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How to Organize Late Assignments

You just sat down to catch up on grading and realize there are a few older assignments mixed in with the ones you collected yesterday. You try to remember: were these students absent or should these worksheets be counted late? With well over one hundred students, it’s a lot to ask of your fried teacher brain. Putting a few systems in place to organize late assignments can help you avoid this frustration next time.

Before any system of organization can be created in relation to late work, teachers must decide how they want to approach the acceptance of student late work in general. If your school already has a late work policy in place, you won’t have much choice. If you get to make the decision on your own, though, consider the goal of this work in your classroom- are these assignments essential for demonstrating student learning or just practice? Asking yourself these questions can help you decide whether late assignments should be accepted, for how long, and with or without penalty.

Tips for organizing late assignments

If you have chosen to begin a late work policy in your classroom, I’ve compiled some ideas that may help you stay more organized when the papers come sailing in:


  • Make sure gradebook assignments have the correct assigned date and due date. This way, if you get late work, you have accurate due dates to use for point deductions, parent contact, etc. 
  • Immediately enter late assignments as MISSING. At times, I won’t fully grade an assignment, but just go through and see whose work I’m missing so I can get that M in the gradebook. This makes both students and their guardians aware that they have missing work.
  • Even if you choose not to take points off for late work, continue to tag the work as late in the gradebook so you can look for patterns and have information to discuss at parent conferences.


  • Create a late slip (like the one below) that students must staple to their late work submissions. This slip contains: Student name, assignment name, due date, submission date, and reason for lateness. The reason can be helpful when deciding how to grade the work. Some teachers also prefer having this late slip digitally submitted by email or through google forms.  If you use lots of digitally-submitted assignments, be sure to also include the question: How/where was the work submitted (which platform?)
Late work slip for organizing late assignments
  • Keeping up with late work can be a challenge on top of grading on-time submissions. If you can, it might be helpful to use an accordion file where late work can be collected and stored by class.
  • Choosing one day to grade any late work submitted that week can help the task feel less overwhelming. Make sure students know when this day is so they do not continue asking when you will grade something. 
  • If you hand out a lot of worksheets, keep a crate full of hanging files with one file for each class. If a student is absent and misses a handout, put their name on it and a small “A” for “Absent” at the top of the page. Store it in the hanging file so they can pick it up when they return. You have already tagged this work with information that will help you consider how it should be graded when the work is submitted. This also cuts down drastically on the “What did I miss?” syndrome.
  • Use online software automatically for submission. Sites such as Canvas deducts points and automatically blocks students from submitting work when it’s too late.
  • Require everyone to submit something on the due date. Students who do not have work can submit small slips where they reflect on why the assignment was not submitted and make a plan for when they will submit the assignment. This also may give the teacher a chance to help identify larger issues the student may be facing.
  • Consider purchasing a late work stamp so you can stamp late work as soon as you receive it.

While there is no one-size fits all approach to handling late assignments, I hope one of these ideas will make managing late work a little easier!

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