Caitlyn Kennedy training with the Memphis Teacher Residency.

Making the Most of Make-Up Work Days

Author: Jessica Johnson | MTR Instructional Coach

Many teachers have periodic or ad hoc days devoted to students’ making up work that they didn’t complete on schedule or revising work that didn’t exhibit mastery. These days are designed to foster student learning and improve students’ grades. But sometimes they end up being unproductive, or students’ modest gains from the day may not be commensurate with the considerable time the teacher spends in advance planning.

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Caitlyn teaching during her Residency year at Collegiate School of Memphis.

Melrose High tenth grade English teacher and Memphis Teacher Residency 2015 graduate Caitlyn Kennedy has developed a system for make-up days that sets students up for success in improving their understanding and their grades–and that entails a manageable amount of planning on the teacher’s part. (You may remember Caitlyn from the blog post about seating charts. She has a knack for systems!) Here are specific, transferrable strategies from Caitlyn’s classroom that you can use in your classroom.


Use Customized To Do Lists so that each student knows exactly what to do.


  • Include the student’s current grade to add motivation, especially for students on the cusp of earning a higher grade or with grades they’re not happy with.
  • Caitlyn generates these through PowerSchool’s “Missed Work Assignment” report. For an assignment to show up on this list, it has to be entered as Missing, rather than have an empty cell. She adds a header to this report and types in “Current Grade: ____” and then handwrites the grade on each student’s report. Caitlyn’s students and their parents can access this information directly through PowerSchool, but handing each student a slip of paper with the missed work report on the make-up work day is essential for removing obstacles to every student getting right to work.


Make-up work individual assignments

Caitlyn generates these through PowerSchool’s “Missed Work Assignment” report.


Display and label assignments that need to be done, and have plenty of copies of each assignment on hand.


  • Caitlyn posts each assignment that needs to be done on a whiteboard at the front of the room, with a label that correlates with the assignment name on students’ missed work reports.


Make-up work what's what posting

Students have a visual of what they need to do, and Caitlyn can gesture to specific assignments in response to student questions that come up.

  • Caitlyn also provides copies of each assignment on a back table that students can easily access.  To know how many copies of each assignment are needed, Caitlyn uses the PowerSchool “Missing Work by Assignment” report.


Make-up work available for students

There is a table tent label beside each assignment that correlates with the assignment name on students’ missed work reports.


  • For students who are absent or in in-school suspension, Caitlyn staples together each student’s customized to-do list and every assignment the student needs to complete. She then delivers the packets to ISS for suspended students and hangs onto the packets for absent students when they return.


Provide clear expectations for what students do during the make-up day.


  • Caitlyn posts a checklist on the screen to guide students’ work. She includes the step of checking your folder for work that is partially completed or fully completed but not submitted–she has identified this common pitfall and is addressing it. Caitlyn went over this list orally too.


  • Caitlyn orally reminds her students to be sure their name is on their work so that they get credit for it–work submitted with no name is another common pitfall she wants her students to avoid. You could add this reminder to the checklist slide too.


Make-up work instructions ppt

Caitlyn posts a “Makeup Work Monday” power point for direction.


Motivate students and show them that hard work pays off.


  • Caitlyn narrates for students how damaging missing work is to a student’s grade, and explains, “Your grade is lower than you want because you are missing work, not because you are doing poor work.”


  • Some teachers also pull up an anonymous student in the grade book with missing work and let the class watch the student’s grade rise as the teacher fills in grades for missing work that is submitted.


Have a strict deadline and clear procedures for submitting missing work to foster a purposeful and urgent tone.


  • Caitlyn’s students submit missing work in a special bin over a three-day period that begins with the make-up day. She then grades it ASAP and enters the grades so that students immediately see how their hard work has paid off, and so that make-up work doesn’t distract students from the current work.


Provide extension opportunities for students without missing work.


  • For Caitlyn’s students, that’s reading interesting nonfiction articles.


Are you wondering how Caitlyn thinks of everything in advance?! She chalks it up to  “emergency preparedness from living in Florida” (Go Gators!) and to the frequent reminder from her mom who is a Kindergarten teacher, “You have to be ready.” Whatever the source of Caitlyn’s uncanny preparedness, we hope it will be a help to you in preparing for make-up days in your own classroom.

Interested in learning other principles Caitlyn is trained in through the Memphis Teacher Residency? Check out details about the Master of Urban Education here.