We started a token economy in my classroom a few months ago and it has been a tremendous success. Throughout the day, my students are able to earn “points” for adhering to the classroom rules, answering questions correctly, helping a friend, etc. They can also lose these points for breaking the rules or engaging in other inappropriate behavior.
During their “break” times, the students are able to exchange their points for a preferred item (candy, play-doh, chips) or activity (iPad, drawing pictures, computer). Each item has a different “price,” so that students can have a chance to “buy” a preferred item pretty much every day. The most preferred items have higher prices so they get those on particular good days, or they may have to save up for a couple days to get them. My students have break times usually 1-2 times per day, so they are able to earn a chance to exchange their points a couple different times during the day. Each kid stores their points in their own envelope with their name on it.
We recently began a shared envelope as well for a big, classroom-wide prizes. The kids are able to “share” or “donate” their points toward the classroom-wide prize (which right now is a pizza party…a prize the kids chose and agreed upon). When I introduced this last week, one of my kids was so excited, he wanted to donate all his points! So, now we are working on understanding the idea of sharing with others, but also saving some points for yourself. Also, when I notice good “group behavior” (i.e. everyone is on task, helping each other, listening to one another, taking turns, etc.), I offer them a “group point,” which goes towards the pizza party envelope. Recently, I sent home this system for one of my kids who is struggling to engage in appropriate behavior with his siblings. I suggested the parent have the siblings earn "group points" for different rewards.
Although, at first, I thought this system would be a hindrance to keep-up, it is really quite simple. I just grab a handful of points for my stations and hand them out as we go through our lesson and students are behaving appropriately. The kids keep their pile of points on the table in front of them and when the activity is finished, the kids put their points away in their envelopes before transitioning to the next activity. When a child is engaging in inappropriate behavior and I need to take points away, I find it is much less intrusive than having to stop a lesson to scold a child every time. I usually give them a verbal warning, (i.e. “please keep your hands to yourself or you will lose a point”) and then if the behavior persists, I simply take away the point and continue teaching.
I started out only using this system with my 4 highest functioning students, but some of my other students started requesting “points” as well, so now I am starting to use it with more of my kiddos. Who knew a little strip of paper could get kids so excited!