Look at late work a different way. Homework due dates are a way for us to help our students learn responsibility when the stakes are low so that they are prepared for the real world when the stakes are high. If a student loses a letter grade in my class because of missed deadlines, hopefully that student will learn her lesson and not ruin her credit as an adult because of missed payments. Isn't that worth an hour or two each week?
For most homework assignments, I simply deducted 10% per day for two days. Whatever system you use, make sure that the penalties motivate the students without destroying their grades due to one bad night. Otherwise, here are some ways that I learned over the years to juggle late work.
- Eliminate arguments - get a date stamp. You do not want to debate with a student about whether an assignment was late or not, especially at the end of the quarter when grades are due. I had a date stamp that I would use on any paper that was not submitted on the due date, and I would be sure to note if the student was absent or had another reason for turing in the assignment late.
- Late work receipts - for student and teacher. I taught middle school, so I wanted to provide a little extra support since my students were a little young for a sink-or-swim approach to late work. I printed out a form, three to a page. On the left of the form, there was a place for the student to write his or her name, the assignment, the due date, the excuse for being late, and day when he or she planned on turning it in. On the right side of the form was a tear off receipt where the student wrote the same information. When I walked around class collecting homework, I would give a form to each student who did not complete the assignment. The student could keep half as a reminder to finish the work. I could keep the other half in case I needed to remind the student to turn in the work the next day. When the assignment was turned in, I would staple my receipt to the work to remind the student that the work had been turned in late.
- Just don't accept late work - the nice way. One of the best moments in my teaching, which I will write about another time, was when I gave a series of interesting and effective projects. Over a number of weeks, the students had to turn in six out of seven projects, so everyone got a rest week. Responsible students could save the rest week until the end, many students would use the rest week in the middle when they were having a busy time, and other students used it up at the beginning. Either way, projects were due on time, or they became the rest week (absent students could email projects or send them with someone already coming to school). A second missing project would earn a zero. It made things a lot simpler. This plan works well for homework assignments too - anything where the students must turn in several items but can skip one without missing an important learning experience.