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Attendance: Taking attendance efficiently

Hello All:
Original questions: Do you have a quick way to take attendance so as not to
use up rehearsal time?

Thanks to all who wrote with ideas.

MANY of you use students or section leaders to take attendance. I did not
include those since I was seeking how YOU the teacher/director takes roll in
a situation in a place where it is not legal to have students take roll - -
or - - you have an administrator who does not allow it. College directors
don't have the same legal issues of attendance and accountability as some
high school directors, so I didn't include "a student does it" solution.

Here are the responses, some are quite clever. Any other?

Thanks to all who wrote.
Richard Garrin

I have a seating chart for each group with post-it notes with each
students name on one. If a student is absent, I turn the note to right
angles, if they come in late, I slant it back half way. After class, I
put it in the computer. It takes just a few seconds at the beginning
of class to scan the rows. The only drawback is that post-its of
students who are absent or late a lot have to be replaced often,
because they lose their stickiness. I also have them color-coded by
section, so that I have an instant visual of which sections are
short-staffed that day.

Ginger Ekroth

We use a barcode reader for large choir, concert attendance and concert
that have student numbers around 150, that reads our students'ID card
barcode for identification: clearly this is relevant only to a large
Very fast, very efficient.

I had a 3x5 card for each student. I took roll with the cards as the
students were doing physical warmups. i.e. back scratches, massages,
etc. This went slowly at the beginning of the year when I was learning
names, but after the names were learned and I had assigned seats in the
choir, this method of roll taking worked well. A word of advice -
always take roll yourself. Never give the job to a student. If there is
ever a question, telling an administrator that you let a student take
roll will get you into trouble.

Charles Claiborne


Our school began making a HUGE point about attendance, and our legal
liabilities as teachers to have taken accurate attendance. The best
system I ever saw was in high school, when our band director assigned a
student to take attendance every morning, freeing him to start warm-ups
right on time.

We have been informed that it is not legal in our school for a student
to take attendance for other students, and furthermore, attendance then
needs to be entered into a secure computer system (SASI XP).

After trying several methods of attendance-taking which would require no
rehearsal time from me yet meet this objective (sign-in boards, "in/out"
buddy boards, taking attendance by the remaining folders) it simply
became most efficient to use the class time with a daily checklist, and
simply go through the alphabet, literally laying eyeballs on each
student. On good days, I can begin attendance while they enter the
room...on days when everything is going on (fundraiser money coming in,
concert days, homecoming, shortened periods, etc) it's a matter of using
2-3 minutes of classtime . . . . .

Christopher J. Russell
Also a huge seating chart works also. It takes a little
time, but you get pretty quick at it after a while and it's a great way
to learn their names if it's a large group. I've also done seating
charts by section that I use, and in a small chamber group, simply
counting by section works too.

Kathy Lorimer

In my university choir, I have sign-in by each section and it's rather
unsatisfactory. Sometimes, esp. dress rehearsals where things are
"different," they forget.


In my college choir, I place an attendance sheet for each section out at
the mid-point break. Each choir member is responsible for signing in. They
must sign in in the manner they want their names to appear on the program.
I only visually verify at the end of the rehearsal.

Eric Anthony
I set up chairs before each rehearsal. Students have assigned seats. If
they aren't in their seat when the bell rings & I begin taking
attendance, then they are either late (and sent to the dean's office for
an admit slip) or they are absent. Empty chairs tell me who's gone. Not
novel, but really quite speedy.

Mary Beth Wallig
I place a sign-in sheet on top of the choral folio cabinet, and each
signs by their number when they get their music. I then take the sheet
I start and have latecomers sign after rehearsal.

Lee G. Barrow
I take roll by having the students shout out their Folder Number in
numerical order - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and etc. I wait a 2nd or two for each
person to shout out their number before I shout out the next number to get
the roll moving again. I then tell the students which numbers I have marked
as absent. The Folder numbers are assigned alphabetically at the beginning
of the year and as new people join the class, they are added at the end. I
take roll at various times during my classes as they are 90 minutes long (we
are on a 4x4 block schedule) - some days I take roll at the beginning, other
days at the end and often twice in a period.

John Jarvis

Another great way is to have a seating chart with individual slips of paper
for each chorister it's a great visual for you.

Hope this helps.

Carol G. Wooten

The following works well for me. Create a master seatchart. Microsoft
has various templates to assist you. If you like, I can e-mail a basic
template. All you do is type in the names. Then, Xerox 50 or 100 copies.
Stand at the door and as students enter, put a dot or a tick by their
name. This is also great for situations when you ask questions. I often
award bonus points for tricky or more challenging questions. If a
student is really working hard, mark it on your attendance sheet. Then,
at the end of the day, transfer the attendance/bonus/participation into
your gradebook.

Hope this helps.

Mark Downey
I have used this method in HS and MS. I number all of the chairs, have a
student write the name of the student in each chair and the same person
changes the name if I move someone around. All I have to do is look and see
which numbers are showing, mark studens absent. Students learned very
quickly they were turned in and some were called in because it seemed they
were cutting class.

Another way I know a lot of HS teachers use is by folder assignments. As
students enter, they get their assigned folder. At some pointstudents
stretching or just taking a very short breather, the teacher quickly writes
down the number to the folders that are still in their slots.

Good luck!
Debbie Coleman

1. Develop a seating chart and put the student's name
on index cards on the inside back of the chairs.
Glance up at the exposed names and you know
immediately who is absent. Use different colored
index cards for every class.

2. If you have folio cabinets, simply mark the
students absent whose folders remain in their assigned
folio slot.

3. Have your mature students function as section
leaders and give you the names of those who are absent
in their section. I have had a lot of succees with
this method.

Hope this helps!


I divide each section into groups of 10 or so, putting the names (in
permanent marker, by where they sit) on a manila folder that I have cut
to size, assigning a responsible student to check roll in pencil. If a
student is not there when class is to start, the student turns in the
attendance cards and if the student comes in tardy, I mark it. The
office knows that I need to turn my attendance in (via e-mail) at the end
of the class because I can't leave the room full of 47 girls (or worse
yet, 45 boys in another class). At the end of the day, I make the
appropriate marks in my grade book, erase the cards and we're ready to go
for the next day. I usually end up redoing the cards a couple more times
each year, but then I just switch the seating around so I can get to know
them and their voices better (and be in charge of any disciplinary
problems). It's decidedly "low tech" but it works for me.
Norma Browning, Trinity Christian Academy

My high school director had a peg board with little tags you would flip over
when you came in. One day you would turn it to red, and the next day white.
Then he had a student take quick attendance and give him the results.

In my choirs (m.s.) I created a seating chart and made multiple copies of
it. Then I would just take attendance right onto the sheet with an X or
something on the people who were gone. I used three different colors of
pens to get more than just one day on the sheet. The students had assigned
seats and if someone was missing they would leave that seat open until after
warm-ups. Then it only takes a quick scan to find the empty seats, while
you are going through your warm-ups.

David Sonnichsen
I direct a for-credit university choir, and attendance is a large part of
the mark.
At the entrance I place four numbered sheets, one for each section. The
students sign in as they enter, and at the appointed hour I draw a line
under the last signature on each sheet. Those who sign in after that are
marked late.
Hope this helps,
Susan marrier
Lakehead University
In my college choir, each student is assigned a folder number. At the
beginning of each rehearsal, we "count off" during backrubs, so all I
have to do is mark off missing numbers. It's pretty quick, much faster
than looking around for who's missing. Hope this helps!

As a variation, some students have suggested starting from the highest
numbers and counting down; that way the tardies aren't always the people
earliest in the alphabet/numeric list.

Helen VanWyck
In junior high choirs, I have the kids number off for attendance, and it
works well. I have not thought of a quicker way to take attendance, and I
too have wrestled with this. Perhaps attendance will someday be handled by
the kids sliding their id's through an electric scanner at the door, but
until then, I think counting off is the best.
Mary Kay Knapp

The fastest way for me to take roll is to meet them at my door with my
attendance book in hand. It also allows me to see who is tardy.
Leslie Garrett

Numbers. After the roster has solidified, I assign the kids numbers in
alphabetical order (so you can read right down your class list). After
about a week, the kids get really good at it. When a kid is absent, the
counting stops, you mark them absent, then you say that number and it
continues. I have a class secretary that takes care of tardies by making
the appropriate mark in my attendance book, and clipping the passes to the

Attendance for 50 kids takes about a minute!

Ron Weiler
Detroit CountrY Day School
I tried lots of ways but this one seems to work the best:

Every student has an assigned number. Everyone sings the pitch "A" and we
check to see how close we are and then ( this gets everybody quiet) then I
say "count off" -I mark the grade book.. with the numbers on a post it
note - I can look up the actual person later... ......after a while everyone
knows who comes before or after them and it makes the students help you keep
up with everyone.......this is great on trips WE JUST COUNT OFF BEFORE THE
BUS PULLS AWAY - you don't have to carry your grade book around because if
22 doesn't answer 23 know who they are because they listen for their voice
If someone moves out of the class - I change the bottom person's number or
substitute it with any new students so there are no numbers missing. Or
get someone else to say 2 numbers until you get it fixed. This was very
successful for me.....I found that section leaders weren't accurate or they
were absent.

What worked for me was to put a list of choir members at the entrance
to the room. Each student, with the pencil that they were supposed
to bring to rehearsal, would initial their name (no check marks). At
some point in the rehearsal I'd glance at the blanks and make a big
fuss about those absent or who had failed to check off their name. I
required that absentees let me know before rehearsal. I would
initial those names myself. This took about two minutes the first
rehearsal and by the second week less than twenty seconds. This was
a choir of between 60-80.

Richard Clark
Use a seating chart.

Bob Sabourin
Midland, MI
I start warm-ups
immediately when the bell rings. This encourages the students to hurry to
their assigned seats in their section. I also have a dry erase board, with
markers, on the wall across the room from the door. At the top of the
board I have written "Chorale Tardies". If a student is tardy he or she
must write their name on the board. Don't ask me why this works, but it
does. Perhaps peer pressure is involved here. If they come in late they
have walk across the room in front of the entire choir and write their name
on the board. They always do it. I have used this system for years and it
works great for me.

Camille Blackburn

This past year I was at a new school with a choir of over 70 students. To
help my quickly aging brain learn all the names of my choir members, I got
9x12 manila envelopes for music, labeled them with my students' names, and
kept them in alpha order. As they entered for rehearsal, each took his/her
envelope. I collected any remaining envelopes as we began our warm-ups and
set them aside. After rehearsal, I was able to write down who was absent
according to who did not pick up an envelope. I advised them at the
beginning of the year that I would taking roll in this manner, so it
behooved them not to share music! The only adjustments I plan to make for
next year are getting heavier duty envelopes and filing them according to
section (or at least men in one file, women in another).

Do let me know if you get any other feasible responses.

Good luck!

Margaret Anne
I use a seating chart-people sit in the same place every time they walk in
the room. (the seating chart changes periodically)

I have multiple copies of it (like a tablet)
I date each sheet so I know when I did it.
I look for empty seats, and mark them offwhether absent or tardy (and what
time they came in). I can report attendance to the office (which we do every
period) after the fact and I can mark my Easy Grade Pro files as well.
I do it while they are warming upthey are all facing me
It becomes a good time to make eye contact with each singer...which is the
most important thing, I think....good day, bad day...I usually get a reading
of how it's going to go for individual kids during the class.

I have 90 in my choir, and that's as smooth as I can make it...takes me less
than a couple of minutes.

Martie Tarter
Assign every student a number (also their folder
number). At the beginning of every rehearsal have
them go through the numbers by calling out theirs.
When a number isn't called that's who isn't there. On
a roster of names and numbers, circle the number that
is missed and go on. If a student forgets their
number they get one instance of "grace" after that
they are counted tardy which results in their having
to come to a before school "detention" time.
Attendance is done in less than two minutes with my 80
voice choir.

If students add or drop do not change everyone's
number. Add them to the end of the list or, in the
case of a drop you call out their number to keep the
chain going.

Randy Van Wingerden
on September 7, 2007 10:00pm
One year I cut index cards in half and had the singers write their names on them in big bold letters, color-coded by sections. I stuck them to the bulletin board with those larger plastic thumbtacks. As students entered the room they would remove their nametag and put it in the box provided. The names left on the board were the absences of the day. They seemed to enjoy this, and if they came in late they had to walk in front of everyone to take down their name card, and tardies decreased that year.
on April 29, 2011 9:42am
I tried this and it worked great for one of my choirs and terrible for another.  I found that a few of my students were taking down the name tags of some of their friends, or one girl would take down everyone's name, and another would put some names back up on the board.