Sick Day

missed work page

Just about every kid illness has swept my class this year. Since December, students missed school due to the flu, strep, a throw-up virus, fever virus, that unnamed “yuck” stuff where a child does not run a fever but can barely get his head up off the desk, and lice. I have also had absences for a variety of other reasons.

Student absences fall into two categories. Teachers are tolerant about the first group and get irritated about the other. Make-up work is hard on students and teachers. Students never perform as well completing work days after the rest of the class finished it. Logistically, teachers hate tracking the make-up work, and things get overlooked. Bottom line, if it is at all possible to have your kids at school, get them there.

Excused Absences: An excused absence is typically due to illness where a child is running a fever, and a doctor note can be provided. At my school, excused absences also include a close family member’s wedding (or funeral), religious holidays, and family emergencies.

  1. If parents let the school know about the absence first thing in the morning, most teachers have a MISSED WORK form. They can gather missed assignments and send it home with a sibling, a neighbor, or leave it at the school’s front desk where a parent can pick it up at the end of the day.
  2. Do not expect make-up work before the end of the day. It takes almost the same amount of time I spend teaching a lesson to gather books, make a list of assignments, and provide teacher notes.
  3. If a parent requests make-up work be left at the front office, the parent better PICK IT UP. I have arrived at school the day following a student absence to see the pile of books still sitting on the counter in the office. I’m pissed. Organizing sick assignments usually takes an entire planning period. When parents do not collect the work, it makes me feel like they do not have respect for my limited time during the day.
  4. If we send work home with a sibling or neighbor, ATTEMPT TO DO THE WORK (see #3). I have kids return from an absence all the time telling me they did not even look at the assignment sheet I carefully completed.
    • Sometimes there are situations where students aren’t able to complete any assignments that go home. Contact the teacher and make arrangements to complete any missed work when the child returns. Don’t make the teacher go through the trouble of creating the make-up work packet when you know it is not possible for the child to do any of the work.
  5. Finish missed work as soon as possible. Typically, students have one day for each day absent to complete any work. If a student was sick for two days, he can have two days when he returns to complete all missed work. The longer it takes to catch up, the more opportunity there is to get further behind.

Unexcused Absences: Unexcused absences are things like family vacations, checking out of school early for a long weekend, spending the day having a passport picture taken, or driving 100 miles for a Taylor Swift concert because it is your birthday.

  1. If the absence is planned ahead, and the teacher is notified, the student may have to complete any assignments or take any tests he will miss before leaving (if it is convenient for the teacher). Otherwise, the work will be made up the day the student returns. OR, the work will not be made up at all, and the student may receive a zero.
  2. Do not ask the teacher if a student will be missing anything important. YES, HE WILL. There is no way to replicate instruction when students are not in school. Even if teachers do give the page numbers from a textbook, it will never be the same as participating in the class discussion, listening to the explanation, or completing an activity with the group.
  3. Do not expect a list of assignments before you leave. If you want to take your family to Disney World at a non-peak time (which happens to be when school is in session), I am not responsible for making sure you have school materials before you leave. There is another reason too. I do not plan weeks ahead. I have a general idea of what will happen the next week in my class, but I never know for sure until the day before. I might give work to a student ahead of time, and by the time he returns, our class plans have changed based on student performance and interest. I may have replaced an activity with something different or decided to reorder lessons based on student responses. The classroom adjusts all the time.

Getting Sick at School

  1. In my experience, the students who are really sick and need to be sent home won’t say very much. They get very quiet, stop participating, want to wear a coat or big sweater in the classroom, and don’t move very much. When this happens, my antenna goes up, and I run a mom check for illness.
  2. Kids who complain a lot about not feeling well usually should have eaten more breakfast, need a drink of water, need lunch, have a missing assignment, did not prepare for a test, or want to get out of class and visit the school office.
  3. I am unlikely to let a kid go home unless they are running a fever, have (confirmed) vomiting, or I have a note from a parent about potential illness before they came to school that morning. Be warned– if a parent sends a my-kid-might-be-sick note, but it is a kid who is frequently absent and kind of a hypochondriac, I will employ my best water fountain diversion tactics to keep him at school.

missed work teacher notesWhat is the absence policy at your school, and how do you handle make up work with students at home?

Topic, Main Idea, and Details

ice cream sundae

The three dreaded pieces of a reading assignment to any student. Most students take a stab at a word in the first sentence to find topic and main idea and then pick something from the middle for a detail. There’s a 50/50 chance they will get partial points using that strategy. Well, hold on to your hats; I have a better way.

I attended another professional development class from my favorite source for good reading strategies– KUCRL. This time, I got some tips for helping students identify topic, main, idea, and detail.

  1. To find the topic of a paragraph or article, use the sentence prompt, “This paragraph/article is about _____.” The one or two words that complete the sentence is the topic. If a student is still lost, the topic will often appear in the title and/or first or last sentence of the paragraph, so look there while using the prompt.
  2. To find a main idea within a paragraph, locate the topic first. Then ask yourself, “What does this paragraph tell me about the topic?” Insert your topic at the end of the question. The answer to your question is the main idea.
  3. To find important details, use the main idea. Ask yourself, “What is specific information about the main idea?” Insert your main idea at the end of the question. The ideas that answer the question are the key details.

Read the paragraph and give it a try.

perfect ice cream sundae paragraphTopic: This paragraph is about ice cream sundaes.

Main Idea: What does this paragraph tell me about ice cream sundaes? This paragraph talks about sundae ingredients. The main idea is ice cream sundae ingredients.

Details: What is specific information about the ingredients? Key details are ice cream flavors, sauces, and different kinds of toppings.

These prompts help with standardized test preparation for reading comprehension. They also work well when looking for the important “stuff” while reading textbooks. Finally, this is a great way to pick out the essential information in any non-fiction reading assignment. It provides a structured way for students to weed out non-important details and zero in on the meat of the text in order to take notes for research projects or preparing for class discussion and tests.

If you are looking for teaching materials that help with these skills, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase activities that reinforce reading skills like topic, main idea, details, and paraphrasing.

Sound Cards

sound card popcorn

Miss Priss has a new nightly homework assignment. She brings home sound cards, and we review letter and word sounds with her to practice the phonics instruction she gets at school. Miss Priss thinks it is a little boring since she already knows her letter sounds and has a pretty good reading level for a 6-year old. I am trying to explain the importance of recognizing individual letter sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of words and how letters combine to make specific sound patterns in English. My teacher explanation is lost on her.

TheRoomDad actually saved the day on this one because he started creating word games at the dinner table that take care of the sound practice without making it seem like we are running flashcards (point for TheRoomDad). Any child at the beginning stages of reading needs a good foundation of letter sounds and how sounds combine. This will translate into good reading and spelling skills down the road when kids encounter unfamiliar words. Whether your family has actual sound cards or not, play some sound activities at the dinner table, in the car, during bath time, walking down the aisles at the grocery store, or any random free moment to reinforce good reading skills.

This is a

This is a “giggling pig” and actually represents the short “i” sound. Miss Priss thinks the card should have an igloo rather than the giggling pig.

Name words that have a particular sound at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.

  • Give your child a starting sound/letter and call out any words that begin with that sound. If you call out “M” as in marshmallow, name other words that start with the “M” sound (monkey, mommy, moon). Now move the “M” sound to the end of words. Call out any words where you can hear the “M” at the end (home, lamb, room, clam). Don’t worry if the word is not spelled with an “M” at the end. For this activity, children are listening for the sound only. Now, find words with the “M” sound in the middle. This activity is the hardest (lemon, computer, hammer). If you want to throw a little extra challenge in the mix, try to think of words that have the “M” sound in the beginning AND middle (mummy, mermaid).

sound card letters on back

Create a whole sentence that includes words that all start with the same sound.

  • This is harder than you might think. Throw out a sound and see if your child can create a whole sentence with words that start with the same sound. You could also play a game where each person adds one word going around in a circle. Try making a sentence will all “S” sounds at the beginning, for example (Sally swam speedily). See who can make the longest sentence with words that all start with the same letter.

Find pictures in magazines, catalogs, reading books, etc. that have specific letter sounds at the beginning, middle, or end.

Give a category and name any words that start with a specific letter sound for that category (animals, desserts, jobs, sports, etc.).

sound card lamb

Not only will these simple strategies build sound awareness, they will also build vocabulary. It may seem super easy to a child to list words that match a letter sound, but it will strengthen phonics skills and contribute to better reading skills in later grades. Anyone have suggestions for other simple word games you can play with children that will have a positive impact on reading and spelling skills?

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