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Late Work

What can we do about it?

Submitted by: Jessica in IL

My grading policy is this... one day late - drops a letter grade; any more than that - 50% is the grade.

When I collect papers though, they kids turn them in a "turn in" box. Each class I teach has a different box. After that class leaves, I walk over to the box and staple all the papers together. That way I will know who turns in the paper late. (if it is someone who "forgot" it in the locker, I usually don't count it late, doesn't happen much though). Then when I put the grades in the grade book, I will highlight the boxes of the kids who didn't turn it in. Then I know that it was late. If a kid turns in a late assignment, the must put the date they turned it in on the top. That way I can tell if it is more than one day or not. This seems to work well. The stapling really helps.

Submitted by: Luann Wieland

I also staple the papers together. I make sure the students know I do, that way if it was turned in it would be there. I also have the students use an assigned number with their name. This makes it easier to sort papers, and I do put them in order before I staple them together.

Submitted by: Karen S

If an assignment is late they lose 20 points off the grade. I then require them to stay in morning, lunch, and afternoon recess. If it is not finished by the end of the day I may have them call home and request to stay after. However I have a lot of bus kids, so if they come to school the next day without the assignment completed, they repeat the process of staying in. If it is not completed by the end of the day; they have earned a zero for the assignment. 

The only times I have deviated from having them stay in is when they tell me they have the assignment completed at home. They know if they do not turn it in the next day they forfeit their recesses. They also know if it is not completed by the time they go home it is a zero. This is the first year that I have the luxury of being in a school with a study club program. There is a study period before school, during lunch, and after school. This is manned by classroom assistants. So when I keep kids in at recess I need to monitor them, but at lunch they go to study club. 

The fifth grade teacher and I also work together when we keep kids in. We take turns monitoring them so the other can have a potty break, make a phone call, or do whatever is necessary. Also, at the end of each quarter we celebrate those who have had a reasonable number of lates for the quarter. They get into groups of 2-4 and spilt the cost of a pizza. Every quarter we set an acceptable number of late papers. I start the first quarter with 9, and decrease by 3 every quarter. Needless to say the last quarter finds only a few students having no lates. So I have in the past kept the last quarter at 3. Hope this makes sense. It is a difficult issue to deal with.

Submitted by: SixTeach

I agree totally with not accepting late work. One year my teammate and I had preschool meetings with every parent and student we were going to teach that year. We explained our policy which was that we would not accept late work and students would receive a zero for work not turned in when due. Parents signed a form stating that they understood our policy (students, too.) We had very few late assignments that year. I really think if you set the expectations that students rise to the occasion. It was one of my very favorite groups of students.... they were an "average" group who became "above average" in their attitude and effort. They were a joy to teach! As a side note, parents thought it was a great idea and were very supportive!

Submitted by: Jodi Gullicksrud

Each student got one "dog" coupon from me at the beginning of the year. Students also received late work or free 10 points coupons at Halloween, Xmas, Valentine's day from our team. I let the kids turn in the dog coupons for 10 points at the end of the year if they had not used them yet, just as a little reward for being responsible. FYI---I taught 7th grade last year and had each student for only one or two subjects.

Submitted by: Jodi Gullicksrud

I made "The Dog Ate My Homework" coupons last summer out of business cards. I formatted them using a Print Shop like progam. The coupons had a picture of a dog along with the words "THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK -- I'll turn it in tomorrow." There was room for the student to sign the coupon upon redemption. In my circumstance it allowed students to turn in homework a day late without penalty. All other late work was worth half-credit for up to one week and then was worth 0 credit. The kids loved the coupons, and I justified them by saying, "Hey, we all have circumstances beyond our control."

Submitted by: Splsmo

Year before last we did the 10% off for each day an assignment was late - It was a bookkeeping nightmare. We keep statistics and an average of 22% of the students had lates or missings for each assignment. But at the start of second semester we went to zero credit for late work and it dropped to 11%.

Students are just like us. If they know it HAS TO be in on a certain date most of them get it in. If they know it can be a little late - they will probably procrastinate a little.

Submitted by: Tmknght

Last year, our sixth grade team sat down and decided to have a common policy for late work. We found that all of us agreed that no late work would be accepted (except for absences). My students were shocked. They were used to having teachers accept late work up until an hour before report cards were issued. (That's not hyperbole--some of our 5th grade teachers would hold report cards for kids who didn't have work completed, then make a mad dash to re-average grades based on this bottom-of-the-9th attempt to turn in work.) I explained to my kids that their assignments were not busy work. Rather, they were important parts of the learning experience. The assignments I gave were designed to help them practice and internalize the concepts being taught. Therefore, it did no good for them to do the work several days later. By then, we were doing something else. Since the work was for their benefit and not mine, I explained, there was no point in doing it at all if they didn't do it when it would help them. Therefore, it was turn it in or get a 0.

To keep parents informed, I had kids write all assignments which had to be turned in on their assignments pads. I then had two self-inking stamps made. One was purple, and said "Prepared for Success." The other was red and said, "Work Missing or Incomplete." While the kids did bell work, I checked in their assignments and assignment pads, stamping any that were missing with the "Work Missing" stamp and stamping the page with the "Prepared for Success" stamp if all assignments were turned in.

I wish there was some way to definitively measure how much that helped the students. Because classes vary so much from year to year, though, I can't be sure what all made the difference. The bottom line is this: Last year (with no late work) I had 18 kids who were on honor roll all 4 quarters. In my first 2 years of teaching, I had no kids on honor roll all 4 quarters. There were the kids who got Fs all 4 quarters, too, but I suspect they would be the same ones who never turned the work in at all, late or otherwise, under the old system.

Submitted by: Janiece Walsh

I have found a way to work with the late work thing. If the paper is not with the rest of the class's- yet it is turned in- it is not given a grade, but in the gradebook program- Thinkwave, or Gradequick, it is marked as excused. If the paper is just not turned in after they have been reminded-( I check in assignments nearly everyday) they receive a 0 and a note home showing the missing work. I explain to parents who have students with this work completion issue that if their paper is not received in time they will receive credit- not a grade- which doesn't effect their GPA. Even if they turn in a paper with the correct heading for the assignment without the completed work- they receive a 50.

This has worked in the past- now with our district's emphasis on differentiation and the increased student population with 504 plans, my method has to become more individualized. As much as we want to be consistent, our populations vary greatly from year to year and that is what makes teaching so interesting- it is never the same- always a new set of kiddies with fresh brains to figure out; how they work, what they know and what is the best way to get them further down the road to success.

To clarify my methods of dealing with the late work issue-
1. If a student doesn't turn in the work at all- they get a 0, a reminder goes home and usually produces a late paper.
2. If they turn in a paper late- it is not graded, just excused - and it doesn't effect their GPA
3. If a student turns in a paper on time, yet it is not complete they receive a 50 - unless it is completed to the point to where they did more than half of the assignment, understood the concept, etc.

Submitted by: Laura Terry

The students know that I don't accept any late work after they have turned in their one freebee. However, if a student ends up with three late papers, I have the students fill out a refocus form telling the parents about their
three zeroes and why they didn't turn in their work. The form is signed by the assistant principal and goes home in the U.S. mail. The paper has to be signed, and the parents then have the option of having the student stay after school with me to complete all zeroes in the future. If that is what the parents agree to, the student has to call their parents as soon as they have a missing assignment, and stay that afternoon. Some parents I have worked with have their students walk home afterwards (which they hate - particularly if it is raining), others find some form of transportation. I've found the blame then goes to the student, not me, as it has sometimes with parents who want to rescue their kids.

After grading the late work, I will take off 10% from the grade they receive on the assignment. Most students that have study hall with me don't end up staying with me long. Sometimes I will have a student or parent who doesn't want to participate in study hall. I continue to have the students fill out refocus forms every 3 missing assignments and send them home, so that I have documentation that the parents were notified. These days I feel like I need to cover myself any way that I can.

Submitted by: Oasis 644

In our team of 4 core teachers, we have come up with a way that seems to have cut down drastically on the late and missing work. At the end of the day we have homework assistance time or exploratory time. This is when the kids can wind down, go to any of our 4 classes for help, talk quietly, work on homework, etc....

If a student does not complete an assignment for one of us, they have to go to an assigned room for the last period of the day which is quiet only and they have to get it done. We still get our work that day and sometimes students have valid excuses. If a student does not pass in their work at the end of the day, it is a zero in the rank book. No more excuses.

Submitted by: Deb Weissman

Our team wrestled with late work last summer and arrived at a policy we decided to try. We sent a letter home to parents which stated that homework needed to be turned in on time in order to receive full credit. Late work (1 day) would receive nothing higher than a 65. After 2 days, the grade would be a zero. This policy worked for a while in our pod. (There are 6 of us - 2 teams of 3 teachers each) The other pod had a majority of very low kids who rarely turned in homework. They had to change their policy - if kids didn't get an assignment in, they stayed after school until all their work was done. In my pod, the policy worked well for me and I kept with it all year. One of my team mates decided he liked the after school session better, so he was doing that by Christmas. My other team mate used the 100, 65, 0 strategy for most of the year but by the 3rd trimester felt too many of her kids were failing so adopted a 10 pt a day policy. Needless to say there's no ideal solution other that whatever you decide to do, you need to inform parents, and hope that they support you.

I think next year, I'll adopt the 10 pts less a day and not accept any work more than a week late. I did feel that the drop to a 65 was probably too steep for many kids who decided (incorrectly, of course) that a 0 and 65 had the same effect on their grades.


Submitted by: Greg Luedtke

I think that I will pass out 3 late coupons at back to school night. I will give them to the parents so they understand exactly what they are used for and when. I don't think I will accept any late assignments, they will be zeros in the gradebook. I can give it a symbol in my computer gradebook to differentiate it from a true 0. I also have not found a good way of keeping track of how many days late, etc. or percents.

I also send home weekly reports each Monday that include missing assignments and the current grade in each subject. It takes very little time and is well worth it in terms of parent communication.


Submitted by: Laura Candler

For some reason I was really able to cut down on the number of late assignments this year. I have tried lots of different things through the years, and sometimes something will work one year but not the next. I think the best thing you can do to motivate kids is to provide some type of fun incentive activity on Fridays for the kids who have completed all assignments. Every year I find one or two other teachers who will help me organize a "Fun Friday" time for those who have all their homework. One of us will have a study hall for those who are missing assignments, another of us will take a group out for free PE time (our PE time is usually structured), and someone else will have games and activities inside. Kids will work really hard to keep their Fun Friday privilege. The kids hate being stuck in study hall!

For many years I have had a policy of giving one homework pass to students at the beginning of the year "for emergencies." For each week that they complete all assignments, they earn another homework pass. The homework pass excuses them from one non-graded assignment or buys them an extra day for any graded assignment. Other than that, I just give a 0 for missing assignments. This is a strict policy, but as others on this list have said, I find that kids take advantage of any kind of late policy. They don't seem to care if they get a letter grade marked off, but the zero does seem to have some impact. Since I give out one homework pass each week for students who have all their work, I feel that my policy is very fair. It basically says that you can turn in one assignment late each week without penalty. I encourage kids to save up their homework passes and spend them in our class auction, rather than using them for missing assignments. I also only allow them to use one HW pass in any given week and still attend Fun Friday.

Another thing I have tried is sending home a half-sheet Homework Notification form each time someone is missing a homework assignment. I keep a stack of these forms run off on colored paper. When a student misses an assignment he or she has to come up to a table at the front of the room and complete one of the forms while we are checking the work. The student and I both sign the form and I staple it onto the weekly progress report. After awhile, though, I get tired of shuffling these papers around and making sure kids have completed them. It helps some students get on track because the parents see exactly what homework is missing and why. After about one grading period of doing this, I stop because it seems to lose impact after that point. I'm going to start this again at the beginning of this year, though, because I have found it to be very effective when used consistently for a few months (just to get kids on the right track).

My homework passes and homework notification forms are online at my web site. Go to and look in the Odds N Ends section of the file cabinet if you would like to take a look. I also have a weekly progress report in that same file cabinet.

Submitted by: Susan Felton

At Christmas I would make up certificates for the students. 'No homework', and 'add 10 points to any one paper'. They received 2 of each. The students who were on the ball saved them to use when they were really in need. Other students lost theirs. I like the 'dog ate my homework' idea and will add it to my list. Also, I think I will pass out 1 coupon of each type for each marking period, until the last marking period. Hopefully by then, they won't need any coupons/certificates to get their work done. (I hope.)

Submitted by: Jen 


This year we will give 2 chances to hand in late work (with no penalty) each marking period (covers the parents who will make up excuses like they lost it, and other creative lies). That way you are giving some leeway. Then after the 2nd late, they get a Homework alert that must be signed. The missing work and signed homework must come back the next day or it is a zero, and they miss our Friday Free Choice Activity. We build in a 30 minute period where kids can play board games etc... every Friday if they behaved well and did all of their work. Now my question has been do I make them do the work on Friday which means I have to keep track of what they owe and grade it later, or just say zero and not make them do it and call their parents or write a note saying that they have X amount of zeros. I don't count HW as a grade, but if they have 2 late papers, they lose 1 pt off their grade etc.