So you have created meaningful and thought provoking homework for your students. You have incorporated a diverse range of final products that can be submitted. You have clearly established timelines, consistently reminded your students of the deadline coming up and given them time to work on the assigned task in class. So what do you do when a student does not complete the assignment and doesn’t have anything to show for it? Some strategies that I have come across are likely to help not immediately but in the long run.
1) When students are handing in assignments, ensure that you have collected from everyone. If a student does not hand anything in, then have them write their name on a piece of paper and write out the reason for the work not being completed. This accomplishes at least 3 goals. One you are giving the chance for your student to possibly let you in on why he/she has not completed the work. Secondly, you have a reason and can communicate with parents what their child has stated as their reason for not completing. When this occurs, parents continue to enforce the importance of completing homework at home. Granted this may last for only that assignment, but the more this occurs the more students feel that the expectation of homework completion is important. Further to this, your communication with parents will be continuous and they will be always up to date with the situation with their child. Eventually, this student will get the idea and attempt to avoid the telephone calls home by attempting to complete the homework.
2) Another strategy that I have found useful is to not allow students to get away with it. I know it sounds weird, but I have let things go at times. I soon realized that I wasn’t helping my students by giving them a pass on the assignment. You have assigned homework. You found it important initially, and you should continue to stress the importance of it. Allowing it to slide tells students you really didn’t care about it (this will ultimately affect students who complete their work as well). An organizational strategy to help you manage who still needs to complete their work is to have class lists condensed on sheets where you can color code with highlighters. So, blue highlighted names are incomplete or no submission. I usually keep this sheet as a front cover page to the stack of assignments collected. This is a simple and easy task if you have numbers assigned to students. Once you put the numbers in order you can quickly identify the missing number(s) (and student) who has not submitted. I find this helpful, because I ask student helpers to collect and put papers in order.
3) As students go from class to class, it is vitally important that your team is aware of the incomplete homework situation. They are your team and also want to help your students. With my teaching partners, division partners, we have prepared lists with assignment headings and students names and posted them in each of our classrooms. This shows how we are all working together and consistently gives students a visual for what they have yet to complete.
4) If warranted, then I will allow students to stay in for lunch, to give the student time to work on the assignment. I do this for many reasons, such as a student having a home life situation that poses a great difficulty for him/her to accomplish the assignment or to overcome access issues such as not having Internet access.
I’m sure that there are many different approaches to dealing with incomplete homework that you have used. Let us know, put in your comments with your best strategy that you have used.