Saturday, February 26, 2011

Managing the Paper Mess: Collecting homework with folders

I finally got around to updating my paper grade book for second semester.  In addition to my computer grade book, I have to keep a paper record for DPI because I work at a choice school.  Let me assure you, it is as backwards as it sounds.  In doing this, I got a final count of the peanuts: 58.  Yup.  That is, assuming I have a day with perfect attendance, I will have 58 middle school students in one room for four hours straight.  Considering I had 98 last year, this seems like a cake walk.

The problem, however, is that there is rarely a day where I have even close to perfect attendance.  I have two kids in jail right now, parents keep kids home to baby sit other siblings, illness, and kids who just plain don't want to come to school on any given day.  I had one kid who's mother let him stay home for several days because it was his birthday - which must be really nice.  I am going to have to discuss this policy with my boss.

For the first year I was scrambling to keep absent kids up to date with absent and late work.  I thought I was an organized gal, but the paper issue was getting the better of me.  This year I am using individual file folders to manage student work and it has made my life a zillion times easier.

Folders are my first line of defense to deal with absent work.

Each child has a folder.  A student helper distributes the folders at the beginning of each class and collects them at the end of the day.  Each folder has the peanut's name on the tab and a sheet stapled to the front of the folder.  The sheet has a spot for each subject and each day.

The absent folders get set aside in a separate pile and I write 'ABS' in the margin.  I have a student helper stuff the folders with any worksheets or written assignment instructions from the day.  If there are lecture notes, I put a copy or CD of the lecture into the folder as well.  If there is classwork that can not be made up because of an absence, I try to have an alternative worksheet or activity to put in the folder as well.

Students keep their folders with them all day.  Classwork and assignments are put into the folder as they are completed.  At the end of the day I have my student helper collect all of the folders and I go through each one and pull out any completed work.  When work is completed I make a check mark to show I took the work out of the folder and that it is in my possession.  Any work that was assigned but not completed I mark with a highlighter.  This means the work is due the next day.  This easily allows me to see, at a glance, how many assignments a peanut has missing.  It also allows me to easily see when I am collecting work if it is late work or absent work.

Kids also write me notes in the margins of their folder.  These notes can be anything from requesting extra help to planned absences to notes letting me know what is going on in their lives.  This is really helpful and prevents a flood of kids handing my permission slips and notes at the beginning or end of class. The folders have become my go-to reference for a snap shot on how a kid is doing in class.  I never call a parent without a kid's folder in front of me.

Going through the folders at the end of the day takes me around 15 minutes.

This week I am starting something new.  I typed out each assignment on the folder sheet and will highlight it once the student turns it in.  I think this will look more positive than highlighting what is missing and I won't have to flip between holding a pen and a highlighter so it should make the process a little faster.
This trick has been working very well for me, although it would take some tweaking to use it in a traditional middle or high school classroom.  I think the kids would just grab their folders when they entered the room, rather than wait for them to be handed out.  Also, I don't think a weekly sheet on the cover would be necessary, as there would be only one subject, with maybe one or two things to put in a folder each day.  Maybe a sheet could be created for a unit or a two week period.

Or maybe it wouldn't be necessary at all - this strategy is effective because of the number of students I have as well as the amount of absences.  Simply creating absent packets may be equally effective.  I'd love to hear how others manage this issue!


  1. how is it that you have a CD of the lecture? is it that you record your lesson every day?

  2. I don't give lectures often, so when I do I cram a lot of information into them. Sometimes I'll just have the absent student copy the notes from another student, but then they are loosing the part of lesson on how to take good notes. I have to use my own laptop to teach, so if I know its going to be a big lecture day I just record through my laptop. Also, its so easy for the kids to 'make up' work that involves listening to a CD or .mp3 because it can be done pretty much anywhere.