Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Absent Students

Don't want to read the entire post?  Scroll to the bottom and read "In a nutshell".

I've been seeing so many posts and ideas about how to handle work when students are absent that I thought I would share my method.

A few year ago I invested in two file containers.  That seems to be enough to handle all of my classes.    I label each hanging folder with a student's name on it.  I call these my "hand back folders", because this is how I hand back work to the students.  The idea came to me one day when I was yet again handing back papers to students in the beginning of class, and it felt like such a waste of precious class time.  Now as the students come in the room they first take their assigned pencil case (read about those here), next they proceed to their hand back folder to get any papers I returned, and finally they find their seat by completing the warm up activity (read about that here).

Okay great Nora, but what does this have to do with absent students?
Well for one, if a student is absent when I hand back work, I don't have to hold on to it and remember to give it to the student when they come back to school, it's already waiting for them in their hand back folder.  For two, if I hand out any papers in class, I also place those papers in the folders of absent students.

Okay, so now absent students have any material they needed while they were absent.  What about notes and lectures?

This is where my smart pens come in.  I wrote about how much I love my smart pen awhile ago (you can read about that here).  For the last few years I have been running myself ragged making pencasts so that students can study to reassess and also for absent students to learn what they missed in class.    
I was pleased with the outcome of the pencasts, but I knew they could be better.  For instance, the pencasts that I was created were a review of an entire outcome in one pencast.  If a student is struggling with one skill of that outcome, the pencast wasn't too helpful because it wasn't focused enough.  
For my pencasts to do what I would love them to do, I would have to create a pencast everyday based on what was done in class that day.  No thank you!  That would have been another 1-2 hours of additional work every night.  

Then this quote I heard a few months ago popped into my head, "The person doing all the work is doing all the learning."  Bingo. The students will be making the pencasts.

I asked my IT guy for two more smart pens.  (Note - if possible, your IT person will buy you technology if you use it.  So use it.)  Three days later, there were two brand-spanking new smart pens sitting in my school mailbox.  

I've only starting doing this with my Pre-Calculus classes.  Each day a student takes the notebook and pen home and creates a pencast based on what we did in class.  

The results?  I'm tickled pink.  This is the best decision I have ever made.  I got my life back!!  Now when a student is absent and comes back and asked, "What did I miss?"  I reply, "Check your folder and the class website."  And that's it.  No more rummaging through my files to give them the papers they need.  No more giving up my lunch or prep to teach them what they have missed.  No more losing the start of class time because I'm getting absent students squared away.  Just those 7 little words and I'm done.

Want to see my class website?  Here, I'll link you to the pre-calc page, but feel free to take a look around.  

In a nutshell:

For missed papers:  Have one hanging folder for each student.  Instead of handing back papers to student individually, put them in their folder before class begins.  As students enter the room, they check their folders.  When handing out papers or worksheets in class, place those papers in the folders of any absent students. 

For missed notes and lectures:  Have students who are in class create a pencast based on what was done in class and post to the class website. 

When absent students return:  They check their folder for returned/missed papers and listen to the pencast on the class website.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. I love the idea of students making the pencasts. I am going to start that tomorrow. Thanks again.