Over time, I developed a variety of strategies of my own and have additional ideas for the future. Here are twelve ideas for working with absent students.
1. While you were absent sheets. With the sheets I include all relevant information missed in class, including materials, which I attached with a staple. I recommend this be in a prominent place near the door. I would invite all students to come by at any time to grab what had been missed. My initial sheets, where I would print out the daily PowerPoint (which included activities, objectives, and homework), looked like this:
I often assigned a student the job of completing these sheets for peers for extra credit. Over time, I developed two more versions which were easier and faster to fill in. One for short-term absences and the other for extended absences.
2. Peer coach. Give a student extra credit for being a peer mentor for an absent student. This job can come with extra credit and be rotated. I liked this approach because it allowed students to catch up on absent work during class time but did not take away from my role as the teacher or the lesson itself. Students liked it too and it resulted in a higher completion rate of missed work.
3. Class blog or phlog. Assign a student the job of updating the class blog or phlog (such as iPadio) with relevant materials after each class. Students can check the class blog or website from home or even from their own device or a class computer during class time. iPadio is great because it can be updated through a phone, so it only takes a couple of minutes.
4. Skype in. If you have a highly motivated student who is absent, SKYPE or Facetime the student into class through a classmate's phone.
5. Work in class. As my classroom grew more student-centered with lots of things happening simultaneously, I would often encourage students to complete make up work during class time. I found this to be most effective at helping students to catch up on what was missed, and would often work with them while other students worked in small groups.
6. Twitter. Tweet out class materials. Again, this job could be assigned to a student for extra credit.
7. Routine. Be sure to practice the routine for students when they return after an absence. There might even be a poster in the class:
1. Pick up make-up work.
2. Check in with Make-Up Work Czar.
3. Work quietly on makeup work.
4. Check with teacher during "down time," when other students are working.
8. Host regular office hours. Post "office hours" in the syllabus and stick to them. Let students know the teacher's availability outside of class.
9. Schedule and log appointments. I created these worksheets to give to students as a reminder and for me to keep a record of student make-up work, which was also handy for parents and administrators.
10. Email. Create a class email list and either email class information daily or simply contact the absent student. This way is great because there is an electronic record of communication.
11. Focus on the big rocks. Thanks to the advice of my friend and mentor Dorothy Raviele, I would only focus on the "big rocks" of what students missed during absences. It was not always necessary for students to complete every thing that was missed during their time away from class. Having them focus on the most important things caught them up more quickly and allowed them to move forward with the rest of the class.
12. Group responsibility. If students are seated in groups of four, make it the group's responsibility to help the student who is absent. This may include emails or texts during class time and assistance when the student returns to class.
Here are my ideas for helping absent students catch up on class materials. What are your ideas? How have you helped absent students catch up on the work that was missed?