Math = Love: Organizing Absent Work

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Organizing Absent Work

Box to Hold Absent Work
In a perfect world, every student would be in class every single day.  Sadly, I don't teach in a perfect world.  Last year, as I began teaching, I knew that I needed to have some way to organize the work that students missed.  I ended up creating a "While You Were Out" Binder that turned out to be way too time consuming.  After about a week, I stopped using it, and I resorted to a really lazy method.  If a student was absent, they would need to come see me at an appropriate time and ask for what they had missed.  This works okay *if* I can locate the papers they need in the mess that I call my desk, *if* they remember to come ask for them, and *if* students understand what constitutes an appropriate time to ask.  That is way too many "ifs."

Absent Work Form "Today, You Missed..."

This year, I'm trying something new.  We're not even a month into school yet, so I don't know that this works in the long run, but this new system is definitely working better than last year's system!  On my cabinet, I have a hanging file box that says "Absent?  Look here!"  The first hanging file has a half-page form that I fill out for each student who was absent that day.  I write their name, the date, and check off whatever they missed that day.  If there are any handouts, I staple them to the back of the form.  Since the amount of writing I have to do is minimized, I can get these done in a very small amount of time at the end of the day.  Instead of dreading this end of day task, I actually look forward to it because it's one of the easiest things to mark off my to-do list!    

When students come to me and say they were absent, all I have to do is point to the box.  I can also easily check and see what students are not picking up the assignments they missed.  If you are interested in the form I use, click here.


  1. I am trying something similar this year. (My first year back teaching after 11 yrs home with kids!) Since I write the agenda on the board, I have a table-mate of the absent student fill out the half page of paper and attach any handouts. One thing less for me to remember! They put the papers into an "absent work folder" (color coded for which class it is) which waits for the student to return. Later the student turns in make-up work to me in the absent work folder, which helps me remember that it is make-up work, not late work. Something I picked up from my kids' excellent elementary school teachers!

  2. I assign each student an absent buddy. When I take attendance I verbally say the list of absent students and their absent buddy fills out the form, get extra copies of all papers, staples, and puts it in a bin. This removes me almost entirely from the process. No need to spend even a minute after school on this. One of the best management changes I've ever made!

  3. Great strategy! Organizing absent work is difficult and sometimes annoying, but this strategy works out well. Please keep sharing your smart ways of handling a classroom!

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  4. You will be glad you did this. I use something similar and have for many, many years. I haven't found anything better or quicker, and I have multiple absences every day. Once trained, the students know where to find their work and can come in before school (the eager ones) or between classes if needed. Siblings of students can come pick up work easily also. By the way, your blog is inspiring. I was never as on top of it as you seem to be. I am more of a traditionalist, but your ideas are morphing me!

  5. The last several years, I have had an absent folder for each class period. Whenever I hand out a worksheet, I set some aside and write the names of any students that are out for the day. Then, the next time I see that class, I go to the folder and pass out the papers to kids who were out. This system has worked well for me and I know that my students get the work when they are out - no excuses that they never got that assignment.

    I like your idea of a cover sheet, especially since I am going to give interactive notebooks a try this year. Also, the absent bin with the folders gives the kids a little more responsibility to have to get their own work. Thanks for the tip!

  6. I have shoe caddy hanging up on the front of a metal storage cabinet. I use it as a calculator caddy. I have a sign similar to yours. I have a tray attached to the cabinet next to the caddy. I have a sign similar to yours. I have modified your while you were out slip to fit my classroom needs. I use clips to attach it to the tray. I also solved another problem I had. Students not putting their name on their paper. I have sign under the absentee that says, "No name papers. Claims yours before it is moved to the graveyard (trash can). RIP."

    1. I love the graveyard sign! I'm not thrilled with how my absent work handling turned out this year. So, I'm brainstorming again for next year already!

  7. Since both items ate near a high traffic areas, it has worked so far.