What you need:
1. A file box – I went with a clear tub because it makes it easy for students to see what is in it.
2. Hanging file folders – I went with colored ones because I really hate those greenish brown ones that you typically find.
3. Manila folders
You want to make sure that everything is “letter” sized. I didn’t know this until I started looking, but apparently they make different sizes!
I have six classes of College Prep English 10, so I don’t really have to worry about different preps for different classes. Making sure to stagger them, I attached the tabs to the hanging folders. On each tab you want to write the date of the class. If you have different preps, you could use multiple manila folders in each hanging folder and label them with the course name. The plan is to make packets of the work that the student missed. You could staple these together or paperclip them; I think either really works.
When a student is absent, s/he will go to the file box and look for the hanging folder(s) with the date of their absence(s). It’s a quick easy way for students to get their work. I don’t have to take any extra time hunting down the papers for the student. If you’re like me, you have fairly detailed lesson plans as well. You could possibly attach the lesson plan to the work so the student can see in detail what was done in class that day. You could also assign someone to be a note-taker for the day. A different student each day will take notes during class for students who are absent. Throw in some candy for great notes as a little extrinsic motivation and I’m sure students wouldn’t have a problem taking notes! It also gives students a chance to practice their note taking skills. The student’s notes could be attached to absent work instead.
Really the only problem I see happening is running out of the labels for the tabs. You can use both sides before it needs to be trashed, but I’m sure you can easily make new ones to go into the tabs. I think this helps teach students responsibility because they know what is expected of them when they are absent.
I had a teacher who placed all the papers on top of tables in the back of the room, and students were expected to go get their late work from them. The problem was she never told you what the work was (it was of course never in order either), so you had to spend forever sifting through ten weeks of work to find what papers you didn’t have. This system keeps everything nice and organized in a small space!
Forgive the horrible photo; I don’t own a camera, so I had to use my cellphone. Once I get set up in my classroom I’ll get a better picture