What about Late Work?

Photo Credit: Gokik via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gokik via Compfight cc

Late work is a hot topic in the middle school teaching world. Middle school is the first time that students are expected to travel from classroom to classroom, keeping track of up to 9 assignments a day, depending on the school they attend. Many students struggle with some aspects of this transition, and completing class work on time can become quite a problem. I do not have a solution to the problem of late work and grades in the middle school, but I have been searching for a theory that keeps students’ interests at heart, but does not put an unfair burden on teachers.

I recently came across an article by Rick Wormeli entitled, “Late Work: A Constructive Response” that outlines ways to teach students the importance of punctuality and responsibility without indiscriminately lowering grades for every late assignment. I highly recommend reading it to anyone who struggles with finding the right late work policy for their own classroom.

Mr. Wormeli has been in education for 33 years and has taught math, science, history, English, PE, and health. He has written many books on education, including Meet Me in the Middle and Fair Isn’t Always Equal. He is much more an expert than I am on effective classroom policies, so I want to share here some of his thoughts on this topic that stood out to me.

Regarding giving no credit or severely lowered credit for late assignments, Wormeli says:
“Let’s deal with late work in ways that lead to students’ personal investment in learning. Driving an assignment into the ground doesn’t serve anyone. While there should be consequences for not meeting deadlines, we can still spend time
investigating the situation before arbitrarily lowering the grade.”

He also stresses that it is important to remember that middle school students come to us as 11 or 12-year-old children and leave us 4 years before they will be considered adults:
“We are teaching young adolescents who are learning [adult-level] competencies for the first time. To demand consistent, adult-level competence of middle schoolers is inappropriate. We have to walk students through mature decision making and action-taking regarding their time.”

Recurring late work is undoubtedly a problem in middle schools. To get the full value of Mr. Wormeli’s thoughts, read his article: here. Don’t be afraid to try something new if you feel that what you are doing hasn’t worked. And by all means, if you have discovered a late work policy that works for you, please share!


6 thoughts on “What about Late Work?

  1. I “COMPLETELY” agree with the article. I have students who will notify me ahead of time or end up being late for various reasons. I think it is valid to say every situation is different,and should be treated different. I am “NOT” going to take off points because someone is taking extra time on a project and going beyond the time frame, or if a student missed time because of sickness or family issues, or if a student is carrying a heavy load of classes or working at High level.
    However I believe some sort due date should be established to engage students, plus their has to be an absolute, but until we reach it is a process for not only my students, but for myself.


  2. I admire the work of Rick Wormeli. The work in our classroom is based on feedback to improve. Both Rick and Jennifer Roberts have influenced my grading [Feedback The kids really like this; they know exactly what to do to improve and move on. Timelines aren’t are problem — we’re “in progress,” and students resubmit, which is from another educator, Mark Barnes. In my classroom, the rubric feedback is part of the process: review with feedback; revise from feedback; resubmit. Often times, projects move into the next grading period — as students resubmit in the next period. Great post to reflect on, Laura! Thanks.


  3. Coach Coughlin,
    Very nice work! Thanks for sharing so concisely, not only for your teaching staff, but for the world. I love Rick’s work on grading and learning. You’ve shared some great highlights that are doable in class right away. Thanks for sharing! And I’m so glad you’ve joined the #EdBlogADay!



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