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    Over the past few years, many teachers have e-mailed me with questions about Coley Cash, my classroom store, and our classroom income tax.  Below are some of the frequently asked questions I've received regarding my classroom economy, followed by my answers.  I hope they're helpful!

How do students earn Coley Cash?
Students earn Coley Cash for displaying good behavior.  They can earn classroom money by following directions the first time, working quietly as their desks, showing good character, etc.  Just as students earn money for good behavior, they can also be "fined" for poor behavior (persistent talking, failure to follow directions, etc).  I also pay students for doing their classroom jobs.  I have chosen to keep my money system tied pretty exclusively to behavior, so I donít pay students for doing homework, doing well on tests, etc.  That way, a well behaved student, even one who struggles academically, can still thrive in our classroom economy.

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How do you distribute the money?
My students keep paychecks (Post-Its) at their desk.  When students are behaving appropriately, following directions, etc., I may reward a student with a dollar in Coley Cash.  The students make tallies on their paychecks, and then at the end of every two weeks, I go around and pay students with actual Coley Cash.  At that time, students have the option of withholding money to go toward their classroom income taxes.  Our classroom's CRS (Classroom Revenue Service) agent accompanies me as I pay students and records how much Coley Cash each student withholds.  While I have a pretty good idea of how much money each student earns, my system does rely greatly on the Honor System.  I make it very clear to my students at the beginning of the year that character counts in my classroom, and that any student who "steals" money by marking down a tally they didn't earn will lose the privilege of earning Coley Cash for the rest of the year.  In all my years of teaching, I've never had a problem with this.

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Do students write their names on the Coley Cash?
No, because at the end of each trimester, I bring in goodies and students get to buy something with their money.  I then reuse the money during future trimesters.

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What kind of things can students buy with their money?
I typically go to Big Lots, the 99 Cent Store, and the grocery store to get my prizes.  Some examples:  books (usually from Scholastic Book Club bonus points), drawing pads, gel pens, marker sets, chess and/or checker sets, footballs, soccer balls, notebooks, and candy (anything from small candy bars to big ticket items like a tub of Red Vines).  Basically, Iím on the lookout all year, so if I spot something cheap or on sale that I think the kids would like, I pick it up and save it for later.  As an added incentive, students who earn a specified amount of money have the option of purchasing a pizza lunch with me.  Typically, only the six or seven highest-earning students are able to afford this.  If a student chooses to purchase the pizza lunch and still has money left over, he/she also gets to buy something from the Coley Cash Store

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How do you run your Coley Cash Store?
I open the Coley Cash Store at the end of each trimester.  I bring out all the goodies for the students to see.  These items range from larger, big ticket items (footballs, soccer balls, tubs of Red Vines) to smaller items (a packet of pencils, a bag of chips, a packet of gel pens).  Every student gets to purchase one item.  The student with the most money gets to come up and choose first, basically meaning that student will be able to choose the "most expensive" or "biggest" item.  I then go to the student with the next highest amount of money, and so on.

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Where do students keep their money?
Initially, students' money is kept track of on the paychecks (Post-It notes) they keep on their desks.  After I have paid them in actual classroom currency, most of my students keep their Coley Cash in their pencil boxes.  Some students make envelopes out of paper or bring envelopes from home.  They do a pretty good job of keeping track of it, because they know that if they lose it, they won't be able to buy something at the Coley Cash Store at the end of the trimester.

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How much money do students typically earn?
I typically reward students with Coley Cash a dollar at a time.  I know that in some classes, students earn hundreds if not thousands of dollars, but in my class, the top students may earn $50 or $60 (maybe $70) in a trimester.

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How do students file their classroom income taxes?
At the end of each trimester, students must file a classroom income tax return using specially designed tax forms.  For the first two trimesters, the students and I file their tax returns together.  It can be a little confusing the first couple of times, so I take a good chunk of time to walk students through how to calculate their deductions, determine their taxable income, and determine whether they are required to pay or will receive a refund.  For the third trimester, I typically have students complete their returns either in small groups or independently as a homework assignment.

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