This is a tough one. After many years of teaching, I still don’t have a clear-cut answer for this. All I can do here is offer some suggestions. Each class and kid is different, so it is really hard to figure out the best way to get kids to do the daily stuff. However, basic professional requirements have to happen regardless of the other tactics that may differ from year to year.
PRACTICES YOU HAVE TO DO:
- You have to have a conversation with the student as soon as you start noticing a pattern. I’m not talking about eight missing assignments later. No more than three. I might even have the conversation at two if I get the vibe that the student really dislikes the class or school, in general. It’s important to know why the student didn’t do the work. Is it done but in a locker? Is it at home? Does the student care about the grade? Is there something happening at home preventing the student from being able to complete school work? Is this happening in other classes?
- You have to update grades online regularly. I am still working on this because I am slow to update. Updating once a month doesn’t tell the parent anything, and I’ve had my fair share of updating way too slowly. If you can, make it a habit to update no less than once week, even if it’s just one assignment. If you can’t get that assignment in the grade book, at least get the missing work in the grade book so parents see that right away. We have the option at my school to label it as missing or missing with a zero as a temporary grade. The zero really gets attention quickly.
- You have to find a way to keep parents informed about what is happening in your classroom. Maybe this is a very basic homework blog. Some teachers use Google Classroom to upload documents so there is no excuse that it was forgotten on some cafeteria table. Some teachers send mass emails to parents when something big is going down. And I use the Remind App mainly for students, but the parents have the option to sign up to see the posts for the class. You might think that it’s too much hand-holding, but I prefer to think of it as covering my butt while keeping parents in the loop. You can’t follow each kid home to make sure they do their work, but their parents sure can. Let them decide how much hand-holding to do with their kids while using your information. Also, you may only opt to use one or two of these.
PRACTICES YOU MIGHT DO: (Not all of you are going to agree with these. Keep in mind that I’m just offering ideas.)
- Have a late work policy in place that is approved by the administration and is clearly understood by parents and students. Sometimes it really depends on the school district. In one school district, I had a policy that allowed students to turn late work in within 45 minutes of school ending and receive no penalty. This meant that if a student left the homework in a locker, he or she could easily retrieve it after school, and they wouldn’t feel the desire to ask to get it during class. It also allowed me keep the work with the rest of class instead of separating it as a penalty reminder. If the student did not turn it in after school, he or she could turn it in during class the following day for a 10% reduction on the assignment. After this, however, I wouldn’t take it. Some school districts shy away from a policy like this. I worked in one district that allowed students to make up work that was two months overdue and no more than 10% off the grade. This frustrated me because it took away any incentive for the students to hold themselves accountable. It also made for horrible paperwork issues.
- Make homework a small percentage of the grade. If homework in your classroom is really just practice for something much larger, there is something you need to ask yourself. Is it worth the hassle? Is assigning the homework really worth the time and worry that it’s causing you to plan it and grade it? If the answer is no, then don’t assign it. Evaluate all the homework you give and make sure that it’s absolutely necessary for students to complete in order to understand the final assessment. Or assign the homework and don’t panic when it’s not turned in because it’s a small percentage of the grade.
- Assign some sort of homework detention. One school district I worked for encouraged homework detentions and created an 8th Hour, a study hall after school in the library where students with missing work were required to attend. A teacher was paid extra to do this hour-long study hall, and parents were informed that it was a school-wide practice. Other teachers assign detentions before or after school or during lunch.
You will find that you struggle to find middle ground in this area year after year. Some years, your late work policy is golden; other years, you find yourself changing it up because the students don’t respond to your policies. It’s frustrating, but you have to think of what works for your students at that time and what works for you.
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