The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Token Economy

As a general rule, I avoid using token economy systems for classroom management. Too often, student behaviour becomes about the rewards or prizes instead of being about the expected behaviour. However, I also know that young children need something tangible to work toward when they are trying to develop good habits and break old ones. At Wiley, we use student recognition tickets (called APPAWS tickets, which despite being written in all capital letters doesn’t, as far as I know, actually stand for anything. I think the word “APPAWS” was selected because it sounds almost like “applause” and someone decided to play on the “paw” word because we are, in fact, the Wiley Coyotes).

After much debate and consideration, I finally decided to take advantage of these tickets that students earn for demonstrating positive character traits such as respect, responsibility, and integrity by allowing students to collect then and “cash in” for small rewards. Different rewards have different values associated. For example, a student can cash in 5 tickets to get a mechanical pencil or a pencil topper or a pencil grip. But they can also collect them and wait until they’ve earned 100 to cash in for a class movie party of their choosing (within limits, of course).  In between are rewards such as having lunch in the classroom, helping out in the office, sitting at the teacher’s desk, or allowing extra recess for the entire class.

Part of the reasoning for this approach is that there will be incentives earned through the students’ work in fine arts and with the librarian. I want my class to be able to see that their positive behaviour is recongised by the other teachers who work with them throughout the week. APPAWS tickets can be given by any teacher in the building, but the fine arts teachers often use their own praise tickets and those can count toward earning rewards.

The goal of using a system like this isn’t to give the students prizes, though. It is to help them develop good habits that will serve them well in other settings. The prizes are incentives, but my hope is that they will see the positive benefits of the improved behaviour and internalise the actions. I often share that I consider integrity to be the greatest of all character traits because it is simply doing the right thing. (Some people will add that integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is looking but I maintain that it is enough to just do the right thing. Period.) As my students work toward earning incentives, there will be much talk in the classroom of how the positive behaviour impacts everyone in a, well, positive way! Learning will improve, interpersonal relationships will improve, and students will feel better about being in the classroom. And if I have to spend a few dollars to buy some mechanical pencils and pencil grips along the way, those are a few dollars well-spent!

(On a completely unrelated note, I’m not sure how it is that they day that I had four meetings back to back after school and then my computer battery died and my charger was in another building so I couldn’t write a blog post was the busiest day of this school year… But to all who visit, even though you never comment to let me know you are here, thanks!)


One response

  1. Pingback: Celebrating Small Victories |

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