How to Deal With Late Work and Makeup Work

Late Work and Make Up Work Policies

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Late work is a teacher housekeeping task that often causes a classroom management nightmare for teachers. Late work can be especially difficult for new educators who do not have a set policy in place or even for a veteran teacher who has created a policy that just is not working.

There are many reasons why makeup or late work should be allowed, but the best reason to consider is that any work that was deemed important enough by a teacher to be assigned, deserves to be completed. If homework or classwork is not important, or are assigned as "busy work," students will notice, and they will not be motivated to complete the assignments. Any homework and/or classwork a teacher assigns and collects should support a student's academic growth.

There may be students returning from excused or unexcused absences who will need to complete makeup work. There also may be students who have not worked responsibly. There may be assignment completed on paper, and now there may be assignments submitted digitally. There are multiple software programs where students may submit homework or classwork. However, there may be students who lack the resources or support they need at home.

Therefore, it is important that teachers create late work and make-up work policies for hard copies and for digital submissions that they can follow consistently and with a minimum of effort. Anything less will result in confusion and further problems.

Questions to Consider When Creating a Late Work and Makeup Work Policy

  1. Research your school's current late work policies. Questions to ask:
    1. Does my school have a set policy for teachers concerning late work? For example, there might be a schoolwide policy that all teachers are to take off a letter grade for each day late.
    2. What is my school's policy concerning time for makeup work? Many school districts allow students two days to complete late work for each day they were out.
    3. What is my school's policy for making up work when a student has an excused absence? Does that policy differ for an unexcused absence? Some schools do not allow students to make up work after unexcused absences.
  2. Decide how you want to handle collecting on-time homework or classwork. Options to consider:
    1. Collecting homework (hard copies) at the door as they enter the class.
    2. Digital submissions to a classroom software platform or app (ex: Edmodo, Google Classroom). These will have a digital time stamp on each document.
    3. Ask students have to turn homework/classwork into a specific location (homework/classwork box) by the bell to be considered on time.
    4. Use a timestamp to put on homework /classwork to mark when it was submitted. 
  3. Determine if you will accept partially-completed homework or classwork. If so, then students can be considered on time even if they have not completed their work. If not, this needs to be clearly explained to students.
  4. Decide what type of penalty (if any) you will assign to late work. This is an important decision because it will impact how you control late work. Many teachers choose to lower a student's grade by one letter for each day that it is late. If this is what you choose, then you will need to come up with a method for recording the dates past deadline for hard copies to help you remember as you grade later that day. Possible ways to mark late work:
    1. Have students write the date they turn in the homework on the top. This saves you time but could also lead to cheating.
    2. You write the date the homework was turned in on the top as it is turned in. This will only work if you have a mechanism for students to turn in work directly to you each day.
    3. If you wish to use a homework collection box, then you can mark the day each assignment was turned in on the paper when you grade each day. However, this requires daily maintenance on your part so that you don't get confused.
  5. Decide how will you assign makeup work to students who were absent. Possible ways to assign makeup work:
    1. Have an assignment book where you write down all classwork and homework along with a folder for copies of any worksheets/handouts. Students are responsible for checking the assignment book when they return and collecting the assignments. This requires you to be organized and to update the assignment book each day.
    2. Create a "buddy" system. Have students be responsible for writing down assignments to share with someone who was out of class. If you gave notes in class, either provide a copy for the students who missed or you can have them copy notes for a friend. Be aware that students have to on their own time copy notes and they might not get all the information depending on the quality of the notes copied.
    3. Only give makeup work before or after school. Students have to come to see you when you are not teaching so that they can get the work. This can be hard for some students who do not have the time to come before or after depending on bus/ride schedules.
    4. Have a separate makeup assignment that uses the same skills, but different questions or criteria.
  6. Prepare how will you have students makeup tests and/or quizzes that they missed when they were absent. Many teachers require students to meet with them either before or after school. However, if there is an issue or concern with that, you might be able to have them come to your room during your planning period or lunch to try and complete the work. For students who need to make up assessments, you may want to design an alternate assessment, with different questions.
  7. Anticipate that long-term assignments (ones where students have two or more weeks to work on) will take much more supervision. Break the project up into chunks, staggering the workload when possible. Breaking up one assignment into smaller deadlines will mean that you are not chasing a large assignment with a high percentage grade that is late.
  8. Decide how you will address late projects or large percentage assignments. Will you allow late submissions? Make sure that you address this issue at the beginning of the year, especially if you are going to have a research paper or other long-term assignment in your class. Most teachers make it a policy that if students are absent on the day a long-term assignment is due that it must be submitted the day that student returns to school. Without this policy, you might find students who are trying to gain extra days by being absent.

If you do not have a consistent late work or makeup policy, your students will notice. Students who turn their work in on time will be upset, and those who are consistently late will take advantage of you. The key to an effective late work and makeup work policy is good recordkeeping and daily enforcement.

Once you decide what you want for your late work and makeup policy, then stick to that policy. Share your policy with other teachers because there is strength in consistency. Only by your consistent actions will this become one less worry in your school day. 

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Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "How to Deal With Late Work and Makeup Work." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Kelly, Melissa. (2020, August 27). How to Deal With Late Work and Makeup Work. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "How to Deal With Late Work and Makeup Work." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).