Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Classroom Organization: Managing Student Absences

In my 'Organization in the Secondary Classroom' series, I've written about how I manage the paperwork in my classroom (this post has been viewed an incredible 81,000+ times) and how I tackle lesson planning. Today I'm sharing how I manage student absences!

*Update: Due to multiple requests, the two forms I use that are mentioned in this post can be downloaded and amended to meet your specific needs here.


In a perfect world, none of my students would be absent, but between sickness, field trips, in-school detentions, and plain old 'don't feel like coming to school', it's rare to go a day without having at least one absent student. Before implementing this system, the biggest struggles when dealing with absences was finding an efficient way for students to be responsible for getting the work they missed without the frantic 'what did I miss' just as the rest of the class is getting started on the day's lesson. I've used the following system for several years now and it has worked really well!


First, I have a three-ring binder with dividers for each class period. At the start of every week, I make copies of class rosters and place them in the appropriate sections. Although I always take electronic attendance for the school, I also mark down absences on these paper rosters for my own records. I then record the date and a brief note about the lesson done that period, particularly what was due and what was assigned for homework.

I find it incredibly helpful to be able to pull out this binder and cross reference the dates certain assignments were due or assigned with when particular students were absent. Technically the electronic grade book we use can do this, but it's far more cumbersome to look up information online rather than quickly open my binder. I also use these attendance sheets to record if a student came in tardy, went to the nurse, or any other miscellaneous information. My binder sits on the table in the front of my classroom where I can easily make notes.


Next, either at the end of each class period or at the end of the school day, I look back through my attendance binder and put together the handouts from that day's lesson and a 'cover sheet' that explains what was missed.  I use the cover sheet to record the work that was due the day the student was absent and whether or not they missed a quiz/exam/activity that needs to be made up.


Then the handouts/cover sheets are placed in the 'absent work bin' which is on table in the corner of my classroom. Students know that when they return from an absence, they are to go straight to this bin at the start of class and find their work in the hanging folder labeled with their class period. They read the cover sheet and/or the handouts left for them and then check in with me if they have any questions.

Classroom Organization Student Absences

If the student has in fact missed an assessment or activity that needs to be made up, they fill out their name, activity to be made up, and when they are coming in for make-up on the clip board next to the 'absent work' bin.  This helps me keep track of when certain students are coming in so I can arrange my schedule and holds the student accountable for making up missing assignments in a timely manner. You can download a copy of the sign up sheet I use here and amend it to fit your needs.

Once I've explained the purpose and expectations regarding the 'absent work' bin, my students seem to do very well with the autonomy of this system. They can go check the box between classes, at the start of their class period, or really any time that's convenient for them! I've really loved how my attendance binder has allowed me to easily keep track of important data I need readily at my fingertips!

I'd love to know what sorts of ways you've found to keep track of student absences so please leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram!

26 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing! I admit I'm not great at keeping track of what my students missed on what day.

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    1. You're welcome! Happy to provide some new ideas! Thanks for stopping by the blog! :)

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    2. Hi can you please send me the word doc for the clipboard you have next to the absent bin for the students to record as they get there makeup work. Please and thank you :)

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    3. Hi Nannette! I've amended the post to include links to download the forms I use. Hope this helps!

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  2. I do something extremely similar to this. I even have the same bin and file folders! The only difference is that in my high school science classroom, children sit at tables of four and each one has a certain job. Person #1 gets the worksheets for the day for everyone at the table. If a student is absent, his neighbor puts his name and the date on it and then puts it in the bin on the way out the door. I've found that the kids are sometimes more consistent with this than I am! PS: LOVE YOUR BLOG!

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    1. Love the idea of a 'buddy system'! I might have to try that in the near future! Thanks for stopping by the blog!! Love hearing from fellow high school teachers!

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Hi Mimi-
      Unfortunately I'm not aware of a way for you to print out my posts at this time. Sorry!

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  4. Do you have a copy of your "while you were out..." page? I need to try this!! I just kept sticky notes everywhere and it ends up a mess!

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    1. Hi Erika! I've amended the post to include links to download copies of the forms I use. Hope this helps!

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  5. I would also love to see a copy of the "while you were out" page!

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    1. Hi Christine! I've amended the post to include links to download copies of the forms I use. Hope this helps!

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  6. I also was wondering if the forms are available to print?

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    1. Hi Hillary! I've amended the post to include links to download copies of the forms I use. Hope this helps!

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  7. I would love a copy of your forms- this is a great idea.

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    1. Hi Pam! I've amended the post to include links to download copies of the forms I use. Hope this helps!

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  8. This is great and just the inspiration I needed to tackle this problem in my classroom. Thanks for your thoughts and work!

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    1. Awesome! Happy to hear you've found this post helpful! :)

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  9. I really love this. I am a new teacher and haven't even had much time to think out how to manage absent work. I teach at an alternative school with about 60% overall school attendance, so managing it is a complete nightmare. Our school demographics and culture mean I allow students to make up work until the last week of the term. Another logistical nightmare. When they inevitably come asking for their work whey want it RIGHT NOW!!!!! So I think I am going to tweak your ledger system to be a sort of order form for missing work. If you're absent, I get your work into the bin at end of day. If you're wanting makeup work, fill out the form, list the assignments you need/want, and you can pick it up from the bin in 24 hours.

    The new term starts tomorrow so I'll introduce it to them then. It will take some time before it really gets used, but we'll see how it goes.

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    1. Wow! It sounds like you've got your hands full! I'm happy to hear that you've found my post helpful and will be able to tweak my strategies a bit to fit your needs! Best wishes for a successful school year!

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    2. I work in a similar alternative setting CWYoung. I would love to hear how this went.

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  10. I am using a similar method with an absent binder - my question is what do you do with students who refuse to follow procedure and check the bin? I am inevitably running into students who say "I don't have that hand out" "I didn't know I had to make it up" - when the binder (my version of your bin) is right that in front of the room, next to the door with a big red sign that says "ABSENT BINDER"

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    1. It does take time at the start of the year to enforce and remind them about classroom procedures. But, at the end of the day, like with any expectations, it's up to the students to take some initiative and ultimately accept the consequences (whatever they may be) if they don't do what they are supposed to! Isn't teaching fun? Ha ha! :) Hope you are having a nice summer!

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  11. How many students to you see on a daily basis? I am looking for a simple way to do this, I have about 100 students a day and on average 10 are absent. Needing some organization for a very new teacher here.

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    1. I see about 80-100 students a day and usually have 4 or 5 absences (sometimes more) and have found this system to be the most seamless way of catching them up on what they missed! Hope it helps!

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  12. Thank you for sharing this terrific idea. Hopefully it will help both students and teacher to be more organized this fall.

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