meaningful instruction in your smooth-running, tidy classroom.
If you would like a resource that gives you a jump start creating meaningful classroom job cards, check out my free Editable Classroom Job Cards. If you’d like the fully-developed classroom economy tools I’ve described in this post, try my Editable Classroom Economy Toolkit. This resource includes editable and ready-to-print versions of:
- Classroom job cards
- Tidy up tickets
- Classroom Job Application
- Application Tracker
- Class Passes
- Class Shop Menu
- Printable Class Cash (US, Canadian, and Australian currency included)