Help me revamp my late/absent work policy

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Caesar753, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Apr 16, 2012

    Okay, friends, I need some advice. I've struggled with the issue of late/absent work since I started teaching. I'm going to outline some of the biggest problems here, including what I've tried, what's worked and what hasn't worked. I'd like your feedback, please. What has worked for you? What hasn't worked? Do you have any amazing ideas that might work in my classroom?

    Some background: I teach in an urban school, which means lots of behaviors, absenteeism, and homework non-compliance. I also have extremely large classes. Two of my classes are multi-level split classes, where there are multiple courses seated in the same room at the same time.

    I very rarely assign homework other than a standing assignment to review vocabulary every day for 2 or 3 minutes. Occasionally students will have to finish work that was not completed in class. Most of the time, however, I give time in class to work on activities. This is because I can monitor them and make sure that they're not cheating, so that they can use me as a resource, and, frankly, because I know that it is unlikely that they will do homework at all. I'd rather have them do it in my classroom during class than not at all.

    Our school's absent work policy is that a student gets three days to turn in work missed due to an absence. I have to comply with this policy and I generally agree with it. My biggest problem here is that many students are absent every day. There are regularly 3 or 4 students gone in every class period, sometimes many more than that. On Friday last week I had 7 students gone in one period, 8 gone in another, and 15 gone in another. All these absences are very difficult for me to keep up with, organizationally speaking. How do you do it?

    Furthermore, I don't usually have worksheets or bookwork for students. Most of the time I deliver a short lesson and go over some guided practice with students, then have them do some independent practice activities. I don't normally have materials to set aside for absent students. If they're gone, they miss important instruction, and it's very hard to make that up. How do you do it? To date, I've had them get notes from a classmate and given them instructions to meet with me if they still don't understand. Generally they don't make arrangements to meet with me.

    It doesn't work for me to have or make additional practice activities due to the nature of the material. Without getting into a big discussion about the hows and whys of that, I'll just say that there are limitations on the number of practice questions and sentences that I can create because of the limited number and type of vocabulary words they know. I've tried doing workarounds, but it's just something that doesn't work in my class.

    Then there's the issue of correcting or going over work that has been turned in. If a student has been absent, I typically will send him out of the room while we go over the assignment (and the student receives instructions to work on the activity). The problem here is obviously that the student will never have a chance to go over the work with the rest of the class. He may miss important corrections. It's unlikely that he will come in on his own time to discuss the work with me and make corrections, so he just misses it. That causes problems down the road for obvious reasons.

    So those are some of my problems with absent work. Now onto the issue of late work....

    I don't like accepting late work. This is difficult for me because I tend to be of the belief that some students take longer to grasp a concept than others. Even so, I feel like accepting late work opens me up to a lot more plagiarized work. I've noticed that a fair number of students tend to copy work from classmates or online sources. I feel like if I allow students to turn in work after the due date, after we've gone over the work and corrected it in class or after I've handed it back with corrections, that it's very likely that several students will simply copy someone else's work. I hate the idea of giving credit for this plagiarized work, but it's so difficult for me to determine when work has been copied that it would surely happen from time to time.

    This problem of plagiarism applies not only to late work in cases where students have simply been lazy or not understood the work, but also with absent work. I find that students who are absent will often copy another classmate's work rather than attempting it on their own.

    In the past I've allowed students to turn in work at basically any time within the quarter. This is a paperwork nightmare for me, given the number of students that I have. I can't handle receiving literally 1,000 pieces of paper in the week before the end of the quarter. It's a mess. Plus, most of the work is probably plagiarized.

    The teacher next door to me has a two-week rule--no late work accepted after two weeks. His students accept this rule. I don't believe that mine would, and I believe that mine would become argumentative and defiant. I think that it has to do with gender roles and some other things, which is a bigger issue than I want to get into now.

    This year I've tried applying a 50% penalty for late work. If a student turns in work late, not due to an absence, it will automatically lose 50%. Ethically, I dislike this policy for the reasons I mentioned above. Logistically and practically, it seems to work better than a free-for-all situation where I accept late work at any time for any reason. It also seems to work better than me not accepting any late work at all--kids get very upset about zeros, even if those zeros are happening because students are being lazy or off task.

    This is turning into an enormous post, so I'm going to stop it here. There's probably more to my situation than I've posted, so feel free to ask questions. I'll share more information as it seems appropriate. I really value the advice of the userbase here, and I hope that you guys have some ideas for me. I'm willing to change things up and do things differently if it means that more of my students will understand the material and perform better. I would like to not add a whole bunch of extra work to my already-full workload, though, so just keep that in mind.

    Thank you so much.
     
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  3. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Apr 16, 2012

    Before I start suggesting things, I'm a bit curious about what you actually assign as classwork and homework. So if you don't give worksheets or bookwork, what exactly do you "check" or grade for the practice part of students grades?
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Apr 17, 2012

    I do occasionally give both worksheets and bookwork, but this is fairly infrequent--as in once per week or less often. Most of the practice work that I have students do is along the lines of translating individual sentences, most of which are created by me, and practicing declining and conjugating (skills specific to foreign language classrooms).

    For example, if we're working on the future tense, I might ask students to conjugate 5 verbs of their choice in the future tense. I might also give them 5 sentences to translate, each of which features a verb in the future tense. The culminating activity is a multi-paragraph translation from the textbook--this is the once per week bookwork--that features the future tense plus other grammatical constructions we've learned.
     
  5. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Here is one thing I have done to combat late work. When students turn something in late, it goes in a pile and that is where it stays. I only grade late assignments twice - once at interims and once at the end of the marking period. I explain to students that grading an assignment late is a great deal of work - I have to change my mindset for each assignment - what was the assignment, what did I expect, etc. I need to find a key or rubric for each assignment. Therefore, I only address late work twice a MP. Until then, the 0 stands in the gradebook. Since we have a live gradebook that parents can see, and their grades determine their eligibility for activities each week, this has helped, and at least it has helped me with paper work.
     
  6. Curiouscat

    Curiouscat Comrade

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    Apr 17, 2012

    Silver spoon,
    When a student is absent and turns the work in within the schools policy's grace period, are you counting that as late work too?
     
  7. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Apr 17, 2012

    My middle school has the policy that students can turn in late work until the end of the unit. So basically, students have until they are tested on the material to turn in the work. I can see this helping with the assignments turned in late at the end of the marking period but not with the learning and mastery of material.

    Another idea might be to have students work at their own pace through the material...not sure if your students will work during class without disruptions though. For some units in math, I set a general timeline, but really allow the students to work at their own pace through the material. I teach through a set of mini lessons when students are ready to move on. The students do practice and check their own work using keys that I create. Then the students take a quiz. Each day I can write a different quiz for the levels that students are (it's really just one question). Either they know it or they don't. If they don't, they get more practice. If they do, they move on.

    Maybe this summer you could try taping some of your lessons, using a flipped classroom type of set up. It might help with students missing information or being absent.
     
  8. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Apr 17, 2012

    No, but our students only get one day per absence to turn it in, so unless they are absent for a long time, I usually haven't gotten to the assignment yet.
     
  9. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Apr 17, 2012

    Homework: As many days' grace as the student was absent. Thereafter not accepted.

    Assignments (papers et al): As many days' grace as the student was absent. Thereafter, minus 5 per day late up to a max of -30. Accepted until the end of the quarter, at which time the grade is zero.

    Tests: No points deductions for lateness. Continuous pestering from yours truly. Becomes a zero at the end of the quarter.

    All late work goes into a late folder, labeled when I put it in as to date turned in. I grade the folder on Saturdays.
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I've looked into that, but I think that access to technology would be a problem. I only have two student computers in my classroom, but there are like 40+ students in every class. Besides that, many of my students don't have internet access or computers at home. So, I don't see that sort of set up working at all for me, although I think it would be a good idea otherwise.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    While I think this is a good idea in many subjects, I don't think it would work in mine. Mine in a very specialized subject, one with which students are completely unfamiliar before entering my class. I have to do a lot of explicit, direct instruction to explain material that serves as background information as well as new content. A self-paced option for most of my students would result in extreme confusion. Besides that, I think that the plagiarism issue is so rampant that it would just be generally bad.
     
  12. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    This is sort of how I handle things already. I don't have a set day where I handle late work, but I do hold off on it until I've finished grading all the current work. One thing that has been a problem for other teachers in the past at my school is that admin doesn't back up this sort of practice. I know that admin has told teachers that if a student turns it in, the student should expect to get it back and graded within a week or so. I'm hesitant to do anything that my admin won't support me on, you know? At least not as an official policy anyways.
     
  13. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Apr 17, 2012

    For absent students, could you record the lectures for them to watch on one of the two computers?

    Maybe you could keep an answer key that they can use to check their work once they show you?

    To stop all the copying of assignments, you could only give back assignments once all the late assignments are turned in. Kind of a logistical nightmare though. Or you could offer an alternative late work assignment (but that could be quite a bit of work). Or students would need to turn in a late assignment and then do a one question quiz in front of you...
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I could record lectures, but then they'd miss new instruction.

    An answer key works as long as there is one correct answer. But when I give students some choice, as in pick 5 verbs or write your own sentences or whatever, there's no way to create an answer key for that.

    I've tried hanging onto assignments until they're all turned in, but it's just not working. I have so many students and so much absenteeism that I would be hanging onto assignments for weeks and weeks, which would completely eliminate any benefits of timely feedback.

    An alternate assignment is unrealistic given my subject area. Basically, because of the nature of the language, students have a limited vocabulary and a limited understanding of case endings. That means that we can only work with words ending in -a, for example. We can talk about water, family, island, house, and forest. There are only so many ways to put those words into sentences and only so many words to use as practice. I use them all up for our regular practice work that I don't have any "leftovers" for alternate assignments.

    As far as on-the-spot quizzes....No, I don't really want to deal with all that. It's too much work for me and it means missing instructional time.
     
  15. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Apr 17, 2012

    I'm not trying to be a negative nelly about all this. It's just that I feel like I've tried so many things already....

    I definitely still appreciate the feedback. I hope that no one thinks I'm being dismissive of their ideas, because that's not my intent.
     
  16. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Apr 17, 2012

    I think everyone understands the late work/absent work issues. We all have them. My students were terrible about catching up until I made them take a sheet home to get signed for each assignment late...but I teach middle school. It can be a logistical nightmare to collect them, but it has kept my missing work much smaller.
     
  17. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think it feels like the late work issue is such a major issue because I have so many students. Seriously, I have between 240-250 students right now. If even 10% of my students are gone on any given day, that's 25 kids to process late work for. And most days there are more than 10% of the students gone. It's a mess and I can't stand it. I feel so overwhelmed.
     
  18. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    By high school, it really needs to be the students responsibility to check in with you to make sure they that understand what they missed. Even in middle school, I give the students the assignment and expect that the parents help them or that they see me on their lunch to get help (we have a common lunch).

    How do absent students get work? Do you have a common place that you put everything so it's easy for you?
     
  19. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I put everything I can on Edmodo. Still, though, that doesn't account for information missed because it was in-class lectures or presentations or for practice work that I come up with on the fly.
     
  20. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    So I guess I'll tell you what I've done before. I hardly ever gave worksheets because we never had enough copies to make them. But I did have a huge PDF of example EOC (state end of course exam) questions. I put as many as these as possible onto one page and grouped them into goals. I would print out whatever sheet corresponded to the goal they missed. It was easy because I could just print it off my computer and hand to it them when they would say "what work did I miss". So they never got the actual work they missed, but they did see the content. We did so many hands-on activities there's just no way for me to re-create it with kids who were gone. And during their warm up I would tell them to copy yesterday's notes from someone else.
     
  21. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    One teacher I work with keeps a binder. Basically, one student makes a copy of their notes and puts a copy of any work into the binder for absent students. The teacher then also puts a key in the binder for work given---it is her copy. You could easily print a powerpoint if you have them or even have a student scan or type things into edmodo for you.
     
  22. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Apr 17, 2012

    This is similar to what I do. I photocopy the notes, write down the assignment as the first set of kids are doing it, then make a copy for every kid who was absent. I write their name on the paper and the date they were absent on the work to be handed in. Then it goes in the period folder on my makeup work board.

    If your kids are taking notes based on lecture, see if your ESE department can give you some of that carbon paper for notes, and have a kids take notes on that paper and give you the copy.

    For kids who weren't absent, I flat-out don't take late work unless it's a summative grade. I have enough going on without trying to figure out how many points I should take off because it was late. I started this policy after a kid literally skipped all but two days of a quarter and handed me all of her makeup work the day my grades were due.

    Our policy is 2 days per EXCUSED absence, up to 10 days. Students with unexcused absences cannot receive credit for makeup work until the absence is excused (which is a nightmare to figure out).
     
  23. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Apr 17, 2012

    Being in NC, I'm assuming that your district is pushing for more formative assessments and fewer summative. I've started grading fewer things and it is making my life a lot easier.

    It is more difficult to get some students to buy into doing anything unless they are getting a grade for it. So you would really need to know if your administration would support you following the directives and training on NCFalcon. If they just give it lip-service, you might be up a creek.

    Fewer graded assignments mean fewer things to worry about after absences.

    I'm a hard butt though. I believe in high school students should be 99% responsible for their own learning. I do make notations in my gradebook about homework not being completed so if a student isn't doing that well I can point towards that as a being a possible cause.

    We have a policy of 3 days for every day absent as well. For the graded assignments I will decided per assignment how it will be handled. Sometimes I'll just exempt a student from it since the point of doing the exercise has been missed now that we've moved on. Sometimes they have to come after school to make up a lab so we'll schedule it when they return.

    Mostly, I put it on them. They are in high school. It is up to them to come and see me to turn in stuff or get missed assignments. I have my lesson plans posted so they can see what they missed and THEY have to make up their work. I don't remind students about assignments that were due on the day they were absent - I expect them to be turned in the first day they return.
     
  24. curlyone

    curlyone Rookie

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    Apr 17, 2012

    For absences:
    I print a slip of paper that has what was turned in, the agenda, and the day's bellwork with any handouts stapled to it. This goes in their folder and they are responsible for picking up their work. Students are well informed of when I am avaliable to help them if they don't understand what what we did while they were gone. Students have one day for each day missed to turn in absent assignments. If they don't turn the assignment in, it's a zero! If they miss a test, they have to come in during lunch within one week to take the make-up, if they don't it's a zero!

    Late work:
    Not accepted!

    Oh, and no name papers? They have had their name for about 15 years and they have been writing it for about 10. They are more than capable of writing their name on their assignments! No name papers recieve a ZERO and are placed on the "No Name Wall of Shame".

    :2cents:
     
  25. roxstar

    roxstar Companion

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    May 5, 2012

    Some thoughts...

    Though I am in middle school, I teach in a very similar situation. There are usually 2-7 kids absent from each of my classes and trying to manage makeup work has been a daunting task to say the least. I work in a very high poverty location and many of these students have gotten so used to failing that the idea that not turning in their work gets them an F means little to nothing.

    I read through all of the posts here because I too have been looking for the answer and like you, found reasons why most of the suggestions would not adequately solve my problem.

    I am trying something new right now with one of my classes. I am using them as guinea pigs for next year. One thing I am working on is having them work on goal setting and assignment tracking. Our kids just do not realize that their efforts contribute to their success or failure. Kids either ask me why I gave them an F or don't understand why they have a B etc. My fifth period students now have an assignment log. When I give an assignment, they are to write it down along with when it is due. When they turn it in, they note the date and when I return it they note their grade. On the back is a goal setting template where they are to set a short term performance based goal such as...I will turn in all of my homework this week, or I will complete all of my warm-up assignments. The goal sheet also asks them to list the things that are stopping them from doing this now, and what they will do instead to achieve it. I got this idea from an article I found on google. I don't think I can attach things yet so I will find the link. It's short and was really eye opening for me. I am planning on having them visit their goals mid-week to assess how they are doing and to decide if they need to make any changes.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CG0QFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ascd.org%2FASCD%2Fpdf%2Fjournals%2Fed_lead%2Fel_199009_alderman.pdf&ei=VYqlT57HL4Pu2gWNvKyoAg&usg=AFQjCNFPaooyI5mc5syFe7JkcyM5oW9aUQ&sig2=JJB1pdeIaAdqVNI8sQs2Ng

    I also found and modified an absent form. I am going to give the form to any absent student's partner and it will be their job to log the objective for the day, any assignments or quizzes taken, and write down the assigned homework for the day. This form will be clipped to the absent student's notebook and must be signed and returned to me when the student returns. During the warm-up I am planning to go over the form with the student to make sure they understand what they missed and date stamp it.

    I don't like things that are too paper intensive or cumbersome so I like the idea of another student filling it out for their partner and just taking 1 minute when the student returns to refer to it so they can't say they never got it. I am not sure if I will need to figure out a way to motivate the partner to do this...maybe something as simple as a jolly rancher :) I don't normally give candy but...

    I'd be happy to send this to you via email if you would like. It's on my school computer so I'll have to send on Monday.

    Now, this is of course all theoretical. I will let you know if it works!
     
  26. queenie

    queenie Groupie

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    May 5, 2012


    Wow. That sounds like a nightmare! I teach in an elementary school, so I don't really have a lot of experience with your particular situation, so take it for what it's worth, but just reading your post a few things popped out to me:

    First, you are the teacher and you have expectations. The kids should know these expectations and they should know what happens to them if your expectations are not met. It doesn't matter if they like it or not, because it's just the way it is. Giving in to their anger and defiance surely isn't best for them (or you) in the long run.

    Second, you seem to be taking all the responsibility for THEM missing school. Regardless of the situation, they need to know that making up work and turning it in in a timely manner is THEIR responsibility.I would find a way to post make up work daily and have them be responsible for picking it up and turning it back in. Maybe a makeup work center somewhere in the room.

    Third, since you obviously can't provide personal reviews to students who are absent every single time, you are going to have to come up with alternate activities for them to do. Sometimes it may be possible to give them an oral quiz or a shorter assignment just to get an assessment done, no? Could you not just hold off on grading work until the deadline for having it turned in is past, OR could you not just alter the assignments slightly, but enough to guarantee no plagiarism (for example, a different writing prompt or even vs. odd numbered problems)?

    I think maybe one solution would be to provide dated folders...write the days of the week on five folders and every day put extra pages to be done in that day's folder. Then when a child misses Wednesday and Thursday, they can come in on Friday and get one copy of each activity from the Wed and Thurs folder. If you empty each day's folder as you add today's items, that cycles the folders through a 5 day period. In other words, if you empty out Monday's folder the next Monday, people would have had 5 school days to have picked up absent work- more than enough to meet your school's standards. Kids will just have to have their papers turned in on time. Period.

    Does this sound feasible?

    As far as late work, just deduct 10% for each school day that it's late. May take a while, but if you're consistent, kids will get the picture.

     
  27. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    May 5, 2012

    Thanks for your suggestions. I don't think that I'm taking responsibility for their absenteeism, so it surprises me that you got that out of my post. What I'm trying to take responsibility for is my job, which is to teach them, and that is made difficult by the fact that so many of them are gone so often. I'm trying to come up with a workaround, something that will help them get the material they need but won't be overly taxing on me.

    I make my expectations crystal clear. I also follow the school and district policies regarding late work. I agree that it shouldn't matter if they like the policies or not, but the simple fact is that it does matter when their negative feelings turn into negative behaviors. I can't count on the office following through on discipline matters at my school, so I need to be able to handle everything inside the classroom. I would prefer to find a way to work with students in a way that is effective and successful. Avoiding behavior problems is a plus. I am seeing a very clear and obvious connection between the current policy and behaviors, and I need a concrete, practical way to resolve that.

    I absolutely agree that late work is the responsibility of the student. What I'm seeing in actual practice, however, is that my admin isn't enforcing that and is allowing students an unlimited, and therefore unreasonable, amount of time to turn in late/missing/absent work. What I'm also seeing is that parents are flipping out on me when I enforce school and district policies regarding late/missing/absent work, and admin isn't stepping in there either. I am absolutely sick and tired of being yelled at (literally) and accused of being a lazy teacher when I try to stick with the policy and not give make-up work to a student three months after it was originally due.

    Folders are fine but they really only work for worksheets and handouts and lists of book activities. They don't address the need for students to get notes and on-the-spot practice and review. Answer keys mean nothing without an explanation, which I can't do on paper because it's too complicated.

    Points/percentage deductions for late work is where I'm leaning, although I do have some personal ethical struggles with that.

    I'm not trying to be negative or dismissive. This has been a very difficult year for me in the classroom, especially when it comes to parents and very, very entitled (also lazy, absent, academically dishonest, and/or underskilled) students. I'm trying so hard to turn what is a big problem for me into something positive that benefits everyone, including me and including students and parents.
     
  28. CanukTeach

    CanukTeach Companion

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    May 6, 2012

    Hi,

    I also have problems with kids being absent. We have looked at all the reasons and usually it is simply that the students are missing all their schooling. Our region has no "claws" so to speak to make kids come to school so we use all sorts of interventions to try to address the problem with being absent. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. To manage those who are absent I use the following approach. I also have taught (and used this approach) while teaching a second language to students with very limited knowledge of that language. This is what I do:

    - I mark 5-7 assignments/tests per semester per class (these are summative)
    - I provide feedback on probably about 30+ assignments per semester/per class (these are formative)

    I track if students hand in their formative work. Depending on the class/grade I will use different strategies for follow up on the formative work (sometimtes I make students come in for detentions, sometimes I won't let them start their summative until they finish the formative, sometimes I inform parents, sometimes the office, sometimes I let some of the formative work 'go' - I give it to them and leave it up to them if they finish it).

    With the 5-7 summative assignments I accept them whenever the students hand them in. I do have deadlines and we do have consequences for failing to submit work (phone calls home, detentions, etc). I find these work with academic students in Grade 11/12 and all students in Grade 9/10 but kids who are absent a great deal in 11/12 don't always seem concerned about any of these consquences. My goal is to evaluate what they know. We actually are not allowed to remove marks for late work. I agree with this policy but that is another post. Generally, I find keeping track of 5-7 assignments/tests per assignment is pretty okay. If students are really late I do sometimes assign alternate assignments. Again, this isn't too hard to do when I only have 5-7 assignments to do this with.

    Canuk
     
  29. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    May 28, 2012

    I'm bumping this thread in hopes of getting some more ideas. I appreciate everything that has been offered here so far. I'm considering a few of the suggestions and hoping for more. Thanks!
     
  30. dizzykates

    dizzykates Habitué

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    May 29, 2012

    My solution is this:
    Once a month I print a coy of what is missing from my grade book. It shows the student name and the assignments. Then I go through and attach whatever activties or assignments are missing. If it was an oral thing then I attach a make up assignment which owuld obviously look different. Knowing I have many absent students, I have basically started planning this extra make up assignment when I write my lessons. I then give them to studens and that is the end of it. At the end of the term I make them call home and leave a message about which assignments are missing. and that they have received them.
     

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