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Monday, January 21, 2019

How to Help Absent Students Catch Up

How do you help students who are absent to catch up?  Here are some of my best tips for helping students help themselves and how you can assist them when they struggle with catching up on their own.

How to Help Absent Students Catch Up

Have Things Set Up in the Classroom So They Can Help Themselves

"Were You Absent?" crate

I have a crate with a hanging file for each period I teach. I fill out a sheet for what we did that day or maybe even two or three days depending on if my plans are set in stone. Than I make copies. When someone is absent I just put their name on it and put it in the correct hanging file.  Student responsibility to check crate when they return.

How to Help Absent Students Catch Up

Table of contents poster

I keep a binder with all of the items students should have completed.  It's basically the same as the one each of the students keeps for my class.  The first page is the Table of contents.

This is just a laminated piece of chart paper.  I write on it with dry-erase markers to keep it updated.  It helps students see what they missed as soon as they walk in.  Students know to ask for help from either teachers or accountability students (see my explanation below) to find these assignments.  Most often, I keep them in the Absent Crate I mentioned above.

How to Help Absent Students Catch Up

Make up work poster

This is another laminated piece of chart paper.  I write the graded assignments on this one.  Most often, these will not be kept in the Absent Crate because I want to make sure:
1.  Students are given the proper testing environment, if necessary
2.  Students are given the proper assistance or information in order for it to be a proper assessment

How to Help Absent Students Catch Up

Online homework/assignments calendar

My county uses an online repository called Blackboard, but you could just as easily have a classroom website with a Google Calendar that lists the daily homework and assignments.  I will often take pictures of the notes written on the board and attach them to the calendar so students know what needs to be done regarding those assignments.

Use Accountability Students 

These are the students who are organized, usually finish before other students, and are looking for a way to help in the classroom.  A good way to let them help is to have one of them fill out a "While you were out sheet" for the missing student.  It has a short description of what they did in class and the homework assigned.

A word of caution for this technique:  If you have a student fill out a form I suggest that you sign off on it that it is accurate. 

Making Up Stations and Labs

Divide the learning/lab into several stations

That way if a student is absent for a day or two, they can still make it up while working with the other students in the days following their return to school.

What About Students Who Are Absent for Several Days?

First, decide what assignments you must have for assessment purposes.
These are the assignments you want to help students tackle first.

Next, decide if you can modify any assignments.
Sometimes we give assignments for enrichment.  Sometimes we give assignments to help students dig deeper and think critically.  I'm not saying you shouldn't give these type of assignments to students who are chronically absent, but you may want to cut out any extra work that doesn't directly relate to what you will be assessing on the final test.

Be flexible with due dates.
My policy is that I give two days for every day the student is absent for them to turn things in.  That being said, I remain as flexible as possible.  If a student is working diligently to complete an assignment but it's taking a little longer, I tend to support that whenever possible.  To me, the learning is more important than following a strict deadline when a student is trying to catch up.

Decide what needs to be done at school and what can be sent home.
Things like labs and assessments obviously need to be done at school.  Things like vocabulary and study guides can be sent home for most students who don't have special needs.  If you send assignments home, you may want to communicate with the parents what you will be sending home and when it is due, along with any special instructions.  

Decide if you can exempt any assignments.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, students just can't make up the same amount of work that their classmates completed while they were absent.  In those cases, I look at everything I assigned a grade for during the period of time the student was absent and I decide which of those things to exempt (leave blank in my gradebook).  

How do you help your students catch up?  Which of the things I mentioned will you be using in the future?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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