Ways to handle late work, from Mindsteps

From Mindsteps
December 12, 2013

PD Case Study: Late Work

We started working with Jill's school a few years ago to help them develop a more rigorous instructional program. When we first met Jill, she told us that she already ran a highly rigorous classroom but sadly, some of her students were not ready for more rigor. When we asked her what she meant, Jill shared this example:

"Take late work. I give rigorous homework and several of my students don’t turn it in. They hardly ever do homework and I end up having to chase them down for missing assignments."

We were intrigued. Immediately we started searching for root causes as to why some of her students weren’t doing their homework each night. As we were working with Jill, we noticed something else. The process Jill was using to chase down students who hadn’t turned in their homework was really quite clunky.

First, when a student didn’t turn in his homework, Jill would make a mark in her grade book. Then each week, she would post a list of all the assignments that were collected that week and under each assignment, list the students who had not turned in their assignments. If students were absent, then she would meet with students when they returned and create a missing work packet for them to complete. Then she would call home to parents or send emails notifying parents of the missing assignments. Next, she would talk to students individually about when they were going to turn in their missing work. Sometimes, she would keep students in during lunch to complete their missing assignments. Sometimes, students would claim to have turned in the assignment and accuse Jill of losing the assignment. Once the student turned in the assignment, Jill would stamp it with a date stamp, grade the assignment, and take off a few points for each day that the assignment was late. Then, at the end of each marking period, she would host a make up day after school for students who were still missing assignments to come in and make them up. It was all very complicated and tedious to manage.

While we continued to work on ways to help Jill help her students complete and turn in their homework, Claire, one of our consultants came up with a brilliant way to streamline the missing work process for Jill.

First, we helped Jill create an assignment notebook. Every time she handed out an assignment or materials, she would put a copy in the notebook. Next, we helped her create a “Late Work Ticket,” (you can download an example here) and keep a stack of them on the supply table in the back of her classroom. When she collected the homework, every student was required to turn in something. If they had their assignment, they would turn it in. If they were missing their assignment, they would complete the late work ticket writing the assignment down, explaining why they did not have the assignment, stating when they planned on turning it in, signing their names, and turn it in. When Jill graded each assignment, she would record the grade or the late work ticket and file the tickets in a folder. When a student turned in the missing assignment, he would staple it to the late work ticket and turn it in. During her make up days, Jill simply pulled out the missing work folder, handed out one late work ticket at a time, and students would work on that assignment, turn it in and get their next late work ticket. If a student missed an assignment because he was absent, he could retrieve the materials from the assignment folder, complete it, and turn it in with a late work ticket attached. This significantly streamlined Jill’s process and helped her students become more accountable for turning in their work.

What we find over and over is that we all have systems that are clunky and not working. But, we often don’t feel that we have the time to address or change them. However, if you can look for ways to tweak your systems, streamline them, make them more efficient, you not only save yourself a lot of frustration, you can actually help your students take on more ownership and responsibility in the process.