A token economy system is a system in which a person earns tokens for desirable behaviors. Each token is a step towards acquisition of a primary reinforcer or more reinforcing secondary reinforcement. Money is the classic example of a token economy system. There is nothing particularly reinforcing about little, green bits of paper, but we are willing to work for those green bits because they allow us to obtain things that are quite reinforcing: food, a home, a DVD player, those lovely strappy-backed heels in the window at Nordstrom's;). We even use a token economy system here on E2 in the form of the Voting/Experience System.
Some teachers use them to target and modify classroom behavior eventually phasing it out as they reach their goal. Teachers should select tokens which can not easily be duplicated and are unique, such as a laminated chip or specially designed card. The grade level of the student is also a an important consideration when choosing token type. In place of tokens, teachers can opt for pencil-and-paper methods of recording points earned. Reinforcement schedules are also a consideration when planning a token system.
My approach is less scientific as far as behavior modification goes and much more lesson oriented incorporating many strategies. My teaching philosophy includes having fun and running a well managed classroom. The tokens are called centies I wanted to call them squiffles but another class was using that term so we held a contest and we all voted and thus the name centies was born. Keep in mind this is for a fifth grade level classroom (11 to 12 year olds). I bought four colors of tickets at the local Office Max. Believe me when I say it was well worth the money by saving teacher create time as well as the serial numbers discourage counterfeiting tokens. Each color represents a denomination Red=1 centie, Blue=5centies, Yellow=10 centies and Green=20 centies. If you're thinking that sounds a lot like the American economy system 5 centies for you! Fifth grade teaching curriculum includes the history of American Government.
At the beginning of the year I hire students for a variety of jobs such as cleaning the boards on Fridays, paper collecting and filing. Each student is given a number. All their papers, books dry erase boards, any material they are responsible for during the year has their number on it. Jobs are assigned by pulling names written on Popsicle sticks out of a cup. If they want the job they can accept it or the stick can be returned to be drawn again in hopes of a better job if they decide, some may even choose to remain unemployed and this is all well and good though I do encourage them to reconsider accepting a job throughout the year. The Popsicle sticks are a handy thing to use when calling on students to answer questions in class. It eliminates the round robin aspect and since all the sticks go back in everyone has to be on their toes and ready to answer the next question. (Although I will admit to occasionally *pretending* to randomly call on a student but call out a name where I was reasonably sure a student would give a correct response when it was important to prevent confusion)
I have on occasion fired students who don't do their jobs, this is a real life application and I hire a banker who exchanges tokens for those who don't like a lot of 'loose change' so to speak. I use them as random rewards for a really good effort on a paper, at times all the students who received 82% or higher on a test would find a green one stapled to their paper. Quite often I hold 'surprise' desk checks and fine 1 centie for each loose paper discovered-- ah hah! organizational skills. I integrate it into my classroom discipline system-- if a student owes me recess time for misbehavior he or she can bail themselves out. It's important to send home a letter to parents at the beginning of the explaining any token economy system and how it's used in the classroom with the Principal's signature. Make sure you have the parent sign and return a slip saying they have read and understand it. Be prepared for stealing, it happens and as in real life and has to be dealt with. Sometimes all is lost and nothing can be done about it.
The heart and soul of mine is an auction at the end of the week. Bartering is exciting the basis of all economy systems teaching the fundamental concepts behind supply and demand. I fill my auction box with a wide variety of things from popular movie posters (I struck a deal with the local video store to donate them to my classroom, use common sense in regards to movie ratings and which posters you decide to auction), squirt guns, punch balls, Lisa Frank accessories, glassine envelopes with 10 or so U. S. Postage stamp leftovers from my collection, freebies from Kid's Meals, yard sale treasures, some of the parents are so enthused by the auction that they may even make donations.I always brought my own classroom discipline plan and a simpler token economy system of my own stamps, special markers and stickers when I substituted for two years. After attendance I taught them both, takes about 15 minutes. Both teachers and students loved it and I never went a day with out being called in to sub. The most important thing to remember about any token economy system is to keep it flexible, if it's not working out then it's best to tell the students 'Hey for (put reason here) this part isn't working out' and drop it or change it, most kids will appreciate the honesty and can be a real treasure trove of new ideas.