This past Friday I experienced the “Marketplace” in my son’s second grade classroom. Students had been preparing their wares to sell for weeks prior, and they also had learned a considerable amount of new vocabulary such as consumer, price-point, target audience, and return policy. Equally important was how they earned their own money to spend (or not) on other’s goods in the “Marketplace.” This money, called Hero Bucks, was earned by doing their classroom jobs without being reminded and by being an extraordinary citizen. Students could also be “fined” if they were not demonstrating good citizenship. The Hero bucks system is working to maintain a positive class environment and reflects the community in which the students live, which is a social studies theme for the year. It was evident in the class discussion afterwards that the students had learned a lot about pricing and marketing from their first “Marketplace” experience, and it will be interesting to see what changes they make for the next sale date right before the holidays.
The Hero Bucks and “Marketplace” system was something this new to second grade teacher had been doing for years with her fifth grade students. She and other teachers thought this system would be too complicated and sophisticated for second graders. However, the classroom management system the second grade team had been using, the “flip your card” / “go for the green,” system had the students walking on egg shells, did not really have a positive reinforcement aspect to it, and was giving the teacher nightmares about her students feeling humiliated. (She seriously told us that she was having these nightmares). She reflected on alternative systems, thought about her group of students, and decided to try her old system. To her delight, the system is working even better with the second graders than it did with her fifth graders so far. She is finding many links between their learning goals regarding community, and she has been introducing them to more advanced math concepts such as averaging (how much money the average classmate had to spend at the market place) in order to decide price points for the students’ wares. (They are not expected to perform this more advanced math independently, but they do it together as a class). This is a great example of a teacher raising expectations for her students, reflecting on what is successful and not in her class, and packing learning into every nook and cranny of a very engaging activity. My son is so excited by it all that he came home on Friday and immediately started making ornaments to sell at the next Marketplace even though it is five weeks away.