Focus on Five: Benefits to Using a ~Token Economy~

Schedules, curriculum, visuals…there are so many things to remember when setting up for the school year but, don’t forget the one thing that will help make your classroom run smoothly…a token economy! There are lots of benefits to setting up a token economy in your classroom. Using a points system has been successful for the majority of the students in my classroom.  Here are five benefits to having a points token economy system in your classroom:

1. Simple Structure

Setting up a points-based system in your classroom is relatively easy.  All you need is paper, library card pockets and a points menu and you are ready to start! I cut the paper into small strips to have a physical object I can give the students. Each student gets a library card pocket to store their points (their “wallet”). I also made a reward menu and established times of the day students can use their points. The most challenging part of setting up a token economy is making it part of your classroom routine.

2. Instant Feedback

You can give or take away points right away to increase or decrease behaviors. This lets students know if they are doing a good job or need to work on something in real time. My classroom aide and I each have a cup with points in them and we take the cups with us wherever we are working with students. Students will take their “wallets” with them as they rotate through their schedules.

3. Allows Flexibility 

You can choose different behaviors to focus on per day, per week or even per student! Once the behavior is established or reduced you can fade the points and focus on a new set of behaviors. We have used points in increase academic behaviors (e.g. giving students a point every time they put a period at the end of their sentences) and classroom behaviors (e.g. giving points for a student raising his hand).

Since the points system is fairly simple, it is easy to differentiate for students. Students will “graduate” from getting the strips of paper and use a laminated card to write the tally marks on with a dry erase marker. I even had a student write the number of points and taught him how to add and subtract with regrouping using the points system.


4. Reinforces Skills

Having the points system in my classroom helps to reinforce basic math skills. Students start by counting their points for a reward (or fine) using one-to-one correspondence. Using the paper strips allows me to teach students about arranging their points into tallies and counting by fives. Students can begin to level up by writing tallies on a laminated card instead of using the paper tallies. As I mentioned above, students can also write the amount of points they have in number form and add and subtract from their totals.

5. Teaches Responsibility 

Establishing a points routine in my classroom has helped to teach students responsibility. Students are responsible for keeping track of their points wallets and saving points for the reward they want. Sometimes, we will do a little sabotage and say how many points we will give students and then give them less. Most students will speak up and tell us that they did not get the correct amount of points (we also prompt them if they don’t ask on their own). Additionally, students earn points by doing their daily classroom jobs, which also helps to teach about responsibility.

I hope you are inspired to set up a points-style token economy with your students! Share other ways you use token economies in your classroom!

1 Comment

  1. Would this system by appropriate for elementary K-5? Will the concept be to difficult for the K-1 kiddos? I’ve used it in my self-contained classroom for years, but I will be moving to a K-5 classroom next year. I love this token economy! I’ve never taught elementary so I am not sure!



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