Work Habits: Missing Work

If you were a fly on the wall in any teachers' lounge, one of the common frustrations you will hear discussed is missing work.   How do you get your students to do all of their work?  

Through my years of teaching, my missing work philosophy changed.  When I first began teaching, it was a black and white issue.  The assignment was expected on the day it was due.  I only accepted missing work from students that were absent.  If parents questioned my policy, I always gave them the standard party line, "I am preparing your child for life."

One day I had a parent question this a little further.  You know there are parents that can question things the right way and others who question things the wrong way.  This parent was one of the right way parents.  He pointed out that in real life, mortgage companies have a grace period.  You can pay your mortgage payment a few days late without a late fee.  Some utilities companies also work this way.  But, the electric company won't keep your electricity on forever.  If you go a few months without paying your electric bill, your electricity will be turned off.  Could I make my late work policy more like the real world?  

It made sense to me.  I readjusted to policy to make it more like real life.  I set the date of two weeks before the end of the grading period as my "electricity turn off" date.  After this date, late work would be marked a zero.  I thought it would be too complicated to set a specific number of days for a grace period.  Instead, I set the last Friday of every month as my "catch up" day.  All work assigned that month could be turned in without a penalty.  Because it was a set day of every month, students and parents were aware of the day and it became part of our routine.  Work turned in the following month would be marked down 15%.  I think my students and parents were more engaged with my late work policy because they saw that it was like real life. 

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help your students improve their work habits.

Write the class work and homework in the same section of your white board or chalkboard every day.  You want to train your students to look there.  The visual support is very important with students who have trouble turning in their work.  

Do your students write their assignments on a calendar or chart of some type? Train them to highlight the assignments AFTER they turn it in.  This way when they are packing up at the end of the day, they can easily see which assignments AREN'T highlighted.  Those are the assignments that they need to take home.

Pair up your students at the end of the day.  These are pack-up pals.  Pack-up pals will double check to make sure assignments were written down correctly on their calendar or work chart PLUS make sure they take home the needed books and materials to complete their homework.

Put your students in groups of three.  These groups are study buddies.  Study buddies will exchange phone numbers.  If a study buddy has a question about a homework assignment, he or she can call one of his or her study buddies.

If your school uses an electronic communication system, utilize it consistently.  Consistency is the key!  

Do you have any strategies that have helped your students turn in their work on time?


Unknown said...

I like the idea you gave about highlighting assignments on their planner AFTER they have completed/turned in.

I'm implementing that one! Thanks!

Stacey said...

I love your ideas of "Pack Up Pals". This would get rid of so much of my end of the day frustrations! Thank you!
Teaching Ever After

teachtrue2 said...

Thanks so much for sharing so many tips for dealing with the dreaded "missing work". It's a many-pronged approach that I want to try as soon as we return from Spring Break.

Unknown said...

Excellent ideas. I can identify with your comment about parents asking the right and wrong ways! May I add that their motive for asking also matters to me...are they trying to get their child, or themselves, off the hook? Or are they trying to help their child learn how to be responsible?
We use electronic gradebooks. I keep paper rosters of each week's assignments and I enter my grades for the previous week after school on Mondays. I used to honor any work turned in at any time during the marking period. I spent large amounts of time reminding, making new copies, updating late work lists, recording late grades, etc. Late work creates stress for students who are chronically behind. They dig themselves into a hole and they quickly lose hope of digging themselves out.
Now, I post the following policy on my website, at Open House, etc:
"All assignments are due the day after they're assigned unless otherwise noted. Work turned in late can receive no higher than 4/5 points. Work must be turned in by the Monday following the due date in order to receive credit."
Not one student, parent, or administrator has ever questioned this policy. It is tough but fair and allows the student to focus on the current week's work.

Carissa Peck said...

I always take late work, but it loses 10% for each day it is late. I think of it as the late fee :)