Learn about the success in utilizing classroom money as a great motivator for students.

Classroom money or Gilchrist Gold has been a great motivator for my students during the last 13 years of teaching elementary grades. Besides being a great motivator, students learn responsibility by keeping track of their money. Even though the money isn’t real, it is real to the students because they get to use the money to purchase things on Gilchrist Gold Day.

At the beginning of the year, and after each Gold Day, students make a construction paper wallet and decorate it. They write their name on the back of their Gold to keep others from finding and keeping others’ misplaced or lost gold.

Gilchrist Gold Day is a student shopping day. I hold it about the last hour of the day and usually only about seven times a year. On this special day, I put out tons of toys, games, school supplies, action figures, McDonald’s toys, etc…. I usually acquire all the items at garage sales and stock up each year so I always have enough. Parents and the community also donate items. My mom usually comes to help and she helps me find items for the sale.

The first Gilchrist Gold Day is held on the second Friday of the school year. I do it so quickly because I want students to know what they are earning their money for. They see quickly that they don’t want to miss out and they really strive for good behavior so they could earn a bunch for the next shopping day. After the first Gold Day, shopping days are every five or six weeks.

Important Things About How This System Worked To Be Truly Effective

  • SHOPPING DAY IS A SURPRISE. I never tell the students when the shopping day will be and they have to be in attendance to shop – or they miss out! (Attendance is important – they need to be at school everyday!)
  • REWARD MONEY EXPIRES. I never let the students save their money throughout the year. If a student is really good at the beginning of the year, but then their behavior does a 360º, they should not get a reward for it. I feel that this would just reward the negative behavior and I never do that in my classroom.
  • REWARD MONEY VARIES. I change the way my money looks every Gilchrist Gold period. This keeps the students from keeping the same money and carrying it over from one Gilchrist Gold Day to another.

You spent all your money on the bathroom.”

  • RESTROOM AND DRINK BREAKS ARE EXTRA. If you are teaching a lower grade, such as kindergarten and 1st, I wouldn’t recommend this. I had frequent flyers in third that wanted to constantly go to the bathroom and get a drink. I charged them $5.00 or $10.00 of Gilchrist Gold (depending on the time of year). Many would only spend their money on the restroom and drink before they really knew what the shopping day was like. When shopping day came and those kids had hardly any money, I would hear other students say, “You spent all your money on the bathroom.” They seem to learn pretty quickly to save it for Gold Day, rather than the bathroom and drinks.
  • NO TRADING OR SHARING OF MONEY IS ALLOWED! This is strictly prohibited in my classroom. Students are not allowed to share their money or purchase items for others. Again, this is a reward system for behavior and following directions. It’s not fair for a student who didn’t earn enough money to be rewarded for negative behavior.

Gilchrist Gold Day

When Gilchrist Gold Day arrives, the student with the highest amount of money shops first. All of the names are written on chart paper and I write their names and their Gilchrist Gold amount on the chart. The students are called to shop in order from greatest to least, so they get the first pick of the items. Sometimes I have parent volunteers and my mom to help out on this day.

This is the class behavior chart. I use electrical tape on my whiteboard (the tape peels off easily and doesn’t damage the board). The chart is sectioned into 25 rows (or one for each student). To the very left of the strips I have speed signs that start at 5 and go up to 100. (They are in increments of five). At the bottom of each row is an airplane with a student’s name on it. When they exhibit good behavior they move their airplane up one notch or 5 miles. Their goal is to reach the top.

Each week I have a class meeting and students are given their prizes for how many miles they moved. Below is my prize sheet that shows what students earn as they move up the chart for positive behavior.

Behavior Incentives

What about negative behavior is the question you are probably asking about now, right?

Unfortunately it does occur in all classrooms. To the left of the words behavior chart. There are 6 spaces. These are for negative behaviors.

Underneath their airplanes I put a stop sign with each student’s name. These are laminated and on magnets like the airplanes. They aren’t in the picture of the Behavior Incentives chart yet, but they are placed underneath each student’s airplane.

If a student exhibits negative behaviors, their stop sign is placed on the top negative space. They can’t move their airplane up the positive chart for the day because they have had to move their stop sign to the consequences side. On the next day they can move their airplane up again if they exhibit positive and/or good behaviors.

6 Road Signs with the Negative Consequences

  1. WARNING – (nothing happens to the student here, except they can’t move their airplane up any more for the day. They don’t get a note in planner, it is just a warning for them.
  2. NOTE IN PLANNER/MISS 5 MINUTES OF RECESS – This is their second negative behavior. They get a note in planner and miss 5 minutes of recess.
  3. REFOCUS AREA – this is a secluded (sort of) place in the room, or separate area where students can go to calm down or to work quietly away from others. Sometimes when they go to this area I had them reflect about their area
  4. BUDDY ROOM – I use another classroom as a buddy room. When and if the student moves their stop sign to this location, they go to another room to reflect, calm down, and get away from the situation.
  5. CALL HOME – When and if a student still exhibited the negative behaviors after returning from the buddy room, I would make a call home. I also let the parent know that if the child’s behaviors continue, they will be given an office referral.
  6. OFFICE REFERRAL – When and if a student still exhibits the negative behavior, an office referral would be written and they will have the consequence from our school code of conduct book. Most likely, if it is their first offense they will have one or 2 hours of detention. It’s important that your school administrator support you if a child’s behavior gets to this point.

9 Ways For Students To Earn Classroom Money

Students could earn classroom money for all different reasons. They included, but weren’t limited to:

  1. Working constructively on an activity when they finished their classwork
  2. Following directions the first time they are given
  3. Showing respect and random acts of kindness to others
  4. Walking quietly in the hallway and in line basics
  5. Working quietly or cooperatively in groups
  6. Moving up the positive behavior chart
  7. Writing goals in their goal journals
  8. Turning in homework on time
  9. Helping out in the classroom

Game Pieces

Here are examples of the airplanes and the stop signs I use for my grid chart.

The airplanes for each student are for the students to move up the mileage chart and earn prizes for good behavior.

The stops signs which are laminated go underneath each student’s airplane. If they display a negative behavior, the stop sign gets placed on the negative consequences chart.

Hopefully you were able to stick with me through this incredibly long blog post, but I’ve had teachers ask about the system I used so I thought I would share in detail and perhaps you can find it useful to use in your classroom this year!


Airplanes for my grid chart.                                            Stop signs for my grid chart.





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Kelly Gilchrist