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Simple Solutions to Track Missing Work

Tracking & collecting missing work may just be the bane of many teachers’ existence. It can be so hard to keep everything straight & incredibly frustrating trying to hound students to get it turned in.

Aside from simply throwing zero’s in the gradebook and moving on, there’s no simple solution. But I do have some tried-and-true suggestions for how you can take this big problem and turn it into something much more manageable.

end the missing work confusing: simple solutions to track missing work

To make this plan work smoothly, you’ll need two classroom helpers: an absence secretary and a class secretary. Simply choose responsible students that tend to finish their own work early & ask if they’ll help you out. Once you train a student, I’d recommend keeping the same secretary for at least a quarter before switching up roles.

Tracking What Work is Missing:

*Class Secretary makes a list of what’s missing: When papers are collected, s/he goes through them & sees what is missing. S/he then writes down whose paper is missing on a post-it note or cover sheet. [Ideally, the class secretary would also know who has been absent & would mark which papers are actually late & which are missing due to absence.]

*Keep a running total of what’s missing: Each day, you quickly scan the post-it notes or cover sheet & record missing work in your gradebook. You also record what is missing either in a Word doc that can be printed & posted in the classroom or on a dry-erase board that is posted in the classroom. (If you are a paperless school, you can also use a Google Doc.) This provides a running tally of any work that is missing. For absent work, the teacher records on the document or white board when the assignment is due. (Click here to have an example form sent to you.)

*Students fill out a form each time they’re missing an assignment: Students who don’t have an assignment finished (whether they’re late or absent) must fill out a (brightly colored) form saying why they don’t have it & when they plan to finish it. They turn this in when the rest of the class turns in their assignment. This makes it easier for the class secretary (and/or you) to see whose paper is missing. (Click here to get an editable sample form.)

Letting Students Know What is Missing:

*Keep extra copies: Always run off a couple extra copies of worksheets/homework assignments & have a designated spot to keep them. Train students that when they lose a worksheet, they can should check the folder instead of asking you for a new one.

*Absence secretary tracks what you do in class: Your absence secretary should have a form to fill out for each student who is absent that records what was covered in class, any homework, and any assessments they need to make up. These forms are then placed in a designated place (or in the classroom out-box if that is part of your classroom procedure). The absence secretary staples any papers to the form. S/he also is responsible to collect the extra copies & place them in the designated spot.

*Absent students look to see what they missed: Absent students are required to collect their form that the absence secretary filled out for them. They must also check the missing work document/board to see when items are due. (Click here to get an editable sample form.)

Making Up Assessments

*Create a Testing Center (middle school/high school): If your school doesn’t have a testing center, talk to your administration about starting one. Testing centers can take place in study hall or in a separate monitored room.

When a student misses an assessment, teachers would write on the top of the assessment the date it must be taken by & turn in that test to the testing center. Students are then responsible to go to the testing center during their open periods to make them up.

Please note that study hall teachers or testing center monitors would need to have good policies to ensure students aren’t cheating (e.g. student must sit in a specific spot, desk must be cleared, other students aren’t allowed to talk to them during testing, etc.)

Collecting & Updating Work That’s Turned In:

*Track daily what’s turned in: Have a designated in-bin that is only for work that absent/late work. Go through that bin daily to update your gradebook & the missing work document/board. This does not mean it needs to be graded right away, just updated that it’s been turned in. These papers could then be placed in a file and graded weekly or bi-weekly. Let parents & students know that if papers are turned in late they are not necessarily graded as quickly.

Alternatively, you can have students turn in absent/missing work to the class secretary who will update the document/board for you. Or students could cross their own name off the list designating they’ve turned it in.

What procedures have you found helpful for tracking missing work? Share them with a comment below.

And to make things a bit easier for you, I’ve put together an editable example of the absence secretary form, “I don’t have my work because” form, and the running total of missing work document. Click here to get all 3 forms now.

And if you’d like more information about teaching students procedures, check out our free training How to Reduce Disruptions without Yelling, Begging, or Bribing


You may also find this related post helpful:  “17 Ways to Get Students to Actually Do Their Work

What to Read Next
  • I alphabetize papers as they come in, and post “missing” designations in the grading program. Every Friday, I print out a list of missing work and circulate the list in class. If I don’t have time to copy the list, I display it on the Smart board. I also have a spot on the board where I count down the days to the end of the quarter. When students are working, I have the opportunity to speak to the chronic latecomers and get them back on track. I have a deadline for late work, and the grade is set at 50% of the grade they would have gotten had they handed the work in on time. I don’t give homework, so I can make sure that the students understand what they are doing as I circulate.

  • We have a time for “ketchup & pickles” every 2-3 weeks. (I list missing assignments on the board as needed, but I make sure to update it the morning that K & P will happen.) Students who are missing work are “Ketchups” (catch up on work) & those who are not are “Pickles” (pick a fun activity). Building in this extra time helps me stay caught up without getting stressed!

    • I have heard this saying but nobody has explained what that meant. I will most certainly have a ketchup and pickles option.

  • Having a “Late Work” manila folder stapled to the wall is a life saver, as students turn in late work their, and it keeps it separate from other, on-time work. When students are absent, I write their name on that day’s handouts and homework at the beginning of class. I then put those papers into that period’s designated “Absent” folder on the wall, and students pick up their work when they come back. Writing their name on the handouts in my handwriting, also lets me know that when a student turns it in in the “late work” folder, it’s actually not late, they were just absent.

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