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Flu and Cold Season - Teacher Tips on Student Absences

This time of the year can be especially challenging as a teacher as you find more students missing class due to illnesses, vacations and their lack of personal responsibility. As a teacher strives to have all their students succeed, not having the students in class at all can be a major roadblock to student success. While wanting your students to do well, sometimes, there is only so much you can do and the issues of attendance can be beyond your realm of expertise and time. However, to give it your best shot, here are some strategies you may want to add to your bag of tricks to help absent students stay on top of their work.

  • Have each student have a “buddy” in class who will pick up any handouts or assignments on the day their buddy is absent. They will be the first contact for the absent student upon their return. This works really slick when a student has missed only part of a class for something like a dentist appointment.
  • Have a hanging file with the days of the week and drop in extra copies of each day’s assignments. Have a student in class responsible for outlining what you did in class that day and any work that was assigned and have them place a copy in the folder before leaving class.
  • Many districts have some type of online assignments for students. As a FACS teacher with more than one subject, this can sometimes be unmanageable. As in the item above, at the end of class upload the notes the student made onto your site.
  • Making up class discussions and experiences can be very difficult and time consuming. Rather, come up with an alternative assignment from the text that hits the key objectives of the in-class learning activities and assign them to the student as a replacement for the missed activities. I make the amount of work reflect the number of missed assignments and their point values so there is equity in the grading.
  • Extend the time line for students to turn in work upon their return. Recognizing that they have been sick and will be inundated with work when they return, it is compassionate to allow them a little extra time. I did require students to get the missed work from me within 3 days of their return and then gave them a week to turn it in to me. From the first day of class, make it clear on the class syllabus that it is their responsibility to get the missed work from you.
  • Have students write on their absent work the reason it is late and to date it when they turn it into you.
  • Have students write in a journal at the beginning of every class in a notebook that will be periodically graded. This allows you time to take attendance and to meet with students who have been absent.
  • In the food’s lab, I have a make-up lab sheet students can use to make the product at home with a parent/caregiver evaluation the product. There are questions the student needs to answer about their lab at home. I also offer a written work alternative in place of a lab since some students may not have the resources to complete the home lab.
  • Philosophically, I believe that students who skipped class should not get the opportunity to make up the missed work, since they chose not to be present and responsible.

What are some ideas you have to help your students stay on top of their work load when they have been absent?

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