Simple Solution: Taking Attendance in a Flexible Classroom

January 12, 2019

When I first ventured into flexible seating, it was April. I knew my students well and could easily take attendance. That August would mean new students and no assigned seats. I quickly realized I had some unanticipated problems to solve during the summer.


First, I had always used a seating chart to learn students’ names quickly. But now I didn’t have a seating chart. (More on that some other time.)


Second, taking attendance was no longer easy. I couldn’t compare an empty seat to a chart and move on with our day.


And what about subs?



I searched Pinterest (I wasn’t on Twitter yet) and there were some really cute boards for attendance, bathroom passes, etc. As a secondary teacher, I had some issues with them:

  1. They were really cute! But the were really cute and I teach secondary.

  2. The ideas were for groups of 30 or fewer and I have more than 40.

  3. They were next to the door. I didn’t want the board next to the door. It could invite problems.


There were some other logistical roadblocks:

  1. Would I have to move them all back every class period? That would be annoying which means at some point I’d probably ditch it.

  2. I can match the numbers to their attendance number! Easy! Until someone drops the class or students are added; then everyone’s number would change. Again. And again.

  3. It had to be in a spot which keeps people flowing through the classroom. Our original spot caused traffic.

  4. I needed it to be close to where I would be often so I would remember to use it!


So here’s our solution:


Square Magnets


The Shutterfly app offers 10 free magnets if they are the same type and size (some limitations, of course). One of those magnets is actually a set of four 2” square magnets. One design included a frame, which I made our school color, a line for font, and room for an image.


In 2017, my students redesigned our classroom and it was made quite clear they wanted a more business-like environment, without the expected (what they called "claustrophobia-inducing") decor, motivating quotes, etc. But I love quotes. This became a nice compromise.


(Want a “tour?” Click here. Want to see what it's like with students? Click to see a previous post, Photo Gallery of our DIY Flexible Secondary Classroom.)


I took screenshots of 40 quotes and added them to my Shutterfly account. These became the images for our 40 magnets.


The font line kept the numbers clear and uniform.

I saved each set of 4 as the numbers they would display to make it easy to place my order: “Set of 4 Magnets, 33-36.”


Circle Magnets


The circle glass magnets were a summer art project for me and my daughter. We got the glass pieces, magnet pieces, and glitter paints from Dollar Tree for less than $5.


We painted the flat side of the glass with glitter and allowed those to dry completely. A coat of white paint allowed the glitter to show instead of the soon-to-be-added magnet. Modge Podge secured the magnet to the glass.


Does it sound like too much? Make it a quick class project! Everyone makes one. You'll be finished at the end of one school day at the beginning of the year.


A Simple Routine


The 40 square magnets are in two vertical rows on the edge of my sliding whiteboard near my computer. The students make a loop; they have to walk all the way into the room, move their circle magnet, and then keep moving to grab their laptop before heading to their seat of choice.


Yes. We really have practiced moving with the flow of traffic for efficiency. I tell them it’s a prerequisite for their driver's permit!


One class moves their circle magnets onto their assigned squares. If any squares are not covered, it’s a sign to me the student isn’t there. The next class moves the circle off of their assigned squares to show they are in class. 


Some Tips


After assigning students a random number, I had them complete a google form which asked for their full name, period, and assigned number. The spreadsheet is always open. I also hyperlink it in my sub plans so substitute’s can quickly reference it. 


The random number helps when a student drops or adds my class. Since the numbers do not align to the roster, I do not have to have students change and memorize a new magnet number if my roster changes.


And that's it. A problem, a simple solution.


I hope this helps!  Have fun!




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