What to Do If Your Students Come to Class Unprepared

Dealing With Missing Books and Supplies

Back to school supplies
Image by Catherine MacBride/Getty Images

One of the facts that every teacher faces is that each day there will be one or more students who come to class without the ​necessary books and tools. They might be missing their pencil, paper, textbook, or whatever other school supply you asked them to bring with them that day. As the teacher, you need to decide how you will deal with this situation when it arises. There are basically two schools of thought about how to deal with a case of missing supplies: those who think that students should be held responsible for not bringing everything they need, and those who feel that a missing pencil or notebook should not be the cause of the student losing out on the day's lesson. Let's take a look at each of these arguments. 

Students Should Be Held Responsible

Part of succeeding not only in school but also in the 'real world' is learning how to be responsible. Students must learn how to get to class on time, participate in a positive manner, manage their time so that they submit their homework assignments on time, and, of course, come to class prepared. Teachers who believe that one of their main tasks is to reinforce the need for the students to be responsible for their own actions will typically have strict rules about missing school supplies. 

Some teachers will not allow the student to participate in the class at all unless they have found or borrowed the necessary items. Others might penalize assignments because of forgotten items. For example, a geography teacher who is having students color in a map of Europe might reduce a student's grade for not bringing in the required colored pencils. 

Students Should Not Miss Out

The other school of thought holds that even though a student needs to learn responsibility, forgotten supplies should not stop them from learning or participating in the day's lesson. Typically, these teachers will have a system for students to 'borrow' supplies from them. For example, they might have a student trade something valuable for a pencil that they then return at the end of the class when they get that pencil back. One excellent teacher at my school only lends pencils out if the student in question leaves one shoe in exchange. This is a foolproof way of ensuring that the borrowed supplies are returned before the student leaves the class. 

Random Textbook Checks

Textbooks can cause a lot of headaches for teachers as students are prone to leaving these at home. Most teachers do not have extras in their classroom for students to borrow. This means that forgotten textbooks typically result in students having to share. One way to provide incentives for students to bring their texts each day is to periodically hold random textbook/material checks. You can either include the check as part of each student's participation grade or give them some other reward such as extra credit or even some candy. This depends on your students and the grade you are teaching. 

Larger Problems

What if you have a student who rarely if ever brings their materials to class. Before jumping to the conclusion that they are just lazy and writing them a referral, try to dig a little deeper. If there is a reason that they are not bringing their materials, work with them to come up with strategies to help. For example, if you think the issue at hand is simply one of organization issues, you might provide them with a checklist for the week for what they need each day. On the other hand, if you feel that there are issues at home that are causing the problem, then you would do well to get the student's guidance counselor involved. 

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "What to Do If Your Students Come to Class Unprepared." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/dealing-with-unprepared-students-7605. Kelly, Melissa. (2020, August 27). What to Do If Your Students Come to Class Unprepared. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/dealing-with-unprepared-students-7605 Kelly, Melissa. "What to Do If Your Students Come to Class Unprepared." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/dealing-with-unprepared-students-7605 (accessed June 6, 2023).