Monday, November 28, 2011

Tracking Attendance and Participation

If a system were not in place and practiced consistently, keeping track of daily attendance, tardies, and participation would be the most frustrating and stressful part of my job. Actually--speaking from experience--without a system it would never get done, or get done only poorly. In this post I describe my system.

To track attendance and participation, I use a document I formatted some time ago that allows me to do several things at once. It is at the same time (1) an assigned seating chart, (2) a daily log of attendance, tardies, and participation, (3) a space to record daily classroom activities, and (4) a place to record quick grades and observations. Look at the bullet points throughout this post to see how these things are accomplished.

The normal configuration of my room is five rows of six desks; this changes frequently, but for the most part this is "home base" at the start of each period. After all of the names have been put into what will be each student's assigned location in the room, I have something like this:
Each student is given a "grid" which I use to track his or her infomation for the week. At the bottom of the document is a key I use to remind myself what the abbreviations mean in each student's grid; there is also space in the footer to make additional notes.
  • Assigned Seating Chart: I use this document as a whole to check assigned seats at the beginning of each class.
  • Record of Classroom Activities: I record a summary of each day's activities in the footer. These summaries are very useful when I go to compile make-up work for each day.
Let's zoom in and take a detailed look at one student's grid:

  • Attendance and Tardies: The three empty boxes under the student's name are used to track attendance and tardies. (I teach in a block schedule, so the most I will see any student is three times in a week--Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)
  • Particiaption: The three boxes below attendance and tardies are used to track participation. I award 5 points of participation for each day: 2 for the "work done" (W); 2 for "behavior" (B); 1 for "materials" (M). If a student loses credit in a category, I make an X next to the corresponding letter. By making a CHECK next to an X or marking out an X, I can also reverse the penalty at a later time if the student improves his or her performance.
  • "Quick" Grades: There is an empty bar to the left of each student's name that I sometimes use to mark grades for "quick" assignments or for homework which I do not collect and grade.
At the end of week, a student's grid might look something like this:

This means that the student was present every day of the week, but tardy on Wednesday. He also lost one point of participation for forgetting his binder on Wednesday (the X next to the M for "materials"). He misbehaved a bit on Friday, perhaps by being too talkative during instructions, and initially was penalized one participation point for behavior; he later regained this point back, however, by demonstrating better behavior (the X and CHECK next to B for "behavior"). Finally, he earned a 5 out of 5 on a quick-check homework assignment (the 5 to the left of his name--a description of the assigned would be written in the footer of the document itself).

All of this is meant to streamline what can be a hectic process, or actually several hectic processes. Now when I go to enter attendance, all I have to do is scan for As (absent) and Ts (tardy); when I go to enter participation, all of the decisions about who gets how many points have already been made in class--which is really the best time to make them anyway.

Feel free to download the file of the above document: Seating Chart Template (121 KB .docx)


  1. Hello! I am so excited I found this blog. I am a language teacher also and I need some organization help. Is this document still available for download? It looks SUPER helpful!! I'd love to try it out.

    1. Thanks for reading! I have fixed the link to the doc in the post, or you can just click here. I must say, though, that I have since stopped giving participation credit for various reasons. If you are interested in talking about it in detail, please e-mail me at jwhosler at gmail