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First, let's examine the current system you have for students to turn in their assignments and how you check for missing work. Do you collect piles of work and tediously check through each one of them, making notes in the grade book as you go along? Do you have students clip their numbered clothespin to their work and check to see whose clothespin is left (and then unclip all of the clothespins to be ready for the next assignment)? Do you write the names you are missing on a post-it note that will inevitably get lost in the mountain of paperwork that we accumulate on our desks during any given week? I have done two of those listed above, and neither of them worked for me. I always felt like it was so much work as the teacher to check through all of the stacks of paper to make sure I had them all, and let's be honest, we could all use that precious time somewhere else.
Today, I want to tell you all about a strategy that I started using last year that saved me SO much time: STUDENT CHECKLISTS! Having a list of students to check off for various things like field trip forms and lunch money isn't a new concept, but I wanted to turn the tables and make my fourth graders accountable for checking in their own work! I created student checklists and printed them on colored paper (a different color for each subject). When I handed out an assignment, I would fill out a checklist sheet with the date and title of assignment, and slip it into the correct turn in bin.
This next part is what takes the work off of you: Students check their OWN name off the list as soon as they turn in the assignment, and place their paper UNDER the list so the colored checklist remains on top. The best part? When I come to collect the assignment, I can easily see who has turned it in and who I am still missing, without having to go through all of the papers myself! It's a simple procedure that saves me literally hours of work over any typical school year.
The most important part is consistently teaching the procedure. For the first few weeks, yes, students will forget to check off their name. But, if you consistently practice the expectation and hold them accountable, this procedure will become second nature to them. I have students practice this procedure by making them turn in virtually everything I have them do the first few days of school - even those word searches and get to know you activities - so the procedure becomes ingrained in their brains. If they forget, I just call their name, and I have them look through the stack for their assignment. Then they check off their name and turn it in again. This puts the responsibility back on them and they are more likely to remember to do it themselves next time.
Some people have asked if I ever have problems with a student checking their name off but not actually turning it in, or checking off other student's names. Because I keep the checklist IN the turn-in bin, I rarely have students who check it off but don't turn it in, because it requires them actually coming over to the bin empty-handed. If I did, I would just have that conversation with them. I'm more likely to have to talk with students who didn't check their name of but swear they turned it in. As for students checking off other students' names, that's never been a problem for me, but I let them know on the very first day that the only name they are allowed to make a mark next to is their own (and the checklist is set up so it's easy to track the line they need to check).
I have two columns on my student checklists. The first column is where they check off their name, and the second column is for me to write their grade! My last school didn't require us to keep a traditional grade book, so I just stored these checklists in a binder by color (subject) when I was done to ensure I had them if I needed to refer to them later. You could also use this column to mark late or missing assignments if you needed to. The possibilities are endless!
My favorite part about these editable student checklists is that the names auto-populate into each sheet, meaning you only need to type them one time and the PDF does the rest! I save a master copy for when I need to copy more sheets and keep the ones I have cut in half near my desk for easy access all year long. These checklists have room for classes as big as 30 students (sorry... I know some classes are bigger but that's the biggest I could accommodate with readable text!)
I hope you were able to take away some good tips from this blog post! Next up, another turn-in procedure that puts a spin on the traditional tips for how to ELIMINATE no name papers and encourage self-reflection at the same time. Stay tuned!
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