Image Credit: Tualatin Valley Academy

TVA Fifth-Graders Learn Money Management Skills

At Tualatin Valley Academy, Kimberly Clifton, TVA fifth-grade teacher, has found an effective way to motivate her students and enforce classroom management through what she calls “Clifton Cash.” 

Clifton found the idea of creating a classroom economy with play money in 2018 but has adapted it over the past few years to fit her style.

Clifton has job assignments for each of her students that rotate each month, including teacher's assistant, lunchroom table washer, whiteboard cleaners and more. Her students fill out job applications at the end of each month with their top three choices for the upcoming month and an argument about why they would be good at those jobs. The pay scale ranges from $60 to $100 depending on the frequency the job must be completed.

Once she assigns students to their jobs, she gives them their pay. Then they must use some of their money to pay monthly rent for their desks. Clifton utilizes this as an opportunity to have her students practice writing checks. 

She has them pay their rent in the form of a check — along with the physical Clifton Cash — and she explains terms to them like “deposit” and “withdrawal.” She also asks students to maintain a check register they keep in the plastic wallet she gives them to store their money. Keeping a check register is valuable since students must draw on their math skills.

While students can earn money through their jobs and random bonuses Clifton distributes at times, they can incur fees. There are penalties for late rent, no name on paper, a messy desk and not adhering to classroom rules after receiving a warning. Clifton shared that this method of enforcing consequences is “so motivating for them since they don’t want to lose their Clifton Cash.”

Students can choose to save their money for a class auction at the end of the year or spend it on items like candy or stickers. She even has some top-tier experiences they can buy, such as a movie day or a popcorn party.

Students in the lower grades have heard about Clifton Cash and have begun to anticipate using it in fifth grade. Clifton commented, “It’s been so nice because … the fourth-graders somehow know about it and it’s motivating for them.” This makes it easier to set up the classroom economy each school year. TVA is fortunate to have a teacher like Clifton who engages and instructs the students creatively.

Featured in: July/August 2024