One of the things my middle school team and I struggled a lot with before holiday break was the high rate of students who did not turn in homework and assignments on time. At first, we created a Google Document that listed students and their missing work. The document was shared with the middle school teachers and Grades 6-8 students. Students who were listed on the document had to come in during lunch and recess for “lunch detention” to make up their missing work.
While the Google Document allowed us to keep track of assignments, it made more work for us as teachers. We rotated through lunch shifts so that one or more teachers had their homerooms open for students to make up missing work. Did we doom ourselves to eating lunch alone in the classroom, never to eat lunch together again in the faculty lounge?
I was determined not to work harder than my students, and to figure out a way to get back to that far-away faculty lounge! After a long thoughtful conversation with the boss, I realized that if we teachers wanted our students to take more responsibility for their work (or lack of), we had to reach out to their parents and get them in on the action. Sure, we emailed and made phone calls, but the communication channels weren’t always immediate.
What if there was a way to log online when a student didn’t do his or her homework? What if parents received an automated email each time this happened? Parents could talk to their child about that assignment on that exact same day. It would be parents holding their own children accountable, and not a Google Document, or teachers eating lunch in their classrooms. We’d finally start getting more work in on time!
By December, I was already using Google Forms with the Flubaroo Add-On for short quick assessments in the science classroom. After Googling ideas, sure enough, there was such a way!
Through my Internet research, I came across Mr. Trussell’s 2014 blog post, “Setting Up A Form To Email Parents About Missing Homework“. Within two hours, I had a working “Missing Homework” Google Forms template and a parent email template! I shared them immediately with the middle school team when we returned from break, and we were ready to roll.
That weekend before the end of the holiday break, I wrote mass emails to parents in each grade introducing the Missing Homework form and automated notices. Within minutes, my inbox was flooded with enthusiastic responses from parents, who loved the idea. Needless to say, students were wary that first Monday back.
Each teacher has his or her own way of using the Missing Homework Google Form. I use it with my work iPad, walking around the room and collecting work individually as students work on bell-ringers. Other teachers bookmark it on their desktop computers and run the list of students missing work during one of their preps.
We middle school teachers have used the Missing Homework forms for a whole month now, and I’m glad to say that it has greatly reduced the amount of missing homework and assignments. In that first week of January, we had close to 30% of students not submit work on time. That number went down to 8% in just two days after those automated parent emails were generated. Now, a full month later, we no longer see the same staggering amounts of students with missing work.
Since then, I’ve tweaked the Missing Homework Google Form a little bit in response to peer teacher and parent feedback. Specials teachers loved the Google Form and wanted to use it in their classes to notify parents of late classwork and projects. Those teachers’ names were added to the drop-down menus, and I edited the form to include classwork. Parents also wanted to know the names of the missing assignments, when the assignments were assigned, and what the assignment deadlines were. I changed the short answer textbox to long answer textbox so teachers could add the necessary information–they could be as brief or as detailed as they wanted!
One of the drawbacks of the Missing Homework Google Form was that the “Autocrat” Add-on does not automatically merge the spreadsheet, email template, and coding whenever I submit a log on the Missing Homework Google Form. Fortunately, I have the last prep of the day so I can set time aside to open up the Google Form and run the merge manually while I type up homework emails to teachers and text reminders (Remind) to parents for the day.
So that I don’t forget to do it, I used the “Form Notifications” Add-on on the Google Form itself to send me email notifications whenever there are five or more responses added to the Google Form by the other teachers.
Despite the heavy legwork upfront, the Missing Homework Google Form, and automated emails have greatly improved our parent-teacher communications. Parents love getting the emails, and we teachers have PDF records we can refer to back up student grades. In addition, the Google Form offers visual diagrams of student work through its summary of responses.
I wouldn’t say that we have completely eradicated students’ inability to turn work in on time as a team, but at least, I get the opportunity now to take a real lunch break!
When students fall behind in classwork and homework, they can quickly enter a downward spiral. They must stay caught up in their current assignments --but must also submit overdue assignments. As the work piles up, some students become overwhelmed and simply give up.
The reasons that students fall behind in assignments are many. Students who are just developing homework skills , for example, often need more time than peers to complete independent assignments, can find it challenging to focus their attention when working on their own, and may not have efficient study skills (Cooper & Valentine, 2001). To be sure, student procrastination and avoidance in work assignments is a widespread problem. And many students who fall behind in their work also develop a maladaptive, self-reinforcing pattern of escape-maintained behavior: as these students owe ever-increasing amounts of late work, they respond to the anxiety generated by that overhang of overdue assignments by actively avoiding that work. And thus the problem only grows worse (Hawkins & Axelrod, 2008).
When a student begins to slip in the completion and submission of assignments, the teacher can take steps proactively to interrupt this work-avoidant pattern of behavior by meeting with the student to create a plan to catch up with late work. (It is also recommended that the parent attend such a conference, although parent participation is not required.) In this 'late-work' conference, the teacher and student inventory what work is missing, negotiate a plan to complete that overdue work, and perhaps agree on a reasonable penalty for any late work turned in. Teacher, student (and parent, if attending) then sign off on the work plan. The teacher also ensures that the atmosphere at the meeting is supportive, rather than blaming, toward the student. And of course, any work plan hammered out at this meeting should seem attainable to the student.
Below in greater detail are the steps that the teacher and student would follow at a meeting to renegotiate missing work. (NOTE: Teachers can use theStudent Late-Work Planning Form: Middle & High School to organize and document these late-work conferences.):
- Inventory All Missing Work. The teacher reviews with the student all late or missing work. The student is given the opportunity to explain why the work has not yet been submitted.
- Negotiate a Plan to Complete Missing Work. The teacher and student create a log with entries for all of the missing assignments. Each entry includes a description of the missing assignment and a due date by which the student pledges to submit that work. This log becomes the student’s work plan. It is important that the submission dates for late assignments be realistic--particularly for students who owe a considerable amount of late work and are also trying to keep caught up with current assignments. A teacher and student may agree, for example, that the student will have two weeks to complete and submit four late writing assignments. NOTE: Review this form as a tool to organize and document the student’s work plan.
- [Optional] Impose a Penalty for Missing Work. The teacher may decide to impose a penalty for the work being submitted late. Examples of possible penalties are a reduction of points (e.g., loss of 10 points per assignment) or the requirement that the student do additional work on the assignment than was required of his or her peers who turned it in on time. If imposed, such penalties would be spelled out at this teacher-student conference. If penalties are given, they should be balanced and fair, permitting the teacher to impose appropriate consequences while allowing the student to still see a path to completing the missing work and passing the course.
- Periodically Check on the Status of the Missing-Work Plan. If the schedule agreed upon by teacher and student to complete and submit all late work exceeds two weeks, the teacher (or other designated school contact, such as a counselor) should meet with the student weekly while the plan is in effect. At these meetings, the teacher checks in with the student to verify that he or she is attaining the plan milestones on time and still expects to meet the submission deadlines agreed upon. If obstacles to emerge, the teacher and student engage in problem-solving to resolve them.
- Cooper, H., & Valentine, J. C. (2001). Using research to answer practical questions about homework. Educational Psychologist, 36(3), 143-153.
- Hawkins, R. O., & Alexrod, M. I. (2008). Increasing the on-task homework behavior of youth with behavior disorders using functional behavioral assessment. Behavior Modification, 32, 840-859.