Handling Absent Students and Homework as a High School Teacher

During the summer, one thing all teachers have to think about is what worked well in their classroom last year and what they need to change.  We all learn really quickly that how a classroom is set up can contribute to the success or struggles of your classroom management.  The easier it is for your students to do things on their own, the easier your day-to-day will be.  One thing I got sooooooo tired of was spending way too much time each morning dealing with kids who had been absent.

So thanks to another Pinterest inspiration, a few years ago I made a student center right when you walk in the room.  This put the responsibility for absences and handing in work on the kids.  Only 2 or 3 times a month do one of my 165 students come up to me and say, “I was absent yesterday” to which I respond, “I know, go check the bin.”  Here’s my system, but it’s modified since I had set this up in the entryway of my house.  Normally there would also be a spot for pens/pencils/staplers/etc.  (Here it is set up in my current classroom!)

I have 5 groups of students every day.  Each period gets a color coded group of file folders (I have a sign with their class period and coordinating color that stays up all year).  2nd period is blue (I most recently had 1st period prep).  There is a blue Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday file.  Repeat for my other periods.  Let’s say “Katie” from second period is absent on Monday.  That’s when I hand out their Compare and Contrast the Revolutionary War and French Revolution Graphic Organizer and National Anthems.  I write “Katie” on her handout and put it in the blue Monday file.

Whenever “Katie” comes back to school, she goes to the absent bin, checks the blue files for each day she was out, and takes all the papers with her name on them.  My role in this system is to make sure each assignment gets filed away.  The easiest way for me to do this is after handing the activity out to the kids, I take a paper for each absent kid, write their name on it, and file it in the appropriate color and day of the week.

In terms of getting work turned in and handing it back to students, again, putting most of the responsibility on them is what works best for me.  I have what every year I inevitably call “the black stacky thing” labeled for each period.  Each student is responsible for putting his or her classwork/homework in their period’s slot.  At the end of every day, I put each period’s set of papers in a folder labeled for each period so the papers don’t mixed up, and when it’s time for me to hand back student work I just grab the folder and pass their work back.  I usually hand work back while the kids are doing pairs/group work because it’s an extra opportunity to help a student understand something they were confused about in a one-on-one setting, or to just get that face time with individual students.

where students turn in their work

where students turn in their work

This has worked for me for a few years.  Students practice basic responsibility, I have less daily stress, the rate of “missing” assignments or misfiled assignments has gone down significantly, and my desk is a heck of a lot less cluttered!  (That might just be the best part of all this!)  To read an earlier post about how I organize my lesson plans and master files click HERE.  How do you handle absent students and work that gets turned in?

To read more tips from other teachers click HERE.