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In Transit: How I Use Dice Masters to Help My Students #2 - The Economy

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Working in a behavioral program in a school, we don't use words like "discipline" or "punishment" when a student does not meet the expectations set in front of them. These words focus on the disciplinarian as the cause of what has transpired. Instead, my program prefers to use the word "consequences" when expectations are not met. Consequences are different from discipline or punishment for two reasons. One is that consequences are a natural part of life. If you drop your phone in a puddle, the consequence is that your phone becomes wet and may not work. This is not the fault of anyone, just a simple rule has been violated and this is what happens. The second difference is that consequences can be both positive, as well as negative. If you do 50 push ups every day, the consequence is that you become a little stronger, but if you eat 50 Twinkies a day, the consequence will be slightly different. Using consequences focuses on the behavior and what the student can do to change that behavior. While it is important to set out negative consequences, and follow through on those consequences, it is equally important to establish regular positive consequences so students can understand the balance of their actions.

Great examples of positive consequences in a behavioral school are incentives. There are few better ways to encourage positive behavior than a good incentive. I have seen students act in ways they never thought possible, partially because they are working for a specific incentive. Over the last year I have seen Dice Masters become that kind of incentive.

I know some of you may think that incentives are just a bribe, and yes, there is some sort of truth to that assumption. But, there is also truth to the fact that human beings do not do things without having some benefit. Whether that benefit be financial, tangible, social or interpersonal, you don't do something without gaining something out of it. Imagine working without getting your pay check, volunteering without being moved to do so, opening a pack without the chance of a super rare or playing a game without having fun. We all have a reason for what we do and we gain something out of it. A good incentive program may start out with tangible rewards, but then changes to social and interpersonal rewards. Dice Masters provides a great example of tangible, social, and interpersonal rewards.

For the last year, I have given Dice Masters cards, dice, and game plays away as incentives to my students for good behavior or meeting a specific goal. I would like to tell you how that process works, what I have learned from my time using Dice Masters as a tangible incentive and how this practically applies to classroom incentive systems/classroom economies.

My students have classroom economies. In each classroom a teacher has a specific type of fake currency like Dojo Dollars, Monkey Bucks or Teacher Dollars. This currency is typically earned through having a good classroom period and exhibiting impressive behavior (i.e. Ignoring frustrations, being kind to others, etc...). At the end of the day/week a student can then turn in this currency for items, events/games or positive praise (I.e. phone call home, certificate, being a classroom helper, etc...). A student will typically be able to earn 50-60 dollars of this currency in a full week through completing their typical assignments and tasks. A student also has opportunities to gain approximately 10 dollars through random acts of kindness and going above and beyond in the classroom.

Most of my students "buy" Dice Masters cards with this currency. The students will "buy" cards from a mock store, while practice shopping social skills (like patience, shopping etiquette and other skills which I well described in greater detail in a different blog). When a student "buys" Dice Masters cards, it is not exactly like when you buy cards from your FLGS. What I wound up doing was making my own packs for my students, these packs feature two cards and corresponding dice. (I will discuss distribution in another future blog). Each card/dice pack cost about 25 of their classroom currency. So, it was very realistic for a student to be able to "buy" two packs a week. Packs can have cards/dice from nearly any set, along with some rares thrown in for good measure.

While most students are content with a pack of random cards/dice, some students want more specific cards/dice. If a student wanted a specific character to either complete their collection, make a team, or because they like the character, those cards/dice cost 25 for just one card and matching dice. Students get half of the cards/dice, but get the character they wanted. It is interesting to see a student debate about whether to get a pack or specific card. Then see that student pick the pack and get the card they initially wanted anyways. There is the same chase for cards you would see in normal Dice Masters packs. Rares cost 50 per card and select OP cards cost 75. At the beginning of the year, students could also buy a "starter pack", which was a team of varying cost characters. That team had two different cards (usually common and uncommon) for eight different characters and their matching dice. These "starter packs" gave students a jump start with their collections, a team to play with, and a case for their collections. The "starter pack" cost 100 and students can only buy one throughout the year.

Over the final few months of school I made a slight change to prices. This economy system worked really well and allowed students to shop, however, the problem was the desire for brand new cards. I noticed an interest in newer cards, which are difficult for me to come by, but students would become obsessed with the newest and greatest. So, in order to meet supply and demand, I raised the prices on cards/dice from the newest set. Each unit then cost 25 more. A single card cost 25, a specific character cost 50, a rare cost 75 and the newest OP cost 100. This practice helped me to preserve my supply and taught students the importance of patience.

The economy worked great, but at times, I would give out extra cards/dice for birthdays, holiday parties, and exceptional behavior from students. Some students also worked on more involved incentive programs outside of the typical classroom behavioral currency. These students had specific goals. For achieving these goals, a student could receive a card/dice or even a thirty minute game time during Friday incentives.

I had some problems during the establishment of the Dice Masters economy. I charged too much sometimes, too little at other times, but I found that setting the "prices" where a student could realistically "buy" two packs a week created the best system. Students had a realistic item to work for and at the same time I did not find myself running that low on product. Like any classroom economy system, it takes some time to tailor it to a specific class, but I think I found a good process for my program.

If you have any questions about how this may look in a smaller setting or understanding how much product you may need to run a similar economy feel free to ask and I'll be sure to answer.

Thanks,
Eric
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Comments

  1. TrueMisterSix's Avatar
    Eric,

    Another fascinating read - that's two for two on quality for me.

    This is such an interesting story - I eagerly await more of your posts.
  2. Inviscerae's Avatar
    Thanks Eric!
    I'm starting at a Middle School for the first time this year (always been high school prior to this), and I have TONS of leeway to build up a unique learning environment. Incentivizing sounds GREAT! (At first, my apparently naive superego argued that education was all the incentive necessary. HA!)
    So, thanks for telling me about this. I'll have 4 classes of students, so I'll need to give this a thought on implementation, but because ALL 4 of the teachers at my school are new to this school, this program sounds amazing! Dice Masters will be something I'll offer (with available funds).
    Thanks again!