Joel, an excellent blogger, over at So You Want to Teach? posed some interesting questions regarding absences and make-up work for students, and I thought I’d post my ideas here.
1. How do you handle make-up work for students?
I have a couple systems in place in my classroom. Besides having an online calendar with every assignment posted and ready for a download, I also keep every hand-out and any board notes in a tray in my classroom. Each class has its own hand-outs tray. I have a quick list of instructions for students to follow when they return from an absence detailing my procedures:
- Ask a neighbor first what occurred in class the day before.
- Retrieve any hand-outs from the appropriate tray.
- If needed, go to my website and download any missed information or assignments.
- Ask three before me. (I have students talk to three others about how to complete the previous day’s work. If those three cannot do so, I need to reteach the concept.)
- Make an appointment for individual assistance if time is not available during class.
Because of my website, many students download their assignments or the day’s activities prior to leaving for trips, which is also helpful.
2. What steps do you take for students with excessive absences?
Generally, students cannot pass my English classes if not in class. However, I want everyone to attend. After three days I call or e-mail the home, though after five days school procedures must be followed and the counseling department and the administrators take over for me.
Students who are absent for long durations of time (medical reasons and the like) must keep abreast of the course’s activities online and through study buddies from class. Most often students will e-mail or call regularly to keep up with the work. Unfortunately, I can’t recreate in-class experiences, so students have an extra incentive to return as soon as possible.
I have found that my approach with students brings them back into the classroom if their absences are not medical or vacationing ones. I sit down the student and simply ask why he/she isn’t attending. Almost every time I do this, the student will return. Only the most extreme cases refuse to return, and these students are usually having major issues outside the classroom which are outside of my control. Relationships are critical.
3. What criteria do you use to determine any exceptions to this policy, if any?
In truth, I have stated policies (basically, a week to make up work) but really do not follow them because I want everyone to complete the work. Since classwork and homework only makes up 10% of a student’s grade, I don’t worry about students turning in late work. Plus, if students don’t participate in class this shows up on the tests, in the papers, and in the projects.
I do not punish students by taking away points for assignment tardiness. I believe any score entered should be a reflection of the students’ abilities and not their work ethic. The only exception to this are missing major assignments (tests, quizzes, projects, and papers), which must be completed without exception, essentially course requirements.
Classwork and homework is somewhat optional. If a student can pass major assignments without turning in the practices, I will excuse the practices because the culminating activities are really the focus and the telling assignments. Otherwise, I have the student go back and make up the missed work and redo the culminating activity.