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Giving out Money in the Classroom

written by: OlsonP • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 1/5/2012

OK, it's not actually real money, but it's a great way to learn about currency and motivate your students to succeed in the classroom.

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    Unique Reward System

    After I had been teaching for a short time I wanted to come up with a unique system that I could use that would reward students in the classroom. After toying with various ideas, from giving students extra credit points, to handing out chocolate kisses, I finally decided to hand out fake money for good deeds.

    I based the idea loosely on a geography/computer assignment that requires my students to create and design currency from a country that they choose and then they research the economics about that country.

    I call my fake class currency Olson Dollars. I designed my own front and back using color paper and students earn Olson Dollars for various things in class from answering review questions to scoring well on an exam to helping pass back papers.

    When I first decided to print and hand out fake currency many of my fellow high school teachers were skeptical. They told me that high school kids were way too apathetic to care about earning fake money. One old timer even said “you’re crazy."

    Well after five years of handing out Olson Dollars I can tell you that high school students literally go bananas for the opportunity to earn fake money. One way students can earn an Olson Dollar in my class is by signing up to participate in a “role play." I have several role plays each week where students dress up in character and act out a famous event in world history.

    I have found the students race through the door for the chance to sign up for a role play and earn an Olson Dollar. Some students become obsessed to the point of asking me every day, “What can I do to earn an Olson Dollar?"

    By now you are probably wondering - what do students get for their Olson Dollars? The funny thing is they are really not worth that much. Three Olson Dollars earns a student a bathroom pass, five Olson Dollars is a free homework ride and ten Olson Dollars allows students to skip an assigned detention.

    But if you decide to create your own fake currency you can pick and choose your own reward system. After all – you are the bank so you get to create the rules.

    I have one final story that might sell you on the value of fake currency as a reward system. About three years ago I had a female student who had her wallet stolen in the girl’s locker room during P.E. She had $20 dollars of real money, yet she was almost in tears about the eight Olson Dollars than the $20 bill that she lost. She pleaded with me for days to replace her stolen Olson Dollars!

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