Monday, January 12, 2009

Welcome Back (Part 2)


I'm beginning to hate the word. I don't care why you're not here, I just wish you were.

It's an epidemic here. Students who had 90 percent attendance were honored at last year's awards ceremony. (For any nonmath people, that's rewarding students who missed a day every two weeks.) As the first semester ends, I have multiple students with 20+ absences. They've already missed a month of school.

For today, I'm not worried about how to change that behavior. Though, if you have suggestions I'd love to hear them. I want ideas on how to welcome students back.

What I'm Doing to Cope with Absences

A list of various techniques in no particular order.
  • Using an adaption of Dan's concept quiz system. You need to know the material. I don't need you to make up every worksheet.
  • Providing two nights to complete "homework" assignments.
  • Listing all assignments on GCal. (So that I can see what you missed when you return. Few students have access to internet.)
  • Maintaining a filing system where for notes. Students are supposed to go to the folder and find anything they are missing. (Often we work on one set of handouts for two days.) They ask a friend for help or come in for...
  • Tutoring after school. Or before school if you make sure I know you're coming in. Or during lunch if you let me know in advance*. 
  • Sending work home. I'm not as proactive on this as I aspire to be. But I try to have something ready for students coming by with an advanced makeup slip. Seen one student actually do the work.
  • Trying to remind students of what they missed. While they're doing warm-up journals I try to visit with everyone. It's a brief chat, but hopefully allows me to tell them  I missed them, find out why they were absent, and let them know what we did.
Still Short

Some students do not need to be in school everyday. One of my top students was dropped over the weekend. It doesn't change the fact that he's aced all the concepts.

But most students aren't that lucky. When they miss school, they fall behind. They don't know what's going on, feel dumb, won't try the next assignment, don't learn it, miss more school... Vicious, vicious cycle.

I hope this isn't as big of an issue elsewhere. But I know very few people make it though a year with perfect attendance.  What strategies work for you to help students get back to class? Thanks for any inspiration.

*The last one is rare because by that point in the day I really do need to go to the restroom/microwave food/visit with other teachers for support.


Kate said...

Your system is thoughtful and thorough. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to inform them of work they missed.

I do a few of the same things - I'm a big fan of the big box o' old handouts that kids have access to and are expected to check when they're absent. I've also tried to be a little more conscious of incorporating review into more lessons and assignments. It benefits everyone but also gives kids who were absent a chance to get a mini lesson of stuff they missed.

Jackie Ballarini said...

I agree with Kate - it sounds like you're doing everything you can.

I post any handouts online as a .pdf. Some students actually use this. I really like it for myself though. I'm in three different rooms during the day, so I can always print a copy for someone if I need it.

Have you shared your GCal with counselors or the relevant people at school, so that they can help students find the information too?

Again, you're doing all you can.

Sarah Cannon said...

Kate and Jackie,

Thanks for feedback and encouragement. Grades were due this weekend which pulls my mood down.

For the purpose of recording ideas, one from a friend who teaches down the road from me. He posts a tracking system on the classroom wall and stamps it when students have an assignment turned in. His handout system is super organized so students can find their assignments and get them back in.

I didn't get around to setting this up over the weekend, so I'll wait until we get to the next unit to try it. Even if I don't grade the work, maybe it will help students to see what they have done.