Classroom Behavior Management System Credits and Debits

There are very few practices I use in my classroom today that have carried over from my first year of teaching. Most of the novel ideas I had back then have fizzled out been replaced along the way. One practice that has carried over every year is my classroom behavior management system.

I remember scouring the internet for classroom management ideas prior to my first year of teaching. Despite being new to teaching, I somehow knew that classroom management was the most important aspect of my classroom. Behavior first. Learning second. Without a grip on your students no real learning will occur. You’ll spend hours of the day trying to herd the cattle in the right direction when they shouldn’t be running a muck in the first place.

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a teaching blog by Beth Newingham. Beth had several blog posts about classroom organization. One post in particular about her “classroom economy” system became the foundation for my own classroom management system. I spent that summer shopping, laminating, cutting, and organizing materials I needed for my management system. The first week of school I introduced the “Credit/Debit System” to my 3rd graders. Over the years I have made some modifications but the key elements have remained the same.

What is the Credit/Debit system?

The credit/debit system is a behavior management system designed to be used daily in your classroom. By displaying proper and positive behavior students can earn credits. This may include following directions, displaying kindness towards others, helping another student, and anything else that boost’s the morale of your classroom. Debits are used to redirect behavior. This may include calling out, not cooperating during group work, or not staying on task.

Conduct a lesson with your students about the behaviors that are associated with credits and debits. Students need to know your expectations and rules first before implementing the Credit/Debit system in your classroom.

The first week of school I give each of my students their Credit/Debit notebook. This is a mini notepad that lives on the top right corner of their desk. I teach my students that part of their daily morning routine is to have their “C/D log” out and ready to go. I NEVER want to ask for someone’s log during the day. I don’t have time for that business.

I may give a debit to a student for talking during my math lesson. This looks like the following; I walk over and place a tally mark in that student’s debit column all while not missing a word of my explanation of multiples and factors. That’s the beauty of this behavior system. Its not designed to be a big thing that interrupts my lesson or publicly embarrass a student. It’s designed to be quick, but effective. That tally mark is an indictor to little Johnny to please stop talking and redirect himself back to my math lesson.

What’s the Point of Earning Credits?

In addition to learning how to be a productive and respectful member of a classroom your students also have a tangible incentive for earning credits. I have a classroom store. Its stocked by myself, and donations from families. The setup of this store can be daunting at first, but don’t be afraid to ask for donations from parents and maybe even your school. Parents have even donated gently used items that students go bonkers for. There is also flexibility in this behavior system. Perhaps having a classroom store isn’t for you, and you want to have a different incentive. That works too. Modify this classroom management plan to be what you feel most comfortable with.

The Class Store

My first three years of teaching I managed the classroom store weekly. Every Friday students totaled their credits and subtracted their debits to find their grand total for the week. Then they traded their credits for classroom money that they could use in the classroom store. It was a lot of work each week so I was so relieved when my teaching partner suggested that we open the store monthly instead of weekly. What a genius idea and it took away the burden of setting up the store each week. Decide on a timeline that works best for your grade level and student needs.

Student Shopping

We give our students wallets to store their classroom money in each month. We store the wallets for safe keeping. The wallets are index card holders. They have lasted for years. You can also use something as simple as a Zip-Loc bag.

Shopping isn’t a whole day’s ordeal. We designate one afternoon each month to open the store. We have 5-7 students shop at a time, while the rest of the class works on an activity such as a STEM challenge when they are not shopping. Everyone is always on task. Students can spend some, none, or all of their money. Any money that is leftover after shopping is returned to their wallets.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.) What is the initial setup for this behavior management plan?

Purchase materials

  • Student notebooks (I purchase mine in packs of 4 from Wal-Mart). They are 89 cents a pack.
  • Decide on wallets (How are your students going to store the classroom money they do not use?)
  • If your reward for students is a classroom store, purchase items in advance. I shop for store items from the Target dollar spot, Dollar Tree, and clearance sections of any store. I also ask parents for donations. These donations can be new or gently used.
  • Print credit/debit log templates and classroom money.
  • Laminate classroom money and organize the denominations. I use a drawer organizer from Sterlite to store my money.
  • Create a lesson that reviews your expectations and rules for classroom behavior. Be clear in your expectations.

2.) What type of items do you buy for the class store?

Really anything goes. Slime, brain teasers, and mini throwing balls are typically things kids enjoy, but never underestimate what a child will buy. My teaching partner and I put copies of our school photos in the classroom store and they were sold within minutes. We also put a bag of old flair pens in the classroom store. They still worked, but we had purchased new sets for ourselves. We priced them individually and they were quickly scooped up by students. Find and print reward coupons for sock days, hat days, show and tell, etc. Students love these rewards and the expense is low for you. Be creative to keep costs down.

3.) Do you share the Credit and Debit system with parents?

Yes. We explain the credit/ debit system to parents during open house. They are always supportive and positive. We even know of some families that implemented the system at home. The more information you can provide for families the better.

4.) What happens when a student loses their Credit/Debit log?

Be clear with students that keeping their log safe is important. If a student loses their log I will replace their log ONE TIME. After that they are on their own. If they lose their template they lose all the credits that were tallied. Be observant! Some students will purposely “misplace” their logs if they have a lot of debits. Know your students.

5.) What happens when a child is absent on a store day?

I allow my absent students to keep their ongoing log and have them carry that log into the next month. When a student does cash in their credits for the week/month mark the template by slashing a line thru it using a Sharpie. Then give students a new template for the next cycle.

6.) How do you price items?

I inflate pricing based on how much was spent on the item and supply/demand. If I notice that slime sold out and I have more students that want to buy some, I may opt to purchase more but increase the price. Pencils, erasers, and anything I can purchase in bulk for cheap are priced the lowest. But even then those items sell for $30-$40 a piece. I have had families donate really fancy items like stationary sets or a pack of smelly markers. I would price those items at $450+. There is nothing wrong with encouraging students to budget and save.

Here are suggestions for pricing the items photographed above:

  • Pencils – $30 each
  • Erasers – $35 each
  • Puzzle – $215
  • Slime (always very POPULAR) – $308
  • Brain teaser – $196
  • Jenga game – $234
  • Football – $187

If you are looking to start the Credit/Debit system check out the FREEBIE below. You will find classroom money and the credit/debit template all ready to go!

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