December 11, 2023

Keeping Your Student on Track: Tips and Tricks for When They Miss School

By Emma Michiels, Instructor

It’s officially flu season, which means that at some point your child will likely be absent from school, home in bed with juice and a box of kleenex.

While these absences are unavoidable, it’s essential to make sure that illness doesn’t cause your student to fall behind academically. In this blog post, we’ll explore how students can tap into their executive function skills like planning, time management, task initiation, self-monitoring, follow-through, and flexibilty to get caught up with schoolwork. 

Exercise self-advocacy skills 

Teach your student to initiate communication with their teachers when they are absent from school. Encourage them to draft an email explaining their absence, inquiring about missed assignments, and requesting clarification on extensions for work. Many students find the process of emailing a teacher a daunting task, so make it easy by providing some scaffolds, such as:

  • Sentence starters they can use
  • An example email they can base theirs off of
  • A checklist of items to include in the email
  • A readily accessible list of teacher names and email addresses

Create a prioritized to-do list

To help them feel more in control of their outstanding work, show your student how to compile all missed assignments into a master to-do list. Although this can feel overwhelming, just organizing it all with create order and reduce stress. Talk through a game plan with your student on how to approach these tasks. What task will they start first? Why? Talk through an order of operations and number the tasks accordingly so that your student feels in control of the forward plan.

Make sure the to-do list is comprehensive

When your student misses school, they likely not only misss assigned homework but also classwork activities such as problem sets, class notes and worksheets. Ultimately, the student is responsible for this material on the unit assessment, therefore it’s a good idea to encourage your student to get caught up on ALL work, not just the missing homework. Help your student identify all missing work by:

  • Checking class websites and portals
  • Checking with a responsible classmate
  • Referring to the class syllabus (if there is one)
  • Emailing his/her teachers (as per above)

Map out a schedule

Now that your student has created a to-do list, help them plan and map out a schedule to work through the missing assignment list. It may be helpful to include their after school hours on a blank weekly calendar, so they can visually see what blocks of time they have available. Encourage them to optimize their time while playing catch up. For example, a student might be able to get items crossed off their to-do list during study hall (instead of socializing) or listen to an audiobook on the bus ride to/from school. Look for opportunities to help your student add productivity and/or multi-task while they are in catch up mode.

When your student misses a day or two of school, it’s crucial that they take proactive steps to keep them on track with their studies. By exercising self-advocacy skills, creating a comprehensive to-do list, and mapping out an optimized schedule, your student will have a greater chance of successfully catching up on missed work and not falling behind. In the face of unexpected absences, engaging their executive function skills can make all the difference.