Classroom Economy- Banking On Good Behavior

Classroom Economy

Classroom Economy

What Is A Classroom Economy?

A classroom economy is a classroom behavior management system designed to mimic a real-world economic system. It’s time we invest in our students and bank on good behavior, rather waiting for bad behavior to occur. While economics is considered part of math and social studies curriculum, textbooks and other programs often neglect to incorporate economic instruction. The classroom economy can fill this void while serving as a fun way for students to act as both consumers and economists in a real world setting.  The classroom economy is used as a form of positive behavior management, but it’s real purpose is to help students learn necessary principles of economics throughout the entire school year. Positive behavioral interventions and support (PBIS) is defined as a framework for enhancing the adoption and implementation of a continuum of evidence-based interventions to achieve academically and behaviorally important outcomes for all students (Sugai et al., 2000).

Classroom Economy

How It Works:

Every month students earn paychecks and bonus money for completing a classroom job and bonus activities such as turning in homework. They also pay fines, electricity bills, and rent for their desks, and they have the opportunity to purchase prizes at auctions (or a school store)—all with classroom economy currency (mock money). They will have the opportunity to save their money and purchase their desks forgoing paying the monthly rent. Students will be in charge of setting a short and long term goal and keep track of their own finances. They have the option of keeping “classroom cash” or depositing their money into the classroom bank where they will earn a monthly dividend for keeping their money. Much like the “real world”, lost cash is lost cash. Students will not receive more cash to replace their lost cash. They are responsible for keeping their own money in a safe place. Students are also responsible for keeping track of their balance to ensure they have earned enough money by the end of the month to pay their bills.

Classroom Economy


Everything we do in our classrooms should be purposeful. I believe that everything we teach in our classrooms should focus on meeting our state standards. I focus the 21st Century Skills (financial literacy) for my state. Here is an example of the 3rd-5th-grade and 6th-8th-grade financial literacy skills in the state of Iowa (my home state) that connect with the classroom economy. This is on a Google Doc that includes standards for both elementary and middle school. If you would like an editable copy to use to adapt to your needs click on the link below.

Classroom Economy  Click here for your free editable copy

Goals: The students will….

  1.  Understand the value of money as they earn, save and spend money on a consistent basis.
  2.  Learn how our economic system works because they are involved in many roles within a mock economic system within our classroom community.
  3.  Gain a new respect for their parents and people in the workforce as they realize that money doesn’t come easy, rather, it comes from hard work.
  4.  Become prepared to be responsible citizens in our nation’s economic system.
  5.  Understand the monetary value of money and the value of keeping money in the bank.
  6.  Understand how to balance their checking account.
  7.  Understand how to make change and budget their money.
  8.  Become productive members of a simulated workforce.
  9.  Understand and use economic terms such as goods, services, consumer, producer, capital resources, natural resources and human resources.

This is an example of how an 8th-grade teacher and I unpacked the Employability Skills/Standards before implementing our classroom economy.

Classroom Economy

Click here for your free editable copy

How Can I Get Started With A Classroom Economy?

To get started on your classroom economy, check out this video by Thom Gibson.


The classroom economy program is an effective and enjoyable way to teach your students fundamental financial literacy components without altering your curriculum.

Implementing the program is an easy three-step process:

  1. Before the school year starts, you spend a few hours gathering materials and planning how to customize the program for your school and your own classroom (or ask your instructional coach for a classroom economy coaching cycle:).
  2. During the first month of school, you spend some classroom time introducing the program and training the students to complete their tasks (procedures). I like to have my students help come up with the list of bonuses and fines.
  3. Throughout the year, you monitor the students’ progress and provide support and guidance when necessary.

As they perform their tasks, the students will help you manage the classroom and, in the process, learn valuable skills—such as responsibility, the value of saving, and delayed gratification—that they will carry with them throughout life.

The beauty of the program is that you don’t need to teach too many lessons; rather, your students will experience them and learn for themselves. I have found it beneficial to directly teach a needs vs. wants lesson right before the classroom auction/class store. There’s a thrill in seeing “the light bulb go on” when a student realizes he or she should have saved money for the next month’s rent instead of overpaying for an item at the auction. It’s also amazing to witness the students experience “buyer’s remorse” at the auction. 

Classroom Jobs:


Every student will apply for a classroom job (a different job per quarter). Or, students could keep the same job all year if you choose. Make it your own and set it to what works best for your classroom needs. The students will list their top 3 choices. It is not unusual for many students to want the same job. Your application is your chance to persuade me why you are the best person for the job that you want. If you do not get your first choice job don’t worry, you have a total of 1 more application throughout the school year. If you fail to turn in your job application by the due date, a job will be assigned to you. Every job is different; therefore, the paycheck prices are also different. Students will be paid (“classroom cash”) at the end of each month for completing their job. Jobs range from $500-$850 per month. You will keep the same job for 9 weeks at a time (each quarter). Students can be fired for not completing their job. If you would like an editable copy of the classroom jobs, click on the link below. This is on a Google Document. You will just need to make a copy of the document to make it your own. This document includes job examples for elementary students (I used with my own 3rd graders) and middle school job examples (I used in an 8th-grade math coaching cycle).

Classroom Economy

Click here for your free copy of classroom jobs

 Bonus $ And Fines:



In addition to the salaries that you earn from your jobs, you can earn bonus money by performing well academically and participating in extra activities. You will need to earn bonuses to make rent and save up for the auction as your paychecks are not enough to pay rent. In addition, bonuses can be useful incentives for your own class goals.



In the classroom economy, the role of fines is to help you understand costs and consequences—it is not to punish you. Click on the link below for your free editable copy of the classroom bonus/fine Google Document. To adapt this to your needs please make a copy of the original document and edit away! I created these with the students, which is very important for student buy-in and ownership.

Classroom Economy

Click here for your free editable copy

Introducing The Classroom Economy To Your Students:

I print a copy of the student/parent info packet out for each middle school student and share the parent packet at elementary open house. Make sure you start with a broad overview. Don’t share all of the information at once, it could be very overwhelming to students. For younger students, I usually just explain what it is on the first day, then pick one section to go over one day at a time until everything has been communicated. Older students can usually handle more information at once, so I usually share more with them the first day. I usually don’t explain payday or the auction until right before we do them. There will be TONS of questions and LOADS of excitement. After explaining the system to your students and having them help come up with the bonus/fine list.

Hiring Students For Classroom Jobs:

Use your best judgment. I always start with the jobs that only one student has applied for. It is important to keep track of which jobs each student has applied for so that if they don’t get their first choice, they will have future opportunities to get them (if your students will be changing jobs throughout the year). I use a job application which requires students to list their top 3 choices and requires them to sell themselves on why they are the best student for the job. This is designed to mimic a real-world job application. I also hold interviews if there are multiple students applying for the same job. Use the link below to grab your own editable copy of the job application. Please just make a copy in order to make it your own. I have this on a Google Doc that I share with the older students. I print a copy and have younger students fill out by hand.

Classroom Economy

Click here for your free copy

Setting Up Your Online Bank:

I have used both Kidsbank and Bankaroo. I prefer Bankaroo because it has an app option where students can access their bank account information using a cell phone or iPad as well as online using a computer. Both options allow teachers to choose one or two students (the bankers) to have full access to add funds, while all other students can just view their funds.

Putting Your Student On A Budget:

I used the envelope budgeting system to put my students on a budget. They were responsible for creating their own goals and creating their own digital envelopes within their Bankaroo accounts. This is another reason why I prefer Bankaroo over Kidsbank.


Classroom Auctions:

Classroom auctions are held at the end of each month, after payday has occurred. I have student auctioneers with the older students and I am the auctioneer with younger students. Once all of the students have been paid for their jobs and bonuses and fines and rent have been deducted and money has been budgeted, it’s time for the fun to begin. My students don’t use auction paddles or have numbers, I just have them raise their hands to bid. My student auctioneer runs my auction. This student sets the starting bid for each item. The auctioneer works with the bankers and the secretary during the auction. The secretary keeps track of everything purchased at the auction and the bankers collect the payments. I collect items from local businesses such as free 6″ sub coupons from Subway, donated items and have gone on some corporate gas station websites and have been lucky enough to get some gift cards. In addition, I have created teacher freebies that I auction off. You can find a link to my free auction tags below.

Classroom Economy

Click here for your free copy

Purchasing Your Desk:

Students learn that if they save their money and purchase their desks, they won’t need to pay rent again and will get to keep most of their paychecks. They will still need to pay the bills (electricity, taxes…), but in the long run, will make better financial decisions and will get to keep most of their hard earned money.

 Classroom Auction:


Manage Mischief With Mystery Motivators!

Manage Mischief With Mystery Motivators!

Mystery Motivators

Get Your’s Here!

Mystery motivators! Do you have a rambunctious class? Are you looking for a way to manage the mischief in your classroom? Are you feeling like you have tried EVERYTHING under the sun to motivate your students to behave and NOTHING is working! Do you have a student who hasn’t been responding to your classroom behavior management system (Tier 1)? Or, are you just looking for something different. No worries… is here! Try a mystery motivator! Mystery motivators can be used as a whole class Tier 1 classroom management strategy, or can be used as a Tier 2 intervention for those students who need that extra behavior support. They are quick and easy to implement!

Mystery Motivators

Click Here for my complete list

Positive Behavior Strategy

As an instructional coach, I have been asked by multiple teachers to help with the little ones in their classrooms who just aren’t responding to their classroom management systems. As a former special education teacher, and my experiences working with students with behavior challenges along with working with my own child’s behavior challenges, I have conducted much research. A strategy that I have used in the past and kind of forgot about, is called a mystery motivator! It is an AMAZING strategy that I have had MUCH success with. Mystery motivators build an element of surprise and anticipation with students. This strategy goes along great with Positive Behavior And Supports (PBIS), which our school uses, Trauma Informed Schools and The Leader In Me program.  It is a strategy that focuses on POSITIVE behavior!

Mystery Motivator

What Is A Mystery Motivator?

Students earn MYSTERY prizes or rewards. They literally have NO IDEA what they are working towards until they actually earn it! Rewards are hidden in items such as plastic Easter eggs, pill cases, envelopes, covered cups…. Items are placed into the mystery object. Items can be tangible items, activities, games….  Tangible items like stickers, erasers, gum, tokens, toys….anything you can fit into your motivation container will work. Or, they could be free items like 10 minutes of free time, game time with a friend, lunch in the classroom or high five from the teacher. The smaller items work really well with individual students. If you are using this whole class your rewards can be bigger like an extra recess, class game or treasure hunt. I also throw in some growth mindset quotes that I like to call “fortunes” (modeled after the fortune cookie of course)!

growth mindset

Shouldn’t We EXPECT Student To Comply With Our Rules Without Rewarding Them?

I know!!! I know!!!! Students SHOULD just do what they are told. They NEED to comply!!!! They shouldn’t have to earn things just to get their work done, do what is EXPECTED!!! Well……. do you work for free? I mean really…. think about it…..would you come into work EVERY SINGLE DAY for free (that means absolutely NO PAYCHECK)!!!! I think most of you out there would answer no! I’m right there with you. I LOVE my job, the teachers and students I work with and am passionate about molding young minds, but I would not, could not work for no $$$$$.

How Do I Start With A Mystery Motivator?

  1. Individual Student or Whole Class? The key to using a mystery motivator is to first figure out HOW you want to use it and WHO you are using it with. Are you going to use it whole class or with an individual student or both?
  2. Survey Your Students: You will need to survey your students or have them come up with rewards they would like to earn. This is an important step. You want to make sure that students are earning preferred items and activities, otherwise, the motivation part won’t work.
  3. Brainstorm Motivators: I usually ask my whole class WHAT they would like to work towards earning. For individual students, I give them a list of items (usually smaller items) they can choose from and ask them if there is anything they would like to work towards that is not on my list. Check out my rewards list. If you are planning on using mystery motivators with your whole class and an individual student, make sure you create a list with the whole class and a specific list with the individual student. I cut this list up and use the slips of paper in my Easter eggs along with a growth mindset “fortune”.  RewardsClick Here
  4. Set Positive Behaviors: Students need to know how they will earn the mystery reward. What are you going to be looking for? Be specific with your positive behavior expectations! This could and SHOULD follow your classroom rules and behavior expectations. Make sure to keep it POSITIVE. Create a visual list and post it clearly in your classroom. Remember, this is a motivation tool, NOT a punishment tool!
  5. Set Up Your Tools: Get A Full List Of My Tools HereI have used a few different tools for my mystery motivators. I have used notecards or popsicle stickers in a manilla envelope (color the mystery square-great for all ages), plastic easter eggs (Egg-cellent behavior), covered cups (punch it picture-great for older students) and pill cases (yes the kind you keep medicine in)! Be creative! You can really use anything that you can HIDE the rewards in. My ABSOLUTELY favorite tool for (younger students) that I have used is plastic Easter eggs. They are fun to open and you can’t see through them. I keep them in an egg carton when I use them with individual students and a basket when using them whole class. These are very affordable and can be reused! I like the Punch It cup board for older students (they like it too)! Check out for ideas and directions on how to make this tool.mystery motivator
  6. Set Your Timeline and Goals: Will you students earn a class reward once a week, once a month, daily? It really depends on the behavior needs of your class and the age of your students. Younger students will need to earn a reward on a more short-term basis than older students could. If you have a really wild class, you will need a more short-term reward (even for older students). Like any management system you will need to over do it a bit in the beginning by setting shorter goals then build up to a long term goal. Students with more severe behaviors will probably need very short term goals. It’s immensely important to have students help set the goals! Goal setting is great way for students to hold themselves accountable!

Whole Class Mystery Motivators (Tier 1)

Mystery motivators really work well with a whole class. Grow a growth mindset with your mystery motivator!

Egg-cellent Behavior:

Place a growth mindset saying inside each egg (or other mystery item). For every egg earned, students will open and read the saying (all except for the “special egg” holding the mystery prize). Take a few minutes as a class to discuss what the growth mindset saying means. The goal is to fill the basket. This will help with those students who just can’t help themselves, or the ones who just want to sabotage or curious students. Remember, the goal is to keep the reward a mystery until the goal is met. Mystery motivators can be used as THE classroom behavior management system, or to enhance your current system. This could work with most systems. Here are a few I have used mystery motivators with to enhance what I already had in place.

Easter eggs filled with Growth Mindset messages or “fortunes” I like to call them, are PERFECT to use in your morning meeting or social skills training. What a GREAT way to start the day!Mystery Motivator

144 Easter Eggs for $14.99

 Punch IT!

How it works: Students earn letters (1 at a time) on the board every time the class is “caught” following classroom rules & procedures. Compliment them and write the letter “P” on the board. The next time you “catch” your class with positive behavior, write the letter “U” on the board.. Once the phrase PUNCH IT! with the exclamation mark is written on the board a student gets to “punch the cup”. Use a random student picking tool to determine the student. Inside the cups are class prizes and growth mindset quotes. Check out for ideas and directions on how to make this tool. This blog is AMAZING!!!! Erin really does a great job explaining how to use this strategy along with tons of other cool posts:) I adapted this idea to fit my own classroom.

Mystery Motivator

Mystery Marker:

If the students meet the pre-specified criteria, they get to color in the square for that day with the developer pen. If an X appears after the coloring, the envelope is opened and the specified reward is given immediately. If no X appears, congratulate the students on their behavior, describe how well they have performed, and tell the students that tomorrow could be a reward day. On days when the class does not meet the goal, students do not get to check to see whether there is an X. Hold a discussion to see improvement for the next day. Once the Mystery Motivator is revealed, replace it with another reward from the student-generated list.

Mystery Motivator

Get Your Mystery Markers Here!

Mystery Boxes: (Tier 2 ONLY)

This strategy is designed for those students who require a more instantaneous gratification. This works really well with students who benefit from a reward for each task they complete appropriately. To use the pill case as the mystery motivator (yes, it’s a real pill case) place a small reward in each box (NO PILLS PLEASE). I usually use items like small erasers, candies, crackers….. what ever will motivate your student. I also place a growth mindset fortune in each box that the student will need to read (or have read to them) and discuss with an adult. You can also use the mystery motivators from the interest inventory along with a tangible reward, or by itself. It really depends on the level of motivation your student needs. Your timeframe could also change according to your student’s needs. They could earn their reward after completing one assignment, or after the entire reading block. You will need to decide what is best for your student and try different time frames. You will want to over do it at first and give rewards often, then once it starts working, expand your time frame for those students exhibiting the more extreme behaviors. My students have been earning one mystery box for each thumbs up earned. They don’t get the reward in the box if they don’t earn their thumbs up on their chart. It is extremely important that they get their reward as soon as they earn it! It also needs to stay a mystery. I tell my students that if they peek, they don’t get the reward. I cover the top of the box with their pictures (or words for older students) of their task or schedule.

Mystery Motivator

Get Your Boxes Here!

Mystery Motivator With A Clip Chart:

I have used it with a clip chart. I set a goal with my class that if all of my students (the goal depends on the type of class you have) could get to a certain color on the clip chart they could earn a mystery motivator. In using plastic eggs, I used the same concept as the fill the jar concept except we filled a basket. Once the basket was filled, the class could earn their mystery reward (which I placed in the golden egg). The golden egg couldn’t be opened until the basket was full. This reward usually took my class about a month to earn after we had it up and running. I started with a short-term goal to start with (1 week).

When our basket was full, we had a class Easter egg hunt. With the teacher in me, this of course was not a FREE hunt (but the students didn’t know it until the day of the hunt). I wrote math facts (we were learning multiplication facts) on the outside of each egg. To differentiate for my students’ needs I wrote some easier facts (like the 0 and 1 facts) along with some double digit facts (34×20) to challenge the students who had already mastered their facts. They were instructed to ONLY pick up the egg if they knew they could answer the problem (or they wouldn’t get what was inside). I have also used sight words. I had enough eggs for each one of my 27 students to pick up 7 eggs. I gave them each an egg carton, blew my whistle and off they went until we couldn’t find any more eggs. Just make sure to count the eggs before you hide them:) I hid a few extra just in case some weren’t found. Eggs were found by random recess students for days after out hunt (which caused a few problems with other teachers), oops.  Mystery Motivator

Mystery Motivator With A Tally System Or Mystery Word:

I am currently using the mystery motivators in conjunction with the mystery word system in a 2nd grade classroom. Use the same concept above but students earn a mystery motivator for each tally they get as a class, or the number of letters revealed in the mystery word. You could also use this with a red, yellow, green flip a card system (I really don’t recommend this approach -as it does not focus on POSITIVE behavior), this is just my own personal opinion! But, you could have your students who have green cards at the end of the day earn an egg (or whatever other creative mystery you use) for your class basket. I have also used mystery motivators with my classroom economy system. Students could buy Easter eggs with their “classroom cash” to fill our basket.

With all of the systems I have mentioned above, I would also randomly place a “free” egg in the basket, just because and tell my students how AMAZING they were:)

Mystery Motivator

Mystery Motivators With Individual Students (Tier 2):

Tier 2 Targeted Intervention And Supports (MTSS, RTI): Tier 2 doesn’t replace tier 1 supports, rather, it’s in addition to. In order to determine whether a student qualifies for teir 2 supports you will need to look at a few things such as office referrals, screenings, teacher nominations and formative assessments. Students are compared to their peers. Mystery motivators are a GREAT tool to use with students who need super short term motivation!


  1. Tier 1 Core Classroom Instruction: You need to first make sure that your tier 1 (whole class management system) is strong before even considering conducting a tier 2 intervention! This is a VITAL step! Take a close look at your class rules, procedures and expectations. Contrary to what some teacher think, procedures need to be taught, re-taught and practiced consistently. They need to be clearly stated, displayed and referred back to often (like every time you use a procedure). I have been in sssssoooooo many classrooms where rules and procedures were taught in the first week of school, but NEVER re-taught, followed through with consistently or referred back to! Sometimes this is all we need to do in order to get the mischief under control. I always tell the teachers to start with going back to the basics. The point of teaching procedures is to get the students automatic at following them. If you have to, over do it at first. I mean really, this will eventually annoy your students sssssooooo much that they will start holding themselves and each other accountable for following your procedures. It will also communicate to them that you are serious about the expectation that all students follow the classroom procedure.
  2. Conduct the ABC’s Of Problem Identification: Using data to identify and define problem behaviors (This is where an instructional coach or guidance counselor can help identify the ABC’s of behavior identification). Problem Analysis: Using data to hypothesize why the problem behavior identified is occurring. Intervention Design: Developing and implementing evidence-based behavioral supports and interventions that match the hypothesis. Universal strategies, replacement behavior. Response to Instruction/Intervention: Using data to determine the effectiveness of the supports to decide next steps. A crucial part of determining the reason for an undesirable behavior is observing the context in which the behavior occurs, including all antecedents and consequences. Use the ABC’s of behavior identification:
                                                                                                                                               A- Antecedents: What is happening right before the behavior occurs?
      B- Behavior: What the student does, says or doesn’t do.                                        C-Consequence: What happens after the behavior occurs?


  1. Select Motivators: It’s important that you gather a list of motivators that the student would like to work towards earning. There are TONS of ready-made lists out there, but they had items that weren’t realistic/possible for my teacher to use, so, we created our own list of possible motivators. I always make sure to also ask the student if there is anything missing from the list that they would like to earn. Remember, this is the MOTIVATION part, so it is extremely IMPORTANT to have the student choose what they want to earn.
  2. Develop A Plan & Goal: Identify positive behaviors, develop specific goals including a timeline (how often they will be earning the motivator) and figure out what tools you will be using (eggs, sticks, envelopes, pill case..) I would recommend using a mystery motivator along with a self-monitoring tool. The student needs to monitor their own behavior in order to increase their self-regulation.                          Self monitoring                                                              Get a copy here!                                                   This is the self-monitoring chart I am using with a 2nd-grade student. He earns one mystery motivator (Easter egg) for each thumbs up. He gets to pick one egg out of his egg carton immediately after each section. His eggs contain a motivation slip, small treat (like crackers, stickers, candy) and a growth mindset “fortune”. We also use this self-monitoring chart to set goals during his check in/check out. If he meets his goal for the day (we started at 6 out of the 12 eggs) he gets to pick a McDonald’s coupon. We literally started out with a baseline of 0 out of 12. We are working our way up to 12/12 of course. I actually ended up breaking up his morning and his afternoon. He could earn 6 mystery motivators in the morning and 6 in the afternoon with a goal of 3 eggs in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. He came up with all of the motivators, he just doesn’t get them unless he earns the thumbs up.  Click here for your free copy.
  3.  Communicate With The Student: Sit down privately with your student and communicate the new plan. Make sure that you communicate this as a POSITIVE thing!! Many students with michevious behavior are VERY smart and can usually figure out that they are the only one in class on this plan. Some students don’t want to be singled out with an individualized plan. This is where we started the mystery motivator with the whole class as well (see above).
  4. BE CONSISTENT: Follow through with the plan with fidelity. Use formative assessments (daily charts) to gauge whether it is working. Make sure that you praise the student regularly! Remember, POSITIVE reinforcement breeds positive behavior!
    Mystery Motivator



Classroom Behavior Strategies (Tier 1 supports)

Classroom Behavior Supports (Tier 1)

Classroom Behavior Strategies

(Tier 1 Supports)

Are you struggling with an unruly class?  Do you have a well-behaved class with the exception of a few students? Have you tried every classroom behavior strategy under the sun in hopes that your class runs like a well-oiled machine, but still need help with a select few? Everyone knows that teachers don’t get to choose their students. Even the most seasoned teachers who have years of experience with classroom management, run into those students who don’t respond to their classroom management system. In my research, I have found multiple researched-based classroom behavior strategies that I would like to share. This post is based on following the MTSS or RTI system of tiered supports guidelines.

Classroom Behavior Supports (Tier 1)

What does a three-tiered model for instruction involve?

A three-tiered model for instruction and intervention is based on the principle that academic and behavioral supports are first provided at a core or universal level to effectively address the needs of all students in a school (referred to as Tier 1). However, not all students will respond to the same curricula and teaching strategies. As a result, some students with identified needs receive supplemental or targeted instruction and intervention at Tier 2. Finally, at Tier 3, a few students with the most severe needs receive intensive and individualized behavioral and/or academic support.

Tierd Supports

Classroom Management:

The term classroom management is confusing and misleading, mainly because it has no clear and widely agreed-upon definition. For some, the term refers to general control of students; for others, it refers to discipline procedures; for others still, it refers to both routines and procedures. Classroom management is about building relationships with students and teaching social skills along with academic skills.

There are two aspects of an effective learning environment (and, by extension, successful classroom management):

  1. relationships (specifically, the range of interpersonal skills necessary to maintain healthy relationships)
  2. high-quality instruction (characteristics of effective instruction)

When students have strong, trusting relationships both with the adults in the school and with their peers, and when their lessons are interesting and relevant, it’s harder for them to misbehave. We don’t expect an effective classroom management system to eliminate all problematic behavior any more than we expect a new set of standards to raise all students’ scores by leaps and bounds on the first try. Students are going to misbehave as they learn and grow—it’s how we respond to their misbehavior that matters. We believe that students should have a chance to learn from their mistakes and to restore any damaged relationships with others. Check out Growth Mindset Pinterest board that I currently follow for more ideas.

Growth Mindset

Get these poster free here

Students Have Individual Needs:

All students have individual needs. Some students’ needs are easy to recognize. They may have visible disabilities where they require the use of a wheelchair or may need to wear glasses, braces on their limbs…. Other students may have invisible disabilities such as ADHD, learning disabilities, emotional issues, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder or….. they may come from homes where violence, drugs, lack of food are an everyday occurrence or a mixture of all of the above.

7 Areas To Start With:

  1. What procedures do you have in place? Did you directly teach them? Do you practice procedures regularly?
  2. Do you have a set of classroom rules? Did the students help create them?
  3. Do you have a visual positive classroom behavior management system that anyone could run (including a substitute)?
  4. Are students involved in self-management? Do they keep track of their own behavior?
  5. Is your classroom behavior management system positive or punitive? What is your classroom culture like?
  6. What does instruction look like? Are students sitting for long periods of time? Is it engaging?
  7. What is your district’s expectations, mission, vision? Are you a PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) school?

(1) Classroom Procedures:

The secret to warding off at least some behavior problems is establishing positive classroom procedures for daily tasks and activities. Your students will appreciate your consistency, and once they have internalized classroom procedures, the day will run that much more smoothly. Classroom procedures should be taught at the beginning of the school year and consistently practiced throughout the remainder of the year. One HUGE mistake a lot of teachers make is to teach them the first week of school, but never refer back to them, or expect the students to follow them without directly practicing them together. Another mistake teachers make is assume that older students “should already know” certain expectations. NEVER assume they already know any procedure. Procedures change from teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom, grade level to grade level and building to building. I am currently in a coaching cycle with one of our elementary guidance couselors. She is helping a new 1st-grade teacher who was just hired in January (I know, not an ideal time to start with a new classroom, but was best for kids) with getting her classroom procedures set up. Although these students have been in 1st grade since August, they are now in a new classroom, with a new teacher (literally) and a new group of classmates. We are using Interactive Modeling from the Responsive Classroom training that she attended.  Interactive Modeling is a great way to teach and practice classroom procedures, even with older students.

Below is a list of general procedures that you should consider directly teaching at the beginning of the school year (and practice them throughout the year).

  1. Entering and exiting the classroom
  2. Lining up (ABC order? Youngest to oldest? Tallest to shortest? Will this change from day to day?)
  3. Walking in the hallway (I like to use hips and lips with younger students)
  4. Getting the teacher’s attention (signals)
  5. Getting out, putting away supplies
  6. Participating in group lessons, working with a partner, working independently…
  7. Obtaining help with assignments
  8. What to do with finished work/ what to do when you are finished
  9. When and how to use the drinking fountain, water bottles, bathrooms
  10. Classroom jobs/rules/expectations
  11. Using the classroom library
  12. Inside recess equipment and expectations
  13. Pledge, fire drill, tornado drill
  14. Signals for obtaining attention

Communicate Procedures:

I always started my year off (at open house with the parents) and the first week with the students directly teaching all of my procedures. I created a procedural handbook that each student kept in their desk. We would also refer back to it if we forgot a certain procedure. I also incorporated tons of get to know you activities and team building activities. Yes, your students may already know each other, but chances are, there are students in your classroom that have never been in the same classroom together (unless you only have 1 or 2 sections). Even so, there probably hasn’t been the same exact mix of students in any given grade previous to yours. This is a great classroom behavior strategy to start with. It sounds simple, but is a necessary process in improving classroom behaviors.

Classroom Procedural Handbook

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(2) Classroom Rules:

This one seems like a no brainer, but trust me, it is skipped way to often. Classroom rules play a vital role in effective classroom management. They are great classroom behavior strategies used to start your year out right. However, rules alone exert little influence over student behavior. Too often, rules are posted at the beginning of the year, briefly reviewed once, and then attended to minimally. When this is the case, they have little to no effect on student behavior. There are several rules for rule setting that, when followed, help create orderly, productive classrooms that teach appropriate social skills along with the academic curriculum. To be more effective, our classrooms should have four-to-six rules that could govern most classroom situations. Too many rules can make it difficult for students to comply and for teachers to enforce. When students play an active role, they begin to learn the rules, and they are more inclined to have rule ownership. The rules become their rules, not our rules. To include students, conduct several short rule-setting meetings the first few days of school. For these meetings to be effective, we need to share with our students the rule-making guidelines (e.g., the rules need to be stated positively, they have to be observable and measurable, consequences need to be realistic).

With guidelines in place, students often select rules similar to the ones we would have selected. Without guidelines, students are inclined to make too many rules, make rules that are too stringent, and make those that are not specific enough. Classroom rules should be simple, specific, clear, and measurable. The degree of rule simplicity depends on the age and ability levels of our students. For younger students, we may want to include pictures in the rule posters. Rules are specific when they are clear and unambiguous. For example, the rule “bring books, paper, and pencils to class” is much clearer than the rule “be ready to learn.” Clearly stated rules are easily observed and measured. The classroom rules should be posted and referred to regularly. Students should be “caught” (recognized positively) for following the rules. We consistently need to carry out the consequences and noncompliance of our classroom rules or they will mean very little. If our students follow the rules for group work at the learning center, we should verbally praise them and provide additional reinforcement as needed (e.g., stickers, extra free time). Below is an example of positive classroom rules. These are pre-made. I would suggest having your students help you come up with your own set of positive rules that are personalized to your classroom.

Classroom Rules

Students are often given mixed signals as to what is expected and what will happen if they do not meet these expectations. Inconsistent expectations cause student confusion and frustration. Inconsistent consequences maintain misbehaviors and can even cause the behavior to occur more frequently or intensely. In addition, we find ourselves constantly reminding and threatening which, in turn, enhances our frustration. Expectations are clear when they are identifiable and consistent. Reviewing expectations and rehearsing rules help build routines and minimize the potential for problems. We can do this by asking our students to read the expectations prior to each activity. When we have temporary expectation changes (e.g., changes in rules due to a guest being present or special school event), we must inform our students.

Whole Brain Teaching:

For rule compliance, positive consequences should be applied continuously at first (every time the student is appropriate) and then intermittently (every so often). For example, if “following teacher’s directions” is the classroom rule, then we should provide some form of positive consequence, perhaps praising the students for following directions quickly and appropriately. At first, praise should be delivered each time the student follows teacher directions. Once the teacher establishes the behavior (in this case, following teacher directions), we can move to an intermittent praise schedule. On the other hand, negative consequences (punishment procedures) are most effective when applied continuously. Of course, to effectively deal with this verbal aggression, we also need to implement additional precorrective methods, such as teaching appropriate expressions of anger, peer mediation, prompting and providing praise for socially, appropriate interactions. Check out Whole Brain Teaching For Challenging Kids. Check out my whole brain teaching Pinterest board for more ideas.

Whole Brain Teaching For Challenging Kids

Get it here

Another characteristic of effective rules is that they are stated positively. Positively stated rules are “do” rules. Do rules provide information as to how to behave and set the occasion for teacher praise. An example is “Raise your hand for permission to talk.” Conversely, negatively stated rules or “don’t” rules tell students what not to do and encourage us to attend to student rule breaking. An example of a don’t rule is “Don’t call out.” Don’t rules have been proven to be ineffective.

(3)  Positive Classroom Management System:

Frequently, the question is asked, “Why should I have to teach kids to be good? They already know what they are supposed to do. Every student needs to learn how to comply. Why can I not just expect good behavior?” In the infamous words of a TV personality, “How is that working out for you?”

mad teacher

Why do we punish students by meting out “consequences” when they misbehave? Probably because we experienced punishment as students ourselves. The most common punishment for student misbehavior in elementary school is loss of recess—ironic, given that evidence has shown regular physical activity to reduce problematic behavior and increase student achievement. Another common punishment: placing students’ names on a board and applying checkmarks by those of students who’ve misbehaved. Such attempts to hold students publicly accountable for their behavior can render them compliant but can also make them feel anger, humiliation, and a range of other negative emotions that serve to shut down learning.

Taking things away from students in the name of improving their behavior and learning can actually do the exact opposite. Can you imagine if we did the same in an attempt to improve faculty behavior? Teachers are infamously known to make the worst students. What if you had to stay 10 minutes after work because you talked during a staff meeting? What if your name were singled out on a chart for turning your grades in late? Consider the range of emotions these actions would evoke in you—and realize that children feel these emotions, too.

Just as students need teachers to teach them grammar and math, they need us to teach them how to respond properly to events. They need us to teach them socially appropriate behavior throughout the grade levels. Students need direct social skills instruction.

Children who are habitually criticized, humiliated, or shamed internalize negative feelings about themselves that hinder their healthy development. By contrast, children accustomed to loving support and guidance are much more likely to become healthy and productive citizens.

Greet all of your students as they enter your classroom.

I have recently found an amazing video where a teacher has a “secret handshake” with each student. What a great way to make each and every child feel special and build trust! Seriously….. this guy is a rockstar!!!

Morning Meetings are a great place to start. Start your day off on a positive note. Gather your students on the carpet, and get to know them. This is a great time to directly teach social skills and leadership qualities throughout the school year.

Visual Positive classroom management systems: (Researched based)

  1. Clip charts: The clip chart is a great classroom behavior strategy that consists of a chart that has been divided into levels. All of the children start the day on Ready to Learn. Then, during the course of the day, the children move their clothespins up or down the chart, based on the behavioral choices they make. If they are making good choices, they can move their clothespin up a level at a time. Inappropriate behavior would cause them to move down a level. Since the children start in the middle of the chart, they have numerous opportunities to work their way up the chart. This really helps the children realize that they have to have self-control and be responsible for their actions and behavior if they want to be recognized for making good choices. Making it to the top of the chart is not easy, but it is definitely attainable. My students even had the chance to clip off the charts with good behavior. They would have 3 extra off the chart with positive behavior opportunities. I started at the bottom of my skirt (or pants). I would literally clip their clips to the bottom of my clothing. They could work their way up. The next level would be clipped to the bottom of my shirt with the final level clipping into my hair. I know it sounds corny and a bit goofy, but it was really motivating for my students to see their clothespin in my hair:) At the end of each day, the children document what color they go home on so their parents are aware. I used a baseball theme recording sheet to follow my classroom sports theme. It worked great for most of my 3rd graders (all but 1 student). The one student that it didn’t work for I had to come up with additional behavior strategies/interventions for him. See my next post for ideas of more intensive strategies/interventions that I used with him.


2. Classroom Economy: My Classroom Economy is another great classroom behavior strategy program that enables any educator to teach children financial responsibility through fun, experiential learning. I based mine after Beth Newingham’s classroom economy system.  I am currently in a coaching cycle with an 8th-grade math class implementing a classroom economy fit for middle school students. I used this site to get started. There are multiple videos by Thom Gibson that I also used to help get the 8th-grade classroom economy system started. Check these out if you are interested in using this system, they were a lifesaver!


It’s a simple classroom economic system based on the idea that students need to earn school “dollars” so that they can rent their own desks. By bringing real-world scenarios into the classroom, students see the impact of their decisions to save, spend, and budget. To start out, I had the students come up with bonuses and fines they thought were appropriate for their classroom.

Classroom Economy

They also came up with the credits and debits connected with each bonus and fine. In addition, students had to apply for their classroom jobs. Each student will get a classroom job, some pay more than others. Students were required to fill out a job application. To get the job they wanted, they had to persuade the teachers by stating why they were the best person for the job, much like a real world application. Students are paid once a month (at the end of the month). Credits are calculated and debits or fines are deducted. After payday students pay their $1,000 rent. The money that is left over can be saved or spent at our monthly auction. Students have the opportunity to save their extra cash to buy their desk. Once a desk is bought, they will no longer have to pay rent. They will become a property owner and will keep 100% of their paycheck (after fines have been paid). Students set goals and have the option of keeping their money in the school bank. For more information and a copy of my free classroom economy plan click here.

Auction Tags

Click here for free classroom auction tags


(4) Student Self-Management:

Managing classroom behavior may be more challenging today than ever before but is a classroom behavior strategy that is routinely overlooked. Many teachers face larger class sizes, more students who come from stressful, chaotic homes, and increased diversity in students’ abilities and cultures. Yet, many of us are determined to manage classroom behavior ourselves. After all, collaborating with others takes time and energy to build rapport and come to a consensus on behavior-change priorities and strategies. It’s tempting just to forge ahead. Although, going at it alone may seem like a good idea in the short-run, in the long-run, we are more likely to burn out and lose our effectiveness.

Fortunately, there are many others who can assist in our behavior management efforts, including students, their peers, fellow teachers, instructional coaches, behavior interventionists, guidance counselors, administrators, parents, and other school personnel, which can be invaluable resources. We should seek out their assistance when needed for support, guidance, and additional strategies.

One effective way to include students in their own behavior change programs is the use of self-monitoring. With self-monitoring, a student helps regulate his or her own behavior by recording its occurrence on a self-monitoring form. To help ensure accuracy of self-monitoring, we should occasionally collect the data ourselves and compare our recordings with those of our student. If our student accurately self-monitored, we should reinforce his or her accuracy. In addition, we should hold brief, occasional student-teacher conferences to review the student’s progress.

Check out self-monitoring ideas from this amazing blog called Notes From The Portable.

Self assessment

(5) Classroom Instruction:

There is a direct link between our lessons and student misbehavior. Perhaps our lesson is too easy or difficult, ineffective, or nonstimulating, which can lead to student misbehavior. The first line of defense in managing student behavior is effective instruction. We are teaching 21st-century learners. As teachers, we need to become 21st-century teachers. As our students needs change, so should our approach in teaching them. We need to move away from the “one size fits all approach” (that most of us grew up with) where every student is involved in “sit and get” lessons. Good teachers have always known this and research supports this notion. When teachers differentiate learning, achievement and behavior improve dramatically. Planning for and responding to variances among learners creates the best learning experience possible. It includes processes to determine the effectiveness of instruction, the use of data to guide instructional decision-making, and it ensures access to success for all students.

Check out my coaching cycle video for best practices:

Data should “drive” instruction. In order to truly differentiate to improve motivation and time on task student engagement, pre-assessments are a necessity. Standards should be identified, unpacked and repacked. Data from the pre-assessment should be used to differentiate instruction. Pre-assessments are not just for comparing growth to the post assessment anymore. If a student scores 100% on the pre-assessment should they be required to sit through the lesson? This is an area where I have found most teachers struggle with. Yes, it’s easier for the teacher to make them sit through the lesson, but is it what is best for students? Would you be ok with your child sitting through lessons they already know about? Is this really the best use of their time? As teachers, we need to change our mindset to what is best for the students, not what is easiest for the teacher. What about those students who score 0%? The students who have no background knowledge and are missing the pre-requisite skills? Students who could benefit from pre-teaching of the skill. This is typically where a lot of misbehavior occurs. Students who already know the skill or truly have no clue are usually the ones who tend misbehave the most.

Limit worksheets! Just because the worksheet comes with the basal doesn’t mean they have to be used. I have been in so many classrooms where worksheets are the main method of student practice. Teachers are overwhelmed with the amount of correcting they have to do and students are bored out of their minds! Think about it. Would you like to sit for hours filling out worksheets? Would you want your child doing this? It’s time to bring the “art of teaching” back, aka, bring the FUN back! I have spoken to so many teachers who feel like they are creating little robots. This is due to the pressures teachers face on a daily basis. The amount of testing, behavior problems, lack of time and large class sizes all play a part in our teaching techniques. Most teachers go into teaching with passion, creativity and the promise of making a difference in children’s lives. Somewhere along the way, some teachers lose that spark and forget about the art of teaching. Let’s face it, the pressures will always be there. But, they don’t need to stop you from your passion.

Bring The Fun Back Ideas: (to use with any age student)

Giant scrabble

  1. Instead of round robin reading, have your students act the story out.
  2. Create a giant Scrabble type game for students to practice their spelling/vocabulary words.
  3. In writing stories, paragraphs, questions, solving story problems, let the students have a snowball fight. Instruct students to write their first sentence, essential question, introduction to their story on white paper. Tell them to crumple their papers into a ball. These will be their snowballs. Students will throw the snowballs at each other (give them set rules before you start: no head or eye shots) for a selected time frame. After the timer goes off, the students will open up the snowball that they pick up and complete the problem, write a few lines of the story or paragraph or ask a question about the essential question.
  4. Practice math facts with an Easter Egg hunt (you can do this really with any math facts/problems). Place the numbers to be practiced on both sides of the plastic egg. I always placed a small little treat (a skittle, M&M, sticker…) inside each egg that the students could only earn with the correct answer. Differentiate by placing larger and smaller numbers on each egg. Have some students add (if that’s the targeted skill) while others multiply. I always hid a few golden eggs that when found could be turned in for a surprise (extra recess or individual item like a stuffed animal or a pack of gum…) Give each student an egg carton and a # of eggs to collect. Hide the eggs around the school. This does not need to wait until spring. I have used this in the winter, fall, and spring. This also makes a great center. Place all eggs in a basket with the answers on a piece of paper inside each egg for a self-checking device. Write answers in the bottom of the egg carton for each egg. Have the students match the eggs to the correct space in the carton.


In the past, schoolwide discipline has focused mainly on reacting to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies including reprimands, loss of privileges, office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. Research has shown that the implementation of punishment, especially when it is used inconsistently and in the absence of other positive strategies, is ineffective. Introducing, modeling, and reinforcing positive social behavior is an important step of a student’s educational experience. Teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them is a much more positive approach than waiting for misbehavior to occur before responding. The purpose of schoolwide PBIS is to establish a climate in which appropriate behavior is the norm. The schoolwide PBIS process emphasizes the creation of systems that support the adoption and durable implementation of evidence-based practices and procedures, and fit within on-going school reform efforts. An interactive approach that includes opportunities to correct and improve four key elements is used in schoolwide PBIS focusing on: 1) Outcomes, 2) Data, 3) Practices, and 4) Systems.

  • Tier 1 supports (universal)
  • Tier 2 supports (targeted group)
  • Tier 3 supports (individual)

Systems of support improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation) for all children and youth by making targeted behaviors less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional.

Every Student Is A Leader:

One amazing program and book that I am currently looking into is called The Leader In Me Program. The Leader in Me is Franklin Covey’s whole school transformation process. It teaches 21st-century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader. I work primarily with elementary aged students, so I have been looking into The 7 Habits Of Happy Kids.  This system fits amazingly with our schools PBIS framework. There is a leadership curriculum for every age of students. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (great for middle school aged kids). And The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, which is geared towards high school-aged students. Instead of seeing children through the lens of a normal distribution curve—some kids are naturally smart and others are not—The Leader in Me paradigm sees that every child is capable, every child is a leader. This paradigm changes everything. Check out my 7 Habits Pinterest Board for more ideas.

The Leader In Me

To Learn More Click here

For more strategies and details on how to deal with the students who don’t respond to ideas in this post, stay tuned for more specific strategies and interventions.