8 Ideas to Deal with Absent Students

    Absent students create additional thought and organization in every classroom. Each school and district have district policies on dealing with missing work due to absences. In my district the students are allowed number of absences plus one to make up missing work, however, this is not a hard rule. 

    If a parent requests missing work, the teacher is expected to provide it even if this consists of the entire semester. Students with accommodations are allowed to turn in work “late” and last year I was required to provide 18 weeks of missing work. It was never completed and turned it. I always tell students it is their responsibility to get the missing work but most are not responsible.

    Every time I work with new teachers, the same question comes up:  What system do I use to keep track of work for absent students?  Over the years, I have used a variety of systems.  Rather than prescribe one, I usually give my new teachers a list of ideas. 

    1. Assign each student a buddy student.  These buddies are responsible for getting an extra worksheet, writing the absent students name on it and placing it in a file folder labeled for that period. When students return, they know to check the folder. This works well and gives students a sense of community, but still relies on students checking the folder. 

    2. The teacher keeps a bin labeled with 1-31 for the days of the month.  Each day, after taking attendance, the teacher places extra worksheets in the correct day and when students return, they check the bin. This works well if bin is accessible, and you make sure that you do not run out of papers.  Some students lose papers and know they can get extras from the bin. 

    3. The teacher keeps a bin labeled with 1-31 and a student helper writes the names of absent students on a sheet with what was missed. When students return, they check the bin for missed work. Students love a job in the class and are eager to help out. Same drawback as 2. 

    4. The teacher keeps a “While You Were Out” Notebook at front of the room.  Work for the day is kept in a sheet protector.  When students return, they check the notebook, take the worksheets needed. Works well but needs to be monitored so students don’t just take extra sheets. 

    5. A clipboard is used for each period or class and hung on the wall.  Worksheets/handouts for each absent student are placed on the clipboard. Students retrieve their work from the clipboard when they return.  I used this for a couple of years and it will work, but requires monitoring. If a student loses work, they will take one from the clipboard, erase a name and write their own. 

    6. Using a  form with 2 columns (I print one from word or excel), write names of absent students in the first column. Attach the work missed with a clip to the sheet.  When students return, they retrieve their work, signing for it in the second column. Works great, you have proof students received the work.  But so what?  Even if you have proof if the parent requests it again what do you do? Added clerical work for the teacher too. 

    7. Post all assignment online, either in Google classroom, a school website or teacher website.  Students can access, print and complete to turn in. This is the easiest way to handle work, except if you use copyrighted work. It is a violation of copyright to post it online unless it is password protected. And even though everyone in the world can find access to a computer and printer, you will have the one student who says they cannot. 

    8. My current method is simple.  I label a file folder for each day.  After the lesson is over, the extra copies remain in the folder and the folder is filed in a plastic cube at the front of the room.  If a student has missed work, and they ask what we did on a certain date, I simply pull out the folder and hand them a copy. there is no remembering for me, no checking the lesson plans. 

    This resolves students who are absent, students who “lost” the original, new students who want to review what we have covered already.  This also relieves me of writing additional notes, names or details.  This also saves me the additional monitoring of helper students, and the problem when the buddy student is also absent.

    I have tried all these methods from time to time. My current method is working well this year, but that is what I have said previous years about previous methods. I may evolve to a new system next year, but so far this is working. What methods have you used and how are they working for you?  Do you have something I haven’t tried? Let me know. 

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