Mark up

29th June 2007 at 01:00

Classroom management All ages

It is accepted practice to take a register in lessons. But to what purpose? Are we just checking who is there or using a mechanical task to settle a class? One late arrival can wipe out the advantages gained from the latter.

Although it is called a register of "attendance", I realised some years ago that I was ill-served by the visual fuzz of a page of little boxes full of ticks.

Your main practical need is to know who has been absent. With that information at your fingertips you are able to compile significant report comments referring to patterns of non-attendance and it will help curtail sterile arguments at consultation evenings with doubting parents (and those are increasing, aren't they?) Solution? Switch to marking only absences in your register, shading the relevant boxes. Instantly, your register becomes a graph of dark on light which shows you who was away and when - most significantly, the register becomes a resource comparable from year to year. And, as a graph, it means something, at a glance, to anyone.

By the way, as absences are still in the minority, it takes little time and frees you to do more meaningful interacting with your pupils. Doing it at the point of their first independent activity is unobtrusive and allows for all but the tardiest of latecomers

Colin Padgett teaches, examines and writes in East Anglia

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