3 tips for staying organized when students have been absent

3 Tips for Staying Organized When Students Have Been Absent

Let's address an issue every single teacher deals with... student absences. It's going to happen. Kids are going to be out of school for illnesses, appointments, holidays, or other family commitments. It is a huge challenge to track all of the missed work! In this post, I share 3 tips for keeping students (and yourself!) organized when students have been absent.

1) Establish expectations and routines early.

In my course expectations at the beginning of the year, I include a blurb that outlines my policy in the event of absences. No matter what you decide to set as an expectation, make it clear from the start, remind students of the plan frequently, and stick to it throughout the school year as best you can. I always accept late work within a unit without loss of points. When a student has been out the expectation is that they will copy the notes and complete the missed homework before the next quiz. I prefer to leave this timeline flexible, rather than outline a set number of days in which the homework must be made up. The goal of homework is to provide students the practice needed to be able to successfully show me what they know on the quiz.

2) Enlist the help of other students.

As teachers, we are busy. There are constant metaphorical fires to put out all around us every day. The to-do list is bottomless through the end of the school year. Even within a period it is a challenge to manage every moving part of the class. Staying organized when students are absent may be low on the priority list and may fall by the wayside as other priorities take precedent. When I started teaching I found myself staying late after school to organize work for students who were absent, checking my class list to ensure I was staying on top of missing work as a result of absences, and making notes of students to check in with the next day. It was time-consuming and I always felt disorganized.

Enter the "While you were out..." bulletin board and absent slips. I ask students to help keep an absent group-mate organized by filling out an absent slip with the date, objective, agenda, and homework. When the absent student returns to class, they'll know exactly what they missed. In addition, they collect copies of handouts for their group-mate. The absent slip and handouts get pinned to a designated bulletin board for the missing student to retrieve upon their arrival next class.

To successfully implement this strategy, like any new routine, repetition and reminders will be essential at the start of the year to ensure students understand their responsibility. Model the procedure several times when students are out, then continue to provide verbal cues when absent slips are needed before students seamlessly adopt the practice. It may also be helpful to assign a handful of students to be in charge of this process.

3) Maintain an organized assignment chart.

Just as valuable as keeping students organized is keeping yourself organized. Take time to develop a system for tracking assignment and homework. One strategy involves keeping a checklist on a clipboard to walk around with as you check homework. Use an A for absent students as a placeholder to remember to update that box upon the student's return to school. Students will earn their 1 homework point if they show me their assignment before the next quiz. Otherwise the A becomes a 0. You may also have an online grade book that you can use in lieu of a handwritten checklist. I recently switched to walking around with my laptop and immediately entering homework grades into our learning management system. Each homework is entered as its own 1-point assignment so that students can see exactly what they are missing, which they will need to complete and show me when finished.

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