Finding just the right
words to write on report cards is an important but not easy
task. Some teachers (mostly middle and high school) use computerized
comments, so this may not be a dilemma for everyone. But for
the majority of elementary teachers, the challenge of writing
concise, personal, and informative comments is one that creates
insecurity. Describing what and how individual students are
learning is every teacher's job, but there are often very few
resources available to help new teachers with this essential
Help is available in the form
of fellow teachers, books, and the Internet. Having generic
comments to look at is extremely helpful and will give you
ideas as you start, so you can personalize your comments.
First, check your school's policy and expectations on report
card comments. It may be helpful to look at comments written
by the former teachers of the students you currently have
(these comments are usually confidential and schools have
different policies regarding them (e.g., keeping them locked
in a special room, or having to sign them out if you want
to look at them outside the "cumulative file room.")
Parents appreciate comments
specific to their child. A comment such as "I was delighted
to see that Robby went the "extra mile" on his map project
by placing latitude and longitude degree markers on his map,"
is much more meaningful than "great map project." Personalized
comments require you to keep track of student work and projects
throughout the quarter. Keeping current anecdotal records
on each student helps tremendously when you write your comments.
It is also helpful to have your students write goals for themselves
each quarter. I use these goals (which the parents receive
a copy of) to aid in my comments as well. "I can tell that
Neil is working on his oral presentation skills. He seems
much more confident and has improved his eye contact with
Report card comments can further
explain the grades a student receives. For example, a student
may be working very hard in a certain area, yet not be proficient
for his grade level. A top grade would be misleading to parents,
yet the student is working very hard. In cases like this,
it would be helpful to check on your school's policy for grading
non-proficient students. There may be an area on the report
card to list the current academic level or to assign a separate
grade for effort under the content area grade.
Several publishers have books
available that provide report card samples. Scholastic's Writing
Effective Report Card Comments (ISBN 0-590-06882-2),
by Susan Shafer is an excellent source. Troll Teacher Ideas
has published Teachers' Messages and Notes Home (ISBN 0-8167-3277-9), by Laurie Steding, which includes forms
that you can use throughout the year. Fearon's Teachers'
Messages for Report Cards (ISBN 0-82246-777-1) by
Marie McDonald breaks down comments into such areas as behavior
problems, improvement and growth, poor attendance and tardiness. Well-Chosen Words : Narrative Assessments and Report
Card Comments (ISBN 1-57110-080-6) by Brenda Miller
Power and Kelly Chandler will be an invaluable aid if you
write narrative assessments for many students, need help in
choosing the right format for reporting information, or if
you need guidance in how to compile and use classroom anecdotes
in your assessments.
Start thinking of comments
you would like to express early. It may be helpful to write
them down (you will appreciate your advance efforts when the
report card deadline approaches!) As you organize your comments
be sure to start on a positive note (and continue in an encouraging,
yet truthful manner.)
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