You should expect your students to sometimes forget assignments and turn in their work late. Therefore, you should have a policy in place to deal with these late-work issues. As always, it is important to make sure that the administration will support the policy you create. Nothing is worse than giving a student a punishment according to your plan and then having the administration reverse your decision after a parent phone call.
Importance of a Late-Work Policy
Choosing to ignore and not penalize late work is a mistake. This will upset students who do turn in their work on time, and you will lose credibility. Why should the students who do not follow your directions get the same benefits as those who do? Conscientious students will conclude that there's no reason to turn their work in on time, or they might feel cheated by your lack of consistency.
Choosing not to accept late work at all will also lead to problems. What happens when a student has a legitimate excuse? To be consistent, you must not make exceptions to your policy. However, if your punishment does not seem to fit the crime, then you will not be seen as fair. Further, you need to examine your beliefs about the purpose of education. If you believe that the work is important enough to be completed, then you need to accept it even if it's late.
What if a student is chronically late turning in work?
If turning in late work has become an issue, then it is a good idea to call a conference with the parents or guardians, the student, and the guidance department or administration. Before you leave the meeting, work out the details of a solution for this problem.
Since a late-work policy is a necessity, your job is to come up with an effective and enforceable plan. You need to find something quick and consistent that does not require a great deal of bookkeeping on your part.
One plan that seems to work well is to allow students one extra day to turn in late work and to penalize that work by a certain percentage. (For example, you might take off 10 or 20 points.) However, for this to be effective you need to have a system for turning in this work. You might tell your students that late work must be turned in before the bell rings. If you have a pen handy as you accept the late work, you can immediately mark down the penalty on the paper. That way you will not forget how much each assignment needs to be reduced.