Late assignments, missing work, partially completed tasks. We all struggle with how to deal with these issues.

And, especially at the end of a grading period.

Work that you may have assessed weeks ago now appears on your desk. Or, you are chasing after a student to get that last item turned in. And it shows up the day grades are due.

Depending on your class or school policy, you may be required to accept any and all late work. Even if you don’t have homework, late work can still be an issue.

Keeping track of missing and late work can feel like a full-time job!

Let’s look at some ways to get students to turn work in.

Understand the “why”

Before anything, you want to understand the reason why an assignment hasn’t been turned in.

Was it:

  • the student missed the day the assignment was explained
  • not understanding the concept of what needed to be done
  • difficulties at home
  • overwhelm in the amount of work the task will take
  • procrastination
  • not enough accountability check points
  • time management
  • not sure of due dates

Try to take a moment to meet with the student privately and discuss what the issue is that has prevented the student from doing the work.

This will not only give you insight as to where to start, it will also open communication with the student. Build a bridge to help that student learn the skills necessary to complete the task.

Know your late work policy

Do you have one?

Is it supported by your administration?

Are the parents on board?

The best time to establish a late work policy is at the start of the year when you can require students and parents to sign a “work habits” contract. However, if you haven’t done this, consider doing it right now!

Before writing up your policy, though, check with your administration and team. You want support.

Why you shouldn’t give zeros for late work

We all hate late work. Chasing after students for this assignment they missed when they were absent…oh the headache.

However, giving a zero for work is more punitive than anything else. It is nearly impossible to recover from a zero.

When we think about the goal of an assessment or assignment, it’s to evaluate learning. And, to use that evaluation to structure further teaching.

If a student is given a zero, there was no learning. Yikes. That’s why getting students to complete the work is so much better than simply giving a zero.

So, here are ways to get work from students:

Determine the value of the assignment

Not all assessments are equal.

An essay is not the same as vocabulary homework.

Consider weighing grades.

For example: You can have daily work, formative assessments, and summative assessments as categories. By giving a daily grade a smaller percentage of an overall grade, students can miss a daily grade or two and not have their overall average tank.

Is it necessary?

Not all assignments are equal. And not all missing assignments need to be completed.

For example, vocabulary or spelling practice — not really necessary if the student has already taken the vocab or spelling test to assess their knowledge.

Before driving yourself crazy chasing after every single piece of late or missing work, consider adding a “drop” option for the lowest daily grade. This benefits the students who turn in all assignments as well as those who miss a few.

If an assignment has multiple pieces that are missing, identify the most important ones. These should be skills that students need to know in grades to come.

For example, ask yourself what is most important to the skills you’re teaching. Is it the finished essay or the drafts? The thesis statement and outline? The research?

Also, consider scaling down the amount of work you’re going to grade. Use a homework scoresheet for daily grades. This cuts down on the number of items you’re collecting and recording.

If your students practice vocabulary words or grammar concepts every day, a weekly scoresheet will reduce your time collecting work to assess.

Use a late work contract

Create a contract in the simplest of terms.

Here’s how:

Write up the missing work — and sit down with the student. Allow the student to develop a plan for getting the work in, write that plan on the contract (best if the student writes it), set a due date, and both you and the student need to sign the form.

Be sure to make a copy for both you and the student that includes the plan, due date, and signatures.

Make sure both you and the student write down the date in a planner, so when that date rolls around, you can follow up.

You may want to send a follow up email to a parent or guardian. While most schools post grades on line, it’s amazing how few parents regularly review them with the student.

Find time to help one-on-one

If a student is really struggling to complete an assignment, try to provide one-on-one time so you can address specific questions.

  • pull the student out during study hall
  • provide a meeting time after school
  • have a “working lunch” with the student
  • meet before school
  • have an “open classroom” during your planning period so students can come in and get extra help
  • use classroom time during silent reading or independent work to have a quick desk-side conference
  • schedule conferences with all students — it’s a good way to check in with everyone, not just the student(s) who have missing work

Make sure, when you do this, to keep a record that both you and the student sign. This helps eliminate and reduce so many potential issues.

use these forms to track late work

Make sure you’re not making more work for yourself

You already grade a lot of work.

A. Lot.

So think about the easiest and fastest way to grade missing work.

  • Keep a folder with answer keys.
  • Allow the student to self-score the late work.
  • Use a rubric.
  • Grade the work as soon as possible.
  • Allow students to get partial credit or completion credit.

The bottom line?

You can streamline and simplify the missing work issue — and keep your sanity.

Use these organizational tips along with conferences to build relationships with students — they’ll know you care about them and that turning in their work on time is to their benefit.

With gratitude,

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