“Did we do anything last class?”

“Did we do anything last class?” Are you kidding me right now? No, actually we just sat around hoping you would come back. Yes we did something! We always do something!

“What did I miss when I was absent?” You missed a LOT of comprehensible input! Loads of it! While you were home sick, I was here cramming your classmates’ brains full of comprehensible input. Oh…did they get any papers? There’s a paper I passed out here somewhere….

This used to be the bane of my existence. NOT ANYMORE. You know those complicated systems where the teacher has a calendar and writes out the assignments for each class and then the students could just copy down the missing work? I tried that and it didn’t work for me…I’m not disciplined to write out what they missed each class. I needed something easier. I needed something that I was not in charge of. Then I tried something new and 10 years later I’m still loving it.

My chairs are arranged in pairs and every student has a partner. Their partner is in charge of taking care of their missed work. We practice this at the beginning of the year and they take it from there. No stress. No headaches for me. And luckily my kiddos are more reliable than me! And believe it or not, this has really had a wonderful effect on our classroom climate. It really cultivates a sense of “We’re in this together, we take care of each other here.” (That was my supervisor’s observation when he asked about what the students were doing with the pink checklists. Score!)

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The partner who is present goes to the back of the room and grabs one of these checklists, which are copied on pink paper and cut into half sheets.

Grab a copy of the check list here to update it with your own info!

 The student places the checklist on the absent student’s chair (we don’t use desks, but if we had desks, on the absent students’ desks) When I am doing attendance I double check to make sure that there is a pink checklist on every absent student’s chair. (So if I have 3 kids absent, I verify that I see 3 pink checklists….if someone forgot, I just remind them, but they’re pretty good about taking care of their partner.)

The present student is in charge of filling in the check list of today’s activities (On my check list I have listed the things we do most often). If I pass out any papers, I pass out papers for the absent kids too…their partner leaves it on their chair. (So at the end of class, an absent kid might have a pink checklist and a vocab list and a reading or whatever). At the end of class the present student staples the pink checklist on top of the passed out papers and files it in the absent students’ folder.

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  Every student has a folder, organized in file boxes. (I used to write out all their names…then I wised up! I pass out folders on day 1, they write their names at the top, then I collect them.)  I also have my TA file all of their corrected work…I do not miss the days of running around the classroom trying to pass back papers before the bell rings. Students can pick up their work or leave it in their folder, but it saves me a lot of time.  When I have extra copies, I just put them in the first file and students know they can find anything their if they lose their copy.

When the absent student comes back, they check their file, take out their missed work and thank their partner. And no one asks me “Did we do anything last class?” OK, let’s get real, they still ask me, but now I ask them “Did you check your folder?” Touché


  1. […] Every student has a folder and this is where my TA files all their graded work. Gone are the days when I would spend 15 minutes running around like a crazy person passing back papers! And when a student leaves a paper behind, I file it into their folder so they can find it when they get back. And absent students’ work magically makes its way into the student folders. I can’t say enough good things about Student Folders…read more about them here!  […]


    • It depends. If it’s something that we wrote up, I’ll ask them to read and translate it or copy the story down. If not, I don’t have them do anything.


  2. Can you tell us a little more about your folder system? When do students check their folders and how do you prevent a traffic ham scramble for them? Also, what stays in the folder permanently? Do your students keep portfolios?

    Sorry for all the questions- I really need to rework my system and trying to think it all out!


    • Hi Kathy! The folder system has been updated, and I haven’t written about it yet, so here it goes. Each kid actually has 2 folders- their absent/returned work folders and their portfolio. They have access to their absent/ returned work folder- that’s the one their buddy puts their absent work in and they mostly check it when they get bank from being absent. And any “not very” important assignments get returned there. There’s no traffic jam because kids just check it whenever they want. Their portfolio is where I file their tests, times writings and proficiency reflections. I pass those out after every test so they can compare tests, marvel at their progress and reflect on their proficiency, then I collect them and they stay separate from their absent work folder.


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