Maryland Teachers Head Back to School

Classroom Tip – Handling Student Absence

Most Maryland teachers are back at school, but fortunately I do not return to school until Monday.   Well, as I head back and think about setting up my classroom, I plan to continue some classroom procedures from previous years.

In our school, students frequently miss class for myriad reasons.  Some of their absences are school related, such as field trips, sports, and other activities, but many of them get sick or go on family vacations.  To help students when they return, I have a place in my classroom where they get assignments that they missed. Since they are high school students, it also encourages them to take responsibility for themselves.

On an accessible counter, I stack letter trays that have folders for each day of the week.   In each folder, I put a printed agenda where students can find the objectives, activities, homework, and any handouts from the days that they missed.  I simply put the absent student names on the appropriate handouts in the folder.

The beauty of this procedure is that it saves me from too many interruptions during class.  When a student asks what she missed, I just point to the absence folders.  Of course, this is just one of many procedures that I will be explaining during the first week of school.

To make reviewing classroom expectations and procedures more interesting this year, I’ve created a set of task cards. Great for the first days of school, this activity will engage students and require  them to find answers in their syllabus, handbooks, and other classroom resources. 

Besides helping students review their routines, the Twitter response handout requires students to write concise answers and makes their learning relevant.  For extra fun, students also write #hash tags.  If you’re interested in checking them out, click on this link.

Teachers are always in need of new tips for handling their classroom routines, so I hope you find my absence procedure helpful.  I’ve also created an English textbook scavenger hunt as a freebie gift for your return back to school.  

Want to find other great resources from Maryland teachers?  Check out the TpT sellers below!


"Chunk" Your Syllabus

cooperative and active learning

In addition to perusing the school agenda, every teacher I know discusses her syllabus on the first day.  Some keep their syllabi brief, but often they simply read it to their students while the kids look at them with glazed eyes.  And really, can you blame the students?  Can you imagine listening to all of your teachers review a syllabus or agenda for eight hours straight?

Unfortunately I was guilty of doing this, too.  In the past, I routinely read my syllabus to my class; however, several years ago, I created a new method for reviewing my five page syllabus. 

I use the reading strategy “chunking,” which breaks up reading into manageable sections.  Furthermore, my activity incorporates cooperative learning, so it gives me an opportunity to see how my students work (or don’t work) together.  The activity is always popular and gets my school year started positively.  Best of all, after my students complete the activity, I have posters of their work to display on the VERY FIRST DAY of school, which pleases my administrators and brightens my classroom.

Here is how I implement my activity:

1.  Since my syllabus is five pages long, I number each page and divide my class into five groups.  Each group is assigned a page to read and analyze.  I also give a poster-size construction paper and marker to each group.

2.  I tell the students to identify at least five essential details that the class needs to know from their assigned pages.  They must also make an inference.  Typically, I give an example:  even though it doesn’t state it explicitly in the syllabus, we can infer from the course expectations that good attendance will help students be successful.
back to school activity
3.  Each group chooses someone with legible handwriting and writes the details and inference on its construction paper.  They also decide on how to present their posters to the class in a way that involves everyone in the group.  Recently, I've tweaked this activity and my students turn their posters into the "front pages" of newspapers. 

4.  When the groups are ready, each one presents its poster to the class.  This gives me a chance to check for understanding, answer questions, and elaborate on any points that are important.  Finally, I collect the posters for my display. 

My students are involved and grateful to do an activity that’s different than the typical first-day lecture.  Best of all, I get them reading and writing, so I can meet curriculum standards right away. The displayed posters serve as an excellent reminder of content, expectations, and procedures for the first week, too!

Want more tips for back to school?  You can download this free BTS eBook for 7-12 ELA teachers. 

Read more ideas for back to school here.
Do you have ideas for reviewing classroom rules, procedures, and routines?  
Please share in the comments below.

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