Back to School,  Classroom Economy,  Classroom Management

How To Set Up a Bank for Your Classroom Economy

Last week I started my classroom economy series with a post about my classroom jobs, and I’m back today to tell you about my banking system!

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

My classroom economy is based on checkbooks. I wanted to make it as realistic as possible, so I called a local bank and asked them to donate checkbook registers and covers to my class. I explained a little about what I was going to use them for, and they were happy to do so. They’ve donated them 3 years in a row now! Really, just call around to some local banks and ask – the worst they can say is no!

Setting Up the Checkbooks

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

In the first few weeks of school, we set up our checkbooks. Each student receives a cover and a register (donated from the bank). They also get 4 sheets of blank checks (12 checks total) that they cut out and staple together. These go in the bottom part of the checkbook cover in place of real checks.

To make this process as simple as possible, here are the steps I use with my students (writing directions for middle schoolers is an art form, is it not? 😂).

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

We usually have a day of benchmark testing at the beginning of the year, so I give the students this handout ahead of time to work on after they finish their testing. If you want to copy my directions template, click here!

When they bring their stack of checks to me, I staple them together with a check-sized piece of cardstock on the back (this slides into the checkbook to keep the checks in place). I then put their checks into the bottom part of the checkbook cover and a transaction register into the top part of the cover (the registers and covers are donated from a local bank), and they are good to go!

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

We also take a few days at the beginning of the year to learn how to use checkbook registers and write checks. I love this activity from Lindsay Perro! 

Earning Money

As I talked about in my last post, some (but not all) of my students have a job at any given time. The students get paid weekly for their jobs. Each of my jobs pays a weekly salary of $20. Each Friday after school, I put paychecks in the students’ mail folders so that they get them on Monday. I wrote out and laminated all of the checks at the beginning of the year, and I reuse them each week. 

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

To make this process go quickly, I only write out the paychecks once at the beginning of the year and then I reuse them all year long! I write “Math Student” and the school year for the date so that they can be used with all students. I have laminated them in the past, and I have also used some without laminating – as long as you print them on cardstock, they should hold up just fine either way! I have even reused them from one year to the next by putting a white label over the year and writing in the next year.

In my economy, jobs are the main way for students to earn money. I also give out money for mastering skills on Khan Academy ($1 per skill mastered), and I sometimes reward good behavior or test scores with money. The possibilities are endless – you can write out checks for anything you want to reward in your own classroom!

I do not fine students or take money from them for any reason, but that’s something you could incorporate into your own system, too, if you’d like.

The Bank

In the past, I had a bank binder that had a paper balance sheet for each student. This past year, I decided to try an online bank. It was awesome, and I will be using it again this year!

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

After doing some research, I decided to use mykidsbank.org. It is free and has a ton of different options! I set up a separate bank for each of my 4 classes and added each of my students. It is really easy to make deposits and withdrawals from student account! Each student also gets their own login that they can use to see their bank balance at any time.

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

One really nice feature is that you can add bank tellers so that your student banker (one of my class jobs) can log in and complete all their transactions! Each month when there was a new banker, I could easily go in and edit the banker’s name and change the password (I used a different password each month).

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

There are lots of other features I haven’t used yet, such as the ability to print out banknotes, which you could hand out instead of bothering with writing out checks. You can also set accounts to earn interest, which would work nicely if you teach a math lesson on interest! There’s even an option to add automatic deposits, which would make things really simple, but I like giving a student the experience of making deposits and withdrawals!

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

If you don’t have the option of using an online bank or just want to keep things paper-based, you can download a bank balance sheet template for free here! I copied one for each student, and kept them in a binder separated by class period. The banker would pull out the binder each week to enter deposits and withdrawals manually.

Bank Days

When the students come in on Monday, they check their mail folders and get their paychecks (if they have a job). They write it into the transaction register in their checkbook, and then put it somewhere safe. They are responsible for keeping them safe until Bank Day on Thursday. If a check is lost, it will not be replaced.

Every Thursday, the banker (one of my class jobs) opens up the bank at some point during class (usually during independent work time). When the students come in on Thursdays, those who need to visit the bank that day write their names in a list on the front whiteboard.

When the banker opens the bank, he or she calls over each student from the list one at a time. The student gives the banker his/her checks, and the banker makes a deposit into the student’s account. The students are required to show the banker their checkbook registers to make sure that their balances match what it says on the bank balance. The banker keeps all of the checks and gives them to me (or puts them on my desk) when everyone is done depositing checks.

Learn how I set up the banking system for my middle school classroom economy using an online bank and a check template!

I have never had any issues, but you want to make sure you choose trustworthy students to be the banker. I usually monitor them during their first week as banker, but they catch on quickly and can run everything by themselves before too long.

The other key part of the banker’s job is to enter withdrawals from the bank account of each student who makes a purchase in the class store. After collecting all the checks students wrote to pay for their items, I give the checks to the banker to enter into the bank as withdrawals at some point before the next bank day.

Now that the paychecks have been deposited into the bank, the students are ready to make purchases! The class store opens on Fridays, and you can read about that in the third and final part of this series available now!


Other posts in the classroom economy series:

Part 1: How To Use Classroom Jobs in Middle School

Part 3: How to Set Up a Store for Your Classroom Economy

18 Comments

  • Deanna

    I love your system. I will be trying it this year. I am curious what you do when a student loses their whole checkbook. Do you charge them for a new one?

    • Math With Meaning

      Hi Deanna! So glad you’re going to try it! This happens several times a year – I first tell them to spend some time looking for it – their binder, locker, other classes, home, etc. Most of the time it turns up within a few days! If it really and truly is lost, I just give them a new one – I usually make a couple extras in case of new students. Since I don’t do any fines or charges in my own system, I don’t charge them. If you want to incorporate fines into your system, though, you could absolutely charge them for a new one!

  • Deanna Rice

    I love your system. I will be using a lot of what you do in my upcoming school year. What do you do if the students lose the entire checkbook? Is it like a real bank and you charge them to re-order checks?

  • Hannah Tolar

    I am in love with this! I’m going to implement it into my 5th grade classroom! I can’t wait to read more about your store and what kind of items are included!!

  • Sundey

    I would love to hear more about your mail folders! With so many students, how do you store their individual mail folders?

    • Math With Meaning

      Great question! I have a hanging file folder for each student labeled with their name. I hang them in a crate – I have 2 crates total for my 4 classes. Makes it really easy to hand back papers or pass out checks, and they just check the folder when they come in every day.

      • Sundey

        Great idea! I love the class job and class economy I teach regular math classes, and 2 math intensive classes (an extra math class for kids who need more support) meaning I have some students for more than one class period. I’m trying to figure out how I could implement this, and keep things fair with money earned, as well as keep the bank balances in order. Any thoughts or ideas?

          • Math With Meaning

            Hi Christal! When I have RtI classes in addition to my math classes, I do not use jobs with my RtI classes. If you teach multiple subjects, you could make a rule that students who see you twice can only have a job in one class at a time. Hope that helps!

  • Alex March

    Hi!
    Thank you for sharing your whole system from jobs to banking to store. I’m planning on using it ALL! I’m so excited! Do you do anything to help verify bank transactions? Or rely on the banker’s honesty? For example, if I had a banker who decided instead of depositing the $20 paycheck for a friend, they deposit $30 instead. Do you have a way to easily check these incidents?
    Thanks,
    Alex

    • Math With Meaning

      Hi Alex! Great question. At the beginning of the year when I go over jobs, I really emphasize the fact that the banker needs to be someone trustworthy. The kids really take it seriously and I have not had any issues. The website that I shared about for my online banking makes it really easy to see all of the transactions and who did what, so you could easily spot check if you wanted to! You just go to the “Activity Log” tab. Hope that helps!

  • Rebecca

    I know I saw it before but now I can’t find it. What activity do you use to teach them about literacy and writing checks?

  • Michelle

    I tried setting up multiple classes on MyKidsBank.org but it wouldn’t let me. It stated that my email address was already used. How did you manage to set up for different classes?

    • Math With Meaning

      Hi Michelle! It says in their FAQs to allow at least 3 hours in between signing up for new banks. If you wait 3 hours, you should be able to sign up for another bank with the same email address! Hope that helps!

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