What is the best way to handle students who come in to class late. I am not refering to occasional ones who are genuinely contrite when they enter, more the ones that do so regularly almost ignoring you as they saunter to a desk.

I understand the unproductiveness of making it into a big scene that could cause further disruption, but ignoring it might result in other students thinking it is OK.

As a trainee teacher I find this situation disturbs my rythm when I am just starting a lesson, trying to get all students energised and motivated.

Comments and advice welcome?

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Here is one suggestion. I used to have a clipboard on which I had the class rosters, homework information etc. Student Name and Check Boxes on a line using graph paper, Xeroxed.  I told the students in my classes that it was my way of recording essential behaviors related to academics.Whatever behaviors you choose - in line with the school's and/or department's grading policies. The first 10 minutes or so of class was a Student To Do exercise. During this time I could organize for the class, record attendance, homework etc. - students were expected to leave homework out  so I could make a note - If a student was late, it was easy for me to make a point of making a note on the clipboard, e.g., L 3' (Late 3 minutes); if late, they were still expected to put out their homework for me; the grade might be L/C or L./IC. If they missed the To Do exercise, they clearly weren't able to earn points for it. I carried the clipboard with me throughout the period. There were two advantages - it made the process obvious and transparent - I thoroughly explained my grading/note taking system - for example, it was easy for me to put OT/C (On Time/Complete) in the homework box as I went around the room; also, I had a clear and objective history of academic behavior, if and when there was a discussion of a grade. You'll need to decide what academic behaviors are important to you - TOT (Time On Task) was another behavior I included. Note: You could probably do this now with a tablet and create an on-going database. 


Thanks Theodore, I can see the benefits of your system. I think most students would value it as fair and reasonable whilst the regular deviators could see their behaviour in the realm of others in the group. Peer pressure may well help in this way in that no one likes to be the odd one out.

HI Roland,

I found this great post about chronic lateness which describes it as a form of passove aggressive resistance or defiance.  Your chronically late student is testing you. Admittedly, this is about a higher education instiitution.  However, if you are involved in teaching a work related skill doen't that give you the advantage of explaining how the lateness would be viewed in a work setting?



April 29, 2011

Students Who Are Chronically Late to Class

By: Bonnie Snyder in Effective Classroom Management

Students who display a passive-aggressive personality style may do so in a variety of ways … from chronic tardiness to sleeping in class. Let’s look at the student who’s always running late.

As you know, some students are late to class on a regular basis, and in doing so are probably displaying a form of resistance or defiance—and it is wise to see it as such.

When questioned about their habitual lateness, students are apt to justify or excuse it on the grounds that they have other tasks to attend to, such as child care or job responsibilities that preempt punctual class attendance. Many instructors are thus made to feel guilty and are thereby disarmed by such reasons or excuses. They allow students to talk them into considering these excuses as authentic extenuations.

If this sounds familiar to you, here are a few opinions on the subject to consider.

  1. Arriving to class punctually is an important responsibility borne entirely by the student, not the instructor.
  2. Although child care or job responsibilities are clearly time consuming, and when combined with the demands connected with attending college can be downright overwhelming, it is again largely the responsibility of the student, not the instructor, to decide which takes priority — one’s job, one’s child care responsibilities, or punctually attending classes.
  3. Lateness is often a rude and disruptive form of behavior, especially when it is accompanied by doors opening and shutting, loud noises, and students distractingly passing in front of the instructor to get to their seats.
  4. Habitual lateness to class, much like when friends or family members habitually arrive late for social gatherings and usually infuriate us because of their thoughtlessness, is typically a sign of devaluation of and contempt for instructors and other students who have arrived to class punctually. Even more important, it is most likely a sign of devaluation and contempt for one’s own education, albeit unconscious, since the student’s habitual lateness will necessarily curtail his or her time in class and cause the student to forfeit important opportunities for learning.
  5. Instructors who habitually arrive late to class themselves are poor models for their students and should find any reasonable means possible to correct this form of unprofessional behavior.

Generally speaking, strict rules and adverse consequences for chronic lateness almost always improve attendance and punctuality. Remember, this form of passive-aggressive behavior can be remedied if you allow yourself to use a clear, fair, and proportionate set of adverse consequences to deal with it.

Excerpted from Coping with Seven Disruptive Personality Types in the Classroom.

It may help to add a sign-in sheet near the door of the classroom. Create a routine where every student signs in before finding their seat. The sign-in sheet is beneficial for secondary students as it prepares them for college. Signing in also shifts some of the responsibility to maintain accurate attendance to students. More importantly, tardy students get in the habit of signing in and over time there will be fewer episodes of misbehavior. Initially the instructor simply reminds the student to sign in, which is non-confrontational. Using a highlighter, it takes seconds to identify tardy students. With this strategy, teachers are able to continue instructing the whole class with minimal interruption. When the time comes for students to work independently, the sign in sheet can be used to complete attendance forms. Every is happy because everyone is less stressed. Isn't this how the classroom environment should be? Hope it works for you like it worked for me. Take care!



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