Some Helpful Advice

From the beginning, you will have to make some decisions about logistics and "paperwork" so that you don't realize later you need information you don't have. Here are some suggestions:

Attendance: You should take roll at the beginning of every class. Devise a system to mark absences and excused absences, if you will allow them. Many of us use "A" for absent, and "X" for excused with a check-mark for those present. The English Department provides yellow gradebooks in which you can record this information, or you may create a spreadsheet on the computer or adopt another method of your choice.  Establish at the start of the semester, and make crystal clear in your policy statement, what the consequences are for (excessive) absences and apply these equally to every student.  Helpful hint:  it is much harder, or nearly impossible, to toughen up regarding policies; instead, it is to easier to lighten up.  But always have your policies in writing so you can point students to them and rely on them for "back up" if the need should arise.

Late Attendance Policy: Particularly in early morning classes, students will push the envelope by coming in late. You can handle this through talking to the offenders, devising a policy where more than a specific amount of minutes equals an absence, whatever. Once you have policy, make it clear on your policy statement from the start of the semester and stick to it.

Collecting Homework: You have two choices here, and both methods have their merits. First, you can collect homework and Write to Learn (WTL) activities everyday. This obviously creates work for you everyday, but it also allows you to recognize right away who is having difficulty with certain skills, whether everyone really understood the reading, and how students are succeeding at creating accurate summaries or developing support, for example. Bear in mind that you do not need to comment extensively here -- just a word or two of encouragement and/or suggestions. You might put an "S" for satisfactory work or a "U" for unsatisfactory work (if a student missed the point of the assignment) at the top. You could use an "M" in your gradebook if someone didn't hand in anything.  It is also effective to assign numbers to homework assignments.  Many of us count homework assignments as 5 points each.  It is a good idea to discuss how the points students receive correlate to their success on the assignment.  For example, 4s and 5s may demonstrate an effective (or even great!) grasp of what the assignment called for, 3s may have gotten the point but need a bit of work, and 1s and 2s may warrant a visit to your office to clarify larger concerns.  At the end of the semester, you can easily tally homework points and translate them to the percentage homework is worth in the students' grades.

The second method is to collect homework and WTLs randomly and periodically, working under the same theory that governed the Pearl Harbor attack -- they'll never know when it will hit them, so they always have to do the homework and in-class writing. This saves you having to read every single thing they commit to paper, which has its obvious advantages.

We advocate the former method, though most people use the second. We find it helps us get to know the students better earlier, allows us to foresee problems, and students trust us more if we ask them to do something and then collect it faithfully. Some students will try to get away with doing as little as possible, and those students can get left behind if you're not keeping up with their work (or lack thereof).

The compromise is to collect homework everyday at first, to get them used to being responsible for it, and give it a quick read and a sentence or two. You can relax a bit after that (especially once you've got their major papers to read!)

Late Assignments: You should also anticipate how you will handle the occasions when students fail to turn in assignments on time. To prevent the majority of these occasions from happening in the first place, be very clear that it is each student's responsibility to turn in work when it is due, regardless of the circumstances that may surround their attendance at that particular time and/or date.  So if an athlete has an out-of-town softball game on the same day a major paper is due, make sure she knows she needs to send her work in with a trusted classmate or get it to you before she leaves.  Also, be sure due dates and expectations are clearly explained for students well in advance and are accessible to them outside of the classroom (through assignment sheets, a syllabus, or an online course management calendar).  However, "life happens" and some students may have legitimate reasons for why they miss a deadline.  Establish the consequences for this early in the semester (and make them explicit in your policy statement) and apply these consequences fairly to every student.

Reading Quizzes: You do not need to give these; in fact, the syllabus doesn't include any. But, you may find students stop reading after a certain point or there is a particular day when clearly everyone felt the reading "wasn't important." Feel free to provide short quizzes but decide beforehand how they will count: will they be part of the homework percentage? will they be part of participation?

Recording Grades in General : You will need to keep track of everything you take in since, undoubtedly at the end of the semester, a student will question you when you inform them they missed "X" homework or "Y" assignment. Construct a system to record not only paper grades but also homeworks, write-to-learns, workshop days, any quizzes you might give, etc. No matter what system you devise, be sure to label the assignments, papers, homeworks, etc. clearly enough so that two months later you'll know what each label refers to.