How to Get Students to Turn in Assignments On Time

Is getting your students to turn in assignments on time becoming a daily battle? Join the club, my friend! This is a common struggle in the life of a middle school teacher. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m dealing with homework assignments, lab reports, or even larger projects, getting students to actually turn in complete assignments by the due date is surprisingly difficult.

Now, don’t get me wrong…this isn’t all students. There are a lot of students that turn in their school work and daily homework without any struggle at all. But there’s always that handful of students (you know the ones) that just can’t seem to stay on top of deadlines and assignments. If you’ve got a group of those students in your classroom, this post is for you! Here are my best tips for encouraging students to turn in assignments on time.

Set clear expectations

If your middle schoolers are anything like mine, they are all about finding “loopholes” to get out of completing their work. It’s natural. The way to prevent students from talking their way out of timely assignment completion is by establishing a clear and consistent policy when it comes to things like homework completion and submission. I recommend reviewing your expectations on a semi-regular basis (perhaps every month or at the start of each quarter.) It’s also a good idea to send a copy of your policies home for parent review in addition to posting a copy on Google Classroom (or whatever digital platform you use.)

As you work to develop your policies and expectations regarding student work, there are a few things you should consider:

Homework Policies

For most teachers, homework makes up part of the overall course grade. It gives students the opportunity to practice and review the content learned in class. Whether it’s a unique assignment or simply leftover classwork that required additional time, there will be times when students are expected to complete work at home.

In my experience, homework is often the biggest offender when it comes to missing or late work. Setting clear expectations (and following through on these expectations) is a good way to cut down on late or missing homework assignments.

As you develop your homework policy, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Where can students find homework assignment information? (Homework board, Google classroom, etc.)
  • How much worth will be given to individual homework assignments?
  • Will you accept homework submitted after the assignment deadlines? If so, what penalty will students face?
  • Where are students expected to turn in their homework assignments? (Homework tray, digital submission, etc.)
  • Will you accept assignments in different formats? (Either Google docs or paper submission)
  • What are your expectations for students making up assignments after an absence?

Missing Work

What happens when students don’t turn in their assignments? Well, that’s up to you. Every teacher has their own approach when it comes to missing assignments or unfinished work. Some teachers prefer to offer extra time for students to make up missing assignments. In this case, students typically will earn a lower grade for the late assignment.

Personally, I have a zero tolerance policy for missing smaller assignments (homework, science worksheets, etc.) When a student doesn’t turn in their classwork or homework tasks in a timely fashion, they receive a zero and a phone call home to parents. This is always a hard lesson the first or second time it happens, but for most students, they learn quickly to pay closer attention to due dates the next time.

Missing Projects

How will you handle missing larger assignments and projects?

A missing project could have a detrimental effect on a student’s report card. I certainly don’t want one assignment to completely tank a student’s grade. For this reason, I choose to make each of my projects worth a test grade. Students that don’t complete their projects on time must sit for a test instead. Students that did turn their assignment in on time are exempt from the test and are able to use the test time for something fun like independent reading or science choice menus.

When it comes to projects, here are a couple of other tips for helping students to turn in assignments on time:

Don’t assign projects for home completion.

Instead of sending projects home to be completed and then returned to school, set aside class time and materials to work on each project. Not only does this decrease the number of students who simply won’t complete the project, it also cuts down on incidents of well-meaning family members completing the work instead of the student. When the project is done during class time, it has to be their own work.

Break each project into smaller assignment chunks.

Assign a different due date for each part of the assignment rubric. Instead of turning in one HUGE assignment at the end of the project, they will turn in a few smaller pieces of the project, on at a time. This allows you as the teach to monitor progress and prevent students from falling through the cracks.

Be creative with incentives.

So you’ve got homework policies. You’ve set clear expectations. You’ve done “all the right things” and you still have students that rarely complete homework? Add some incentives! These little bits of encouragement should make turning in timely and complete assignments something exciting to work for. Here are a few ideas:

Give extra credit for turning in assignments before the due date.

Students may earn extra credit points for completing assignments before the scheduled due date. If you choose to allow this, I recommend making a stipulation for accuracy in order to prevent students rushing through work and making careless mistakes in an effort to “get it done early.”

Offer the occasional homework pass.

I love gifting spontaneous homework passes! Occasionally, I’ll pass out a homework pass to anyone who has turned in a complete assignment on time. My students don’t know when these are coming, which encourages some to always turn their work in on time, just in case today is a homework pass day!

Let them earn additional test points.

Consider letting students earn an additional 5 or 10 test points based on the number of assignments they turn in on time. For example, you might choose to offer 10 bonus point to any student who didn’t miss a single assignment during the month or quarter.

Give “Skip a question” passes to be used on tests.

I use these passes similarly to homework passes. They make a great “surprise” incentive for students who have turn in their work on time.

How do YOU get students to turn in assignments on time?

Do you have any additional tips or strategies that work well in your classroom? I’d love to hear them! Consider dropping a comment below or hopping over to our Facebook community to share you ideas with other science teachers, just like you!

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