Scheduling make-ups

At the end of a unit, there are always students who haven’t completed some assignments. Coming in before or after school is not an option for most of my students. Rather than moving on to the next unit, knowing they’ll fall even further behind, I’d like to provide some class time for this make-up work. But I need some ideas for the other students who are caught up with their work.
—Tori, Pompano Beach, Florida

In an ideal world, all students would complete every assignment on time and no one would ever miss a class. Classes would never be delayed or cancelled because of weather or special events. The strategy of planning “transition time” between units of instruction, usually one or two class periods, worked for my classes. These periods allow time for students to

  • Take the unit assessment if they missed it or re-take the test (if that is your policy).
  • Revise or complete lab reports or other projects and assignments.
  • Organize their notebooks or digital portfolios.

As you noted, you’ll need something for the rest of the students to do. Free time or a study hall is not a good use of a class period and can lead to misbehaviors and distractions. But there are options for activities summarizing or extending what students have learned or providing an opportunity for exploration and creativity:

  • Do additional lab investigations or elaborate on ones they did. (This would require you to prepare the materials and monitor the students, however.)
  • Engage in online simulations or explore websites related to the unit topic.
  • Explore a new technology tool, simulation, or app. Even if you aren’t familiar with it yourself, students working in pairs or teams could figure it out and create a simple how-to resource or presentation to share with others.
  • Play games reinforcing the unit vocabulary or reviewing terms from previous units. Or have students create their own vocabulary games.
  • Create a multimedia guide or poster summarizing the key content and science practices in the unit. This can be used at the start of the unit the next time you teach it.
  • Preview the content of the next unit and create a list of questions.

During the unit, you could ask students what topics they would like more time to explore and provide this time to do so. Even if all of the students are caught up with their assignments, they could enjoy having these activity choices .

While students are working, you could also use this time to conference with individual students, discussing their progress or reviewing their work.

Transition time also gives you an opportunity to organize materials and evaluate students’ work before going on to the next topic.



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One Comment

  1. Denise
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry but as a 35 year middle school science teacher who has recently retired, I must disagree with this strategy. I don’t know any teacher,science or otherwise, who has time to spare while other students catch up. At our school teachers use their lunch time for students to make up work. Students also come before school and after school to make up everything missed.
    Here are some suggestions I give to parents and students at the beginning of the year. First, I give all students at the beginning of the year a handout stating what to do when they are absent and miss work. I give the same to parents at back to school night and place on my edline school web page. On my webpage I have a listing of what I do everyday in class, what I collect, upcoming projects, and homework for that day. I also include a copy of the assignments where necessary. With some labs I have students use the data collected by their group but not their analysis. If students know they will be absent ahead of time I can give them copies of their work to begin. The same as when they are sick and will be out successive days, parents can come and pick up work. At our office we keep folders for students when parents call and request work. This make life much simpler when students have to make up any extraneous work before or after school or at lunch. Just please don’t change your lessons to accommodate a few students who are absent. You wouldn’t want that for your own children.
    This is a time tested method that has worked for our school. It is a blue ribbon school and all teachers voluntarily do this.

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