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3 Strategies for Handling Make-up Work for Absentee Students

One of the common challenges in managing any classroom is how to handle students who are absent. When I was a teacher, I dealt with chronic absenteeism with my struggling students, and I was overwhelmed trying to help them learn. Nothing replaces the student actually attending class, but there are alternatives.

Organizing Make-up Materials

Many teachers use a standard format so that when students return after an absence, they are able to pick up copies of missed work. The most basic aspect of helping students after an absence is having a common location for class materials.

Many teachers take advantage of technology to facilitate handling of make-up work. If you have a web page blog or online portal, post your assignments and accompanying material on the page. I think this works effectively as a standard routine for all students. This can allow students who attended class to find a copy of materials for review, or to replace a lost handout. so other students have access. Finally, if you have students or parents/families who have regular access to email, it’s easy to email material so parents or students have access before they return to class.

Ways to Help Students Catch Up on Instruction

Another consideration is to determine how students will access the information from class. Before you determine how to manage instruction, I would ask you to think about the content from the lesson. Although everything you teach is important, with an absent student, you may need to prioritize the most important items for instruction.

One way to provide instruction for the absent student is to use other students to share what they learned with the student when he or she returns to class. Of course, you are likely to do a review of material with all students, but friends can provide additional information. I also like to have students complete exit slips with what they learned, and then provide relevant slips to the absent student. After students have offered support, you can then provide individualized help. A final activity is “Read and Write the Room.” At the end of class, ask students to write what they learned on posters around the room. In other words, they “write the room.” The student who was absent can then “read the room” to learn content.

Routines for Student Demonstration of Learning

Finally, you will want to have a system or routine for students to show you they understand the missed content, whether that is verbally or through turning in assignments. First, it’s important to set a deadline that is appropriate to complete or master the material. I found that insisting on completion of work one day after a student’s return was not feasible, especially if they needed to complete more than one assignment in an elementary classroom, or if they missed work in multiple classes in middle and high schools. There is not an exact formula to use; you’ll need to use your judgment to determine a time that meets your expectations and allows for the student’s needs. If you want to discuss the material with a student to determine what they have learned, schedule a short amount of time as a part of your flexible grouping for that to occur. I observed one teacher who, rather than asking the student to simply tell him what she learned, provided an opportunity to “reteach” the material to a small group. Then, he asked follow-up questions. If you have written work for students to turn in, create a system and routine, perhaps a bright folder on your desk.

A Final Note

Helping students who miss class can be a challenging task for teachers. Having a system for distributing materials, building in a method for “makeup” instruction, and determining how students will demonstrate their learning are strategies that can help you effectively address this challenge.

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