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How to Handle Missing Work & Absences

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Show Notes:

The fall and winter months come with lots of sick children, and in turn, absent students from your class. You know what that means - extra work for you!

When your students miss school, that means they need to catch up on missing work (among other things) when they get back. Oh, and let’s not forget about the parents who ask for work to be sent home at the last minute…like “3:00 on a Friday last minute”. πŸ™„

With everything that you are already responsible for as a teacher, managing missed work due to absences can become very overwhelming very quickly. 

Today we’re going to talk about how you might want to handle missing work for your students and how you can organize it all. This is yet another topic that likely wasn’t covered in University, but one that we need to be prepared for. The reality is that you will always have sick kids, and students that go away on vacation during the school year, so you need to have a system for managing that.

There are things you can put in place now so that when you do have absent students, you’re not scrambling around trying to figure out how to get them caught up.

One big takeaway that I want you to leave with after listening to this episode is that you don’t need to take a ton of extra time catching students up on work throughout the day. Instead, I want you to work smarter, not harder. Use these creative ideas to enlist the help of your students, other adults in the school building, book buddies, and parent volunteers. 

In case you want to refer back to my ideas for handling missing work that I mention inside of this episode, they are:

  1. Use “nurse envelopes”. 
  2. Consider setting up a “While You Were Out” bulletin board with a folder of work for each day of the week.
  3. Utilize ketchup, mustard, and pickles folder.
  4. Try attaching a ziplock bag velcroed to the side of each student’s desk who needs to complete missed work.
  5. Use Google slides for all of your lessons so you can easily share it with students and parents
  6. Replace morning work with “catch up work” when students return to school.
  7. Ask for student volunteers as teacher assistants to help catch absent students up.
  8. If a lot of your class has work to catch up on, use “book buddy” time to complete it.
  9. Enlist the help of parent volunteers and/or student teachers.
  10. Assign a “travel journal” for traveling students.

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Inside this week's show, you'll learn:

  • A reminder that it takes time to get clear on your teaching style, and adopting an attitude of experimentation.
  • The idea of sending a “nurse envelope” home with students to catch them up on missed work.
  • A way to keep parents and absent students up to date by using Google Slides, plus a bonus benefit of doing this.
  • What to do if parents ask you for student work last minute (like on a Friday afternoon!)
  • Helpful tips for how you can catch students up without doing all the work yourself.

Links & resources mentioned inside this episode:

I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

πŸ’› Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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