Methods to Deal with Tardy Students

Why is the Student Tardy ?

One of the most important housekeeping and classroom management tasks that teachers face every day is taking attendance. These attendance notes should also show which students are in class on time and which students arrive after the bell rings. The beginning of class is generally selected to be the best time to record attendance and to note the time of students who come late.

While many students will be tardy at some point during the year, chronic tardiness can become a real problem if an effective tardy policy is not in place. A school should have policies outlined as to the number of excused or unexcused tardies a student might have over a school year. The excused tardy could be used for medical appointments that run longer or an accident that could not have been avoided. The unexcused tardy may be used to record the number of times a student who may have overslept or gone on an errand.

Moreover, students need to understand the importance of being on time. As a teacher, it is often very helpful to have numerous ways to deal with individual latecomers to class. Finding what works best for each individual or group of students is part of managing a class effectively. The following is a list of six approaches that you can use as you deal with tardy students in your class.

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Conference and Ask Why?

The most important way to determine why a student who is late to class is to ask, "Why are you late?" A student who is late once or twice a school year may need to know that you are keeping accurate records that reflect a level of engagement. The message is "I care about you..."

The more chronic offender, however, may have other problems that prevent him or her from meeting that responsibility (homelessness, employment, lack of transportation.) Students who are repeatedly tardy may need more support. Teachers should consider that building respect for time in all students is a life skill that can be taught in any subject area.

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Make the Beginning of Class Important

Security Guard Watching Elementary Students Running
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Students need to understand that coming into class late can have consequences on their grade. Using items like Warm-Ups and On Time Quizzes can have a huge impact. For these activities, the teacher controls when class starts and how it begins. Teachers must be prepared to begin class right on time so that they can take care of attendance and other housekeeping tasks after the students are busy working. Students quickly get used to a routine. Therefore, teachers need to decide what method you wish to you use and get started right away.

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Use Consistent Consequences

Students will respect a teacher and follow if the rules more if they are public and applied with consistency. If the school district has created a policy on tardiness that includes specific disciplinary actions, all teachers should follow this policy. Repeat offenders who are tardy should receive the same consequences.

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Use Detentions

The time lost when a student is late to class may be regained through a detention after school. Detentions could be added to a classroom management plan. However, they may require more commitment on a teacher's part. Unless the school provides a supervised detention room, the teacher may have to stay in the classroom. One solution is to have teachers who work together and hold joint detention. In these situations, transportation can also cause headaches. Teachers who use detentions typically send a letter home explaining that if students earn detention then the parents are responsible for picking up students late. Despite these issues, detention can be useful as a deterrent for chronic tardiness.

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Use a Reward System

A teacher might provide students with rewards for not being tardy to a class. This can be as simple as giving extra hints before exams or warnings of pop quizzes during the first few minutes of class. However, it can also expand to more tangible rewards such as homework passes. The benefit of this is that students who are following their peers, the rewarded, are hopefully reinforcing their positive behaviors.

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Help Form and Follow Schoolwide Policies

Many schools already have tardy policies in place, even if these are not consistently enforced. All teachers should have reviewed the school handbook and discussed tardy issues with mentor teachers and administrators in order to understand what the policies are every school year. Schoolwide policies can be extremely effective if the majority of teachers enforce them. However, if the policy is not working, perhaps you can get involved in trying to fix it. If the issue is a lack of teacher buy-in, become an advocate for enforcement and help come up with a plan to get more teachers involved. If the problem is the policy itself, see if your administration is agreeable to you working with teachers and administrators to come up with something that will work.