Reducing Late Arrivals

An occasional late arrival by a student to your class is unavoidable.  Students do experience car troubles, late public transit, full parking garages and the inadvertent unplugged alarm.  However, if you notice that students are routinely arriving late, some adjustments to your teaching techniques can help minimize student tardiness.

Arrive early, start on time and stay positive

If you arrive to class early, you show your students that you value your time with them.  By arriving early, chatting with students, answering questions and starting on time, you build rapport and model proper classroom etiquette.  Do not try to embarrass late students in front of the class.  Statements such as “I see you’re late again,” or “Why are you late, Mr. Watson?” beg for a reply and can easily domino into greater classroom distractions.  A better approach is simply to welcome the late student.  A welcoming recognition of a late student lets the student know that you are aware of his/her lateness without giving opportunity to spiraling incivility.  If a student is habitually late, ask to talk to the student after class and express your concerns to him/her in private.

Start with an activity

Many teachers find that starting class with group activities, quizzes, or important announcements encourages students to arrive to class on time.  In a large science course, professors discovered that starting every class with an active-learning exercise (e.g. think-pair-share) that required students to turn in a response sheet at the end of class reduced late arrivals and early departures (Yuretich, 2001).

Start with something intriguing

Steven Gump (2006) starts his classes by passing around intriguing items:
“In teaching a course on a foreign culture, where such topics as history, literature, religion, aesthetics, and contemporary life are broadly covered, I created the opportunity to present to my classes a number of items I had picked up while living in the country in question—in this case, Japan. I selected twelve common items that I thought would be of interest to my students and that would deepen their understandings of Japanese culture. I planned the order of showings around the syllabus, and designed half-page information sheets about each object . . . In the end, I found that my students enjoyed these brief show-and-tell sessions so much that unexpected tardiness effectively ceased” (Gump, 2006).  By beginning class with something intriguing, you are encouraging students to arrive on time.


  • Gump, Steven. (2006). “Productively Waiting for Latecomers,” College Teaching 53, no. 1: 181
  • Yuretich, R.F., Khan, S.A., Leckie R.M. & Clement J.J. (2001). “Active-Learning Methods to Improve Performance and Scientific Interest in a Large Introductory Oceanography Course,” Journal of Geoscience Education 49, no. 2: 111-119