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Does this sound familiar? Students from the class that just ended and the one coming up were all clustered around my desk. We were in the middle of flu season so many students had been absent. They all wanted to know what they had missed. “Where are the note sheets?” ” I didn’t understand this homework question.” “Where do I turn this in?” “When can I make up the lab I missed?” Students were throwing papers on the already huge pile on my desk. I somehow managed to keep my cool, but I vowed at that moment that I had to find a way to handle absent work.
Ideas to Handle Absent Work
I’m honestly not sure if there’s a perfect method out there … I certainly didn’t find one! But I did come up with a few ways to be more organized and to put more of the onus of responsibility on the students.
Placing as much work as you can online makes it easier for absent students to check on what happened in your classroom that day.
Most online learning management systems allow you to upload files and documents. This makes it relatively easy to make the work available to students. The trick is to get in the habit of doing it EVERY DAY. Once they get used to using your online system, they’ll expect it to be there when they need it.
Depending on how far ahead you plan, you can even put a whole week’s worth of work online, along with everything students will need to go along with each day’s lesson. You can attach powerpoints, notes, homework, worksheets, and video links, making everything very accessible.
Having your assignments and daily agenda online is also very helpful to parents. It makes it easy for them to check to see what work their student needs to do.
There are several options for setting up your online classroom. The following 5 options are all classified as Learning Management Systems, or LMS.
- Google Classroom is well known and easy to use.
- Blackboard – was mostly used at the post-secondary level, but now offers Blackboard Classroom Unite, which is specifically for K – 12 students.
Other Digital Options
- Google Sites – has a specific system just for educators. You can set up your own website or class blog and add your assignments.
- Your school website – most school districts have a page for each teacher.
- Blogger, WordPress, and Wix – all offer free versions. You can set up your own classroom blog and use it for more than just assignments.
There is definitely a learning curve with most of these options, but once you have things up and running it becomes relatively easy to add to it every day or week.
I found that even using online methods I still needed to have paper versions of the work available. Students often wanted materials right then to use in a study hall. Here are a few ways that I’ve used to manage the paper.
- I purchased two hanging file holders (one for each of my separate courses) that each had 5 sections. I labeled them with the days of the week and at the end of each day I placed any extra worksheets or printables in the appropriate section. Students could see online what they missed and then gather the materials they needed.
I made sure to label the paper materials exactly the same way as I did online, so students could find exactly what they needed without too many questions.
Then on Friday afternoon I cleared out the sections to get ready for the coming week. The materials that I gathered on Friday went into a separate folder with the title of the unit on it. This was for any students that might miss work that spanned more than one week … for example, a Friday and Monday.
“while you were out” forms
- Another system that students used really well consisted of a milk crate, file folders, and a binder.
I set up a milk crate with file folders labeled 1 – 31 for each day of the month. Then I set up a binder filled with “While You Were Out” forms where I could list the work completed each day and what materials were needed.
When students were absent, they checked the binder for the appropriate day to see what they needed, then found the materials in the matching date folder. It took probably six weeks of students asking me what they missed, with my response “Go check the binder” before they really learned to use it. Once they consistently remembered it worked like a charm!
I had a specific section in the back of my classroom where all student supplies were kept. Students would even come in when they had a study hall and grab what they needed. This worked even if I had a class since everything was in the back of the room. Often my class didn’t even know anyone had come in!
If you’d like to use the “While You Were Out Form,” download it here!
Turning In Back Work
Have you ever been handed something and then set it down somewhere and couldn’t find it again?
This happened to me once too often. A student would hand me some back work that they had completed, often while I was busy with something else. Then I inevitably would set it down somewhere in the room and then totally forget they gave it to me, or I’d lose it altogether.
My solution was to have “Turn It In Bins” in the back of my room. I had two, one for my Honors classes and one for my regular classes. Anything turned in late was placed in the bin instead of in my hand.
Every few days I’d gather the papers from the bins and log the completed work into our online grading system. Then I’d pass the work back when students were busy working on something in class.
Students needed to have these materials since most of them were required to be in their Interactive Binders which were graded quarterly. See this earlier post on how I used Interactive Binders instead of interactive notebooks.
Now I don’t have clusters of students around my desk anymore! There are still questions I need to answer and make up work I need to help with, but using these systems has at least tamed the chaos!
No single system will work for every teacher, but I hope these ideas have inspired you! Do you have any other tips? Please share!