As teachers, we’ve all had to deal with late work / homework from students. Whether it is a legitimate illness or a case of chronic truancy, dealing with late / missing work is annoying to say the least.
It is a battle that we deal with on a daily basis, putting both students and teachers at a disadvantage. Unprepared students have difficulty participating in class activities. Teachers may have to scramble to produce an extra copy of an assignment or use class time to get a student up to speed with what he missed. Lack of homework leads to poor test and quiz grades.
Students’ poor grades can also lead to pressure on teachers from administrators or put us at odds with parents.
Students come from such diverse backgrounds and home lives that it is difficult to impose one set of consequences for missing work. There is often no “one size fits all” solution for this problem. Sometimes there are exceptions and circumstances that require a special solution. Other times, a teacher has to put her foot down and demand accountability. In either situation, dealing with the absence of student work can become especially difficult as the school year comes to an end.
While there is no magic answer or easy solution, consider the following ideas as you decide how to deal with students’ deficient work habits:
Even when it may seem too late in the year, don’t be afraid to elicit help from guidance counselors, colleagues, coaches or activity advisors and especially parents.
Don’t assume that a student’s parents know their child is behind. Unfortunately, communication between parents and children is not always as effective as it should be. Contact parents as soon as you see a problem and be sure to document such conversations. Consider using email and “copy” a guidance counselor or administrator by on the message.
Don’t overlook other help outside the classroom, too. You may be surprised how much impact a coach or advisor may have.
For example, a student of mine who had done little work all year was very motivated when the coach and I would not back down to let him play baseball due to his failing grades. He sat on the bench until he had established a passing grade, despite the pleas of his mother.
There may be another adult with which the student has a good relationship. Positive reinforcement can come from anyone. Use this to your advantage by requesting assistance from other teachers, aides, librarians or even a secretary.
Students need to know that he has a support group, but also that everyone is on the same page. The more consistency in the student’s life, the better the results.
Investigate & Intervene
Begin to ask questions as soon as you realize there is a problem. Ask the student if there is a quiet place for him to do homework, if there is an adult to help, if they have supplies available. Listen for clues that the student is distracted.
Maybe there is a recent change in the family dynamic. Talk to the student, but also to other teachers who may have noticed the same issue. Often there are circumstances in a student’s life that we are unaware of.
Asking questions can uncover information that may help establish a plan to redirect the student.
Establish a Plan
Once you have support and information, help the student create a realistic plan for getting caught up. For example, if you discover the student’s home life seems chaotic, perhaps they can stay after to complete owed work or new work in your classroom or in the library.
Maybe there is an older student who can volunteer to help. Often successful high school students can be paired up with a struggling learner who needs help. Perhaps your school offers an after school homework club.
Be sure to include the student by giving him as much responsibility as is age/ability appropriate. Get parents, guidance counselors and other adults involved in the student’s life to help reinforce the plan.
Hold the student accountable for the work in order to teach responsibility. Ask parents to communicate via email, by signing a student's agenda/planner or with phone call. The plan should include specific tasks and due dates. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to alter a task or even exempt the student from some assignments.
You might even consider asking the student’s counselor to schedule a meeting when all of the teachers can meet with the parents and student to discuss the specifics of the the problem and the solution.
There is no easy fix for students with poor work habits, especially at the end of the school year. At times, students may not be successful.
Though it may seem unkind, it is a real concept that failure is an option. We need to remember that the ultimate responsibility for work completion lies with the student and, dependent upon the student’s age, with the parents.
As a teacher, you cannot control or change all aspects of a student’s life. You can offer moral and academic support, but students, together with their parents, must be willing to put forth the effort it takes to make a change.
How do you address missing or late work from students? Share in the comments section!
One of the things my middle school team and I struggled a lot with before holiday break was the high rate of students who did not turn in homework and assignments on time. At first, we created a Google Document that listed students and their missing work. The document was shared with the middle school teachers and Grades 6-8 students. Students who were listed on the document had to come in during lunch and recess for “lunch detention” to make up their missing work.
While the Google Document allowed us to keep track of assignments, it made more work for us as teachers. We rotated through lunch shifts so that one or more teachers had their homerooms open for students to make up missing work. Did we doom ourselves to eating lunch alone in the classroom, never to eat lunch together again in the faculty lounge?
I was determined not to work harder than my students, and to figure out a way to get back to that far-away faculty lounge! After a long thoughtful conversation with the boss, I realized that if we teachers wanted our students to take more responsibility for their work (or lack of), we had to reach out to their parents and get them in on the action. Sure, we emailed and made phone calls, but the communication channels weren’t always immediate.
What if there was a way to log online when a student didn’t do his or her homework? What if parents received an automated email each time this happened? Parents could talk to their child about that assignment on that exact same day. It would be parents holding their own children accountable, and not a Google Document, or teachers eating lunch in their classrooms. We’d finally start getting more work in on time!
By December, I was already using Google Forms with the Flubaroo Add-On for short quick assessments in the science classroom. After Googling ideas, sure enough, there was such a way!
Through my Internet research, I came across Mr. Trussell’s 2014 blog post, “Setting Up A Form To Email Parents About Missing Homework“. Within two hours, I had a working “Missing Homework” Google Forms template and a parent email template! I shared them immediately with the middle school team when we returned from break, and we were ready to roll.
That weekend before the end of the holiday break, I wrote mass emails to parents in each grade introducing the Missing Homework form and automated notices. Within minutes, my inbox was flooded with enthusiastic responses from parents, who loved the idea. Needless to say, students were wary that first Monday back.
Each teacher has his or her own way of using the Missing Homework Google Form. I use it with my work iPad, walking around the room and collecting work individually as students work on bell-ringers. Other teachers bookmark it on their desktop computers and run the list of students missing work during one of their preps.
We middle school teachers have used the Missing Homework forms for a whole month now, and I’m glad to say that it has greatly reduced the amount of missing homework and assignments. In that first week of January, we had close to 30% of students not submit work on time. That number went down to 8% in just two days after those automated parent emails were generated. Now, a full month later, we no longer see the same staggering amounts of students with missing work.
Since then, I’ve tweaked the Missing Homework Google Form a little bit in response to peer teacher and parent feedback. Specials teachers loved the Google Form and wanted to use it in their classes to notify parents of late classwork and projects. Those teachers’ names were added to the drop-down menus, and I edited the form to include classwork. Parents also wanted to know the names of the missing assignments, when the assignments were assigned, and what the assignment deadlines were. I changed the short answer textbox to long answer textbox so teachers could add the necessary information–they could be as brief or as detailed as they wanted!
One of the drawbacks of the Missing Homework Google Form was that the “Autocrat” Add-on does not automatically merge the spreadsheet, email template, and coding whenever I submit a log on the Missing Homework Google Form. Fortunately, I have the last prep of the day so I can set time aside to open up the Google Form and run the merge manually while I type up homework emails to teachers and text reminders (Remind) to parents for the day.
So that I don’t forget to do it, I used the “Form Notifications” Add-on on the Google Form itself to send me email notifications whenever there are five or more responses added to the Google Form by the other teachers.
Despite the heavy legwork upfront, the Missing Homework Google Form, and automated emails have greatly improved our parent-teacher communications. Parents love getting the emails, and we teachers have PDF records we can refer to back up student grades. In addition, the Google Form offers visual diagrams of student work through its summary of responses.
I wouldn’t say that we have completely eradicated students’ inability to turn work in on time as a team, but at least, I get the opportunity now to take a real lunch break!