Hello all, 

I am currently working with a group of eighth grade students teaching Math and Science. Although the school year has only just begin, I can already tell that missing work is going to be an issue. I was hoping to develop a system to reduce the amount of missing work in my classroom before it gets out of hand. I was wondering what strategies or systems that other teachers had in place that have been effective. Any suggestions?

I'm sure I could eliminate the problem by increasing the number of prompts and hounding the students for their work, but they are old enough that I should not have to do that. Plus, they are about to go to high school where missing work is 100% a personal responsibility. How can help them develop good habits without providing too much help?

Thanks for your time, 

Lacey Stone

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The best way I have found to encourage students to complete assignments is to reward them. I know it sounds elementary and I always wonder why I should have to reward my students for doing what they're supposed to be doing anyway, but we have to make assignments worth their time. Many of today's students are part of broken homes with little structure. In my classroom, some students go home to babysit younger siblings while their parents work multiple jobs to make ends meet. If we expect students to complete assignments, it has to be worth their time--there has to be some type of incentive to encourage students to stay up to complete their assignments after their younger siblings go to bed.

One thing that I do with my students that they LOVE is called Koosh Coupon. My students that have completed all of their homework for the entire week play Koosh Coupon at the end of the day (or period in your case) on Friday's. Koosh Coupon is a SMART file that I found on the SMART Exchnage and modified to meet my needs (I think I searched for Bubble Pop). My students throw a soft, squishy ball at the SMART board and try to pop a bubble. When the bubbles pop, a reward comes up on the screen. I write the student a "coupon" for the reward that they can trade in when they choose. Some of the rewards I use are homework passes, chew gum in class (I supply the gum), use the teachers chair, sit at the teacher's desk, or switch seats for the day. These are just some of the popular rewards. This works really well in my class and definitely encourages my students to complete their assignments because they don't want to be left sitting on Koosh Coupon day.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

I could not agree with you more that students respond really well to rewards.  I also think "Why should we have to reward our students for something they should just do."  However, sometimes the reality is that not all students do the "norm" and turn work in on a daily basis.  I do think though that we need to try and ease away from this as much as possible.  I do not necessarily think that students should be punished for not turning in work, but they do need to understand the importance of why they need to turn things in and it is more of a self growing experience and teaches them about responsibility.  Not all students have the support at home, so we as teachers need to be sensitive to this and motivate and encourage our students to be the best they can be!

Motivating students to complete and turn in missing assignments is a struggle that most middle school teachers face! It is definitely valuable to teach students about the importance of completing their assignments - other than just receiving a grade or earning points.  Some students are motivated by grades and points, and others are not.  I have a few strategies that I use in my classroom to get students to make up their missing work and turn in assignments. 


One strategy that is new for me this year is the "NO HOMEWORK BINDER".  When students do not complete their homework, whether it is because they forgot it at home, left it in their locker, forgot to do it, forgot to write it down, or did not understand the homework and therefore, did not attempt to complete it; they have to fill out the binder.  In the binder they have to record their name, the date, the assignment and write the reason that they did not complete their homework.  I believe this strategy is working well for my students, because they are held accountable for providing me with a legitimate reason for not completing their work.  The binder also helps me keep track of patterns of missing assignments.  If I notice a pattern of not understanding work, or leaving work at home, I can follow up with the appropriate response (parent contact, extra help, etc.).


At the beginning of the school year, I established a routine with my students that it is their responsibility to retrieve their missing work.  One saying that helps middle schoolers is "ask three, then me".  I told them to check with their peers to see what they missed and when it is due.  Even though they are in seventh grade, they realize that I cannot stop teaching a class of 32 students to sit down with them and help them through their make-up work.  One strategy that my colleague taught me is to leave a slip of paper detailing the missed work in an absentee folder.  I do have to fill out the slips each day, but the student is responsible to go to their class folder, retrieve the slip, make up the work, and place it back into another folder for me to grade.  I make a point not to remind them to get their absentee work, because I want to establish this responsibility with them at the beginning of the year.


Finally, I am lucky that my school has an online gradebook.  Students are able to access their grades during technology class, and parents are able to access the grades at home.  If an assignment is missing, I choose to have it count as a zero.  This motivates students that are motivated by grades to get that missing work turned in.


To motivate students who do not really care as much about earning points or their grades, I would have an individual talk with them about how their missing work is effecting their learning and understanding in my class.  After missing many assignments or large scale assignments, I believe that most students begin to feel that they are "falling behind".  As a math teacher, I try to stress with them the importance of keeping up to date with their work.  If they fall behind on their assignments or make up work, we have usually moved onto a new topic.  This makes comprehension and learning more difficult for those students.  I think that encouraging students to make up missing work and complete assignments takes a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivational talks with them.  It is very important to establish your expectations and routines for missing work from the beginning.

I love the NO HOMEWORK BINDER idea! Accountability is  a significant factor in getting students to do their homework.  I also track which assignments are completed and which ones are not to see if there is a trend.

I have older students; however it seems  that in the 8th grade, many students struggle with hectic schedules that are full of activities and events, so I think this still might be useful. I require my students to use time management by use a calendar (usually on their phones). They have to make appointments with themselves to do their homework. It is like playing tetras. Find a time between band practice and the soccer game.

I also make sure that we go over large homework projects and break down the project into tasks. We create milestones and checkpoints. Finally, so they can better allocate their time, they are either told how much time they are expected to spend on their work or asked to estimate how much they think they will need.

While I do not get 100%, it is much easier for me to identify students who are struggling with the material verse the students who lack organization.

I had a teacher let students get out of their final if they turned in all of their homework! they still had to take tests during the semester. however, many turned in homework because they knew the final would be a harder route to take!

I truly appreciate that educators don't just look at the "how" of fixing this problem, but also at the "why". It is so important that we help students with no intrinsic structure in their lives create it for themselves, instead of punishing them for being ill-equipped. If it truly is all about them, understanding their needs is as important as developing strategies to meet those needs.

We have had a no zero policy for a few years now and we have more kids turning in work because they can and because they will get full credit for the learning.  With a zero, they will not have any motivation to do the work.  Also, our best teachers work with chronic students to get a good relationship with the student and reward them with a piece of candy or something simple for getting things done.  This, along with moving the students through more restrictive discipline measures, has worked well with our students.  There are some students you have to stay on, but this alleviates a great deal of the problems.


When I was in high school, one of our teachers had a team homework system.  She had grouped the students into groups of 3 or 4 (depending on the total number) and each day, would roll the dice, with a number corresponding to each person in the group.  Then the groups grade would depend on that students homework.  The groups would then get the next 10 minutes to peer review the homework before handing it in.  Students who didn't do homework would be embarrassed and have to explain any excuse to their peers, not their teacher.  The only ones who didn't do homework, were typically really smart, and confident they could complete well it in 10 minutes or less.  

While I was there, homework was always handed in.

Also, she would occasionally have group tests (not all tests).  Everyone did their own work on it, but their grade was the groups average.  We would always know about these tests a few days in advance and the general topic.  The groups would work together to make sure everyone was comfortable.

I'm not sure that the teacher did this, but it seems like a good idea to take 2 stronger students and pair them with 2 weaker students for the groups.



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