Attendance Atrocities + Make-up Work Mayhem = My New Empty-Seat Endeavors

For starters, as an English teacher, I get a tiny thrill from alliterations.  It is similar to the feeling I get when I surprise myself with a really good couplet while speaking.  I thought of another one … deserted desk diligence … but refrained from including it should my ridiculous title slip from slightly bombastic into inanely annoying.

That being said, and if you are still reading, on to the main event.

I have NEVER been good at keeping up with make-up work … ever.  Frankly, I’m not even that good at taking attendance.  I teach bell-to-bell.  I’m talking with them as they come in the room and the interactions continue continuously until its time to go.  Who has time to spend on their computer taking attendance when class is in session?When students are absent, my desk slips slowly into chaos.  Plus, teaching 6 different preps, I end up giving a few pretty solid blank stares when they return as I try to recount exactly what it was they missed, what I need to give them, and where those things might be.  Then, there is also the fact that they missed discussions which can’t really be recreated, so some of my assignments no longer make sense. 

The past two weeks or so have been simply inundated with long lists of absentees.  As my grasp on this time-lapse sense of reality slowly slipped further and further away from me, I realized that I needed to follow my own advice and pull myself together. 

Many of you, I’m sure, already have some all-star systems in place for dealing with make-up work.  A majority of teachers, it seems, have been born with an organizational gene that I overtly lack.  Hopefully presenting my new plan in this public form will help keep me accountable to it.  Maybe it will even prove helpful to the few of you who, like me, exist in state of ordered-chaos.

Solving the attendance problem:  Keep a legal pad on my podium for this explicit purpose and record it at the end of the day.  No fancy form needed.  The open space will leave me plenty of room for notes should I need them.

Remembering what we did in class beyond handouts:  Have a student write it down.  How perfect! Students practice their note-taking and responsibility, I am now only doing 50 things at once instead of 51.  Here is a form I created to help the student helper out: Make-up Work Notes.

The Paper Work:  The same student mentioned above will collect two of everything handed out and staple the absentees copy to the back of the agenda he or she is filling out for him or her.

Getting it to the absentee:  They will pick it up from the bin upon their return.  The student helper will make sure it gets into the correct folder, they simply need to come and pick it up.  That way, if they have questions for me, the basics are already there for us.  Here is a glance at what it looks like in the classroom:

New Make-up Work Files                     New Make up Work Files

Alright, fingers crossed everyone!  Let’s hope this is a plan that sticks!


6 responses to “Attendance Atrocities + Make-up Work Mayhem = My New Empty-Seat Endeavors

  1. Dawn February 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Cute folders. I use make-up folders as well, but mine are not as pretty as yours! I record the info for each class at the end of the day.Never thought of using student worker. Do not usually receive one though. As for attendance, my admin expects us to take it within the first 5 min. of class, but I get busy and am often late in submitting it. What a pain. Wish we had a scanner available that we could just scan the student’s id card as he or she enters and be done with it. This could record tardies and absences and save time, but it would be costly! Oh well, I can always dream!


    • KDixon February 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

      Thanks! I’m a sucker for school supplies. I love that time of year around October when they put all of the back-to-school stuff on deep clearence!

      I do not have student worker, per say, but I teach middle school. At this age, I have found that a number of behavior management issues can be solved when a student feels needed or important in the classroom. Having a job like this really helps some of those attention-seekers channel their energy and focus a little bit better. The absentee record keeper has simply entered the grab bags of possible jobs a student may take own as a way of taking ownership and pride in the classroom. I imagine this would work in a high school setting, too, but I’m just not sure how receptive they would be to the idea. I only taught High School for one year before getting my current M.S. job.

      I like that scanner idea, too! sigh… maybe one day.


  2. Ashley February 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I like your folders, too! You know I’m also a sucker for school supplies. 🙂

    This year, I switched my system to create one folder for every student I teach. The folder never leaves school (and thus never gets lost in a backpack!), and is color-coded by grade level. (Color coding by class would work well, too.)

    One of my university professors suggested this system, and I have to say, it has worked wonders for my organization this year! Before classes each morning I teach, I put any worksheets students will need and any graded papers into their folders. They know to grab their folder and take everything out and put it in their own binders right away. This method leads to easy make-ups and attendance-taking. Folders left at the front are absent students….check….and when they come back, they’ve already got everything they need waiting in their folder….double-check!

    Granted, I teach at a private school, too, so I have fewer students than a public school teacher would. But even if I have 150 students next year, I think I’ll try to keep this system. It’s more work on the front end, but less later on, for sure!


  3. Kristina March 31, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I just saw this posted at the English Ning and I am so intrigued by the blog and the comments!

    How do you decide who will keep track for the absent students?


    • KDixon March 31, 2011 at 10:53 pm

      I take volunteers first. I get a wider variety of responses than one might expect. If I don’t get volunteers quickly enough, I rotate through the names on my roster that haven’t done it in a while. If there there is a trust issue with any particular student, they quietly never get selected.


  4. Lorie Rodriguez April 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I teach high school and have been doing so for 10 years. I am the only one who takes attendance, especially since you can lose your teaching license over poorly kept attendance records in several states. I have a sign-in system that I use and from there I double check who has signed in. I keep all the pages in a binder with dividers for each period I teach. In order to get the business end of my class done (attendance, make-up work, tidying up from the last class, checking that homework was done, etc.) I always have a warm up activity which is usually seat work for the first 5-7 min. of class that has students practicing the lesson from the day before.
    My sign in sheet is a print out from our computer grade book of the kids’ names with the attendance dates. I only put 5 days on one sheet because I not only use the sheet for them to sign in on, but I color code the attendance (yellow = absent, green = tardy) and I have enough room to jot a note if a student leaves early. On the back of each week’s attendance I tape any passes that the student comes with to class (teacher pass, early release for an appt., a note from a parent, etc.) When it comes time to verify my computer record of attendance with the Attendance office’s copy, it is very easy to check.
    As for make-up work, I have a web site that students can check where all class work and homework are posted, as well as upcoming quiz and test reminders. Other than that, each student has 2 “buddies” in class that will help keep them informed.


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