February 3, 2014

Tips for Writing Constructive Report Card Comments

I have a feeling that the next several weeks are going FLY by between the state standardized tests looming on the horizon, Presidents Day, not to mention the school closings we've had for cold days...  I'm going to blink and suddenly report cards will be right around the corner!  I don't know about you, but I've always felt like the comments I write on my report cards are so much more important than the grades themselves.  I mean come on, it's third and fourth grade.  So much of my teaching and assessment comes from things that never get graded, like guided reading anecdotal notes and observations during math guided groups.  I feel like what I write about my students in the comments section gives parents far more valuable information about students' progress and goals.  Here are some rules of thumb I use when writing my comments:
  • Write comments up in a table in Word before copying and pasting into report cards.  I typically make a table with three columns, one for each trimester, so I can compare the comments side-by-side throughout the year.  Not only does this help me focus on students' progress rather than where they are at that particular moment, but it helps make sure I don't repeat myself too much--come on, we've all been there. :)  Plus, it makes it way easier to spell check and proofread!
In the past, I did one big comment for each student covering everything.  Now, we're required to do a separate comment for each subject area.  A little more complicated, but it works.
  • Sandwich any negative comments between two positive ones, even if the first is something as simple as, "I have enjoyed working with ____ this trimester!"  Also, any time I am discussing a negative or challenging behavior, I make sure to introduce it with a comment like, "As we have discussed," or "As I shared with you at conferences..."  This reminds paretns that you have spoken with them about this particular concern already, and that this is not a surprise.  (Of course, this only works if you HAVE discussed the concern with paretns already--sooo be sure to do that!  There should be no surprises on the report card.)
  • Speaking of no surprises, if a student is not doing so well grade wise, save yourself a lot of headache by calling or emailing parents in advance.  It's always so much easier to have those conversations in person or on the phone--report card grades leave so much room for interpretation without a personal explanation.  Better head that off in advance.
  • Give concrete information in comments.  For example, in reading, when a child is below grade level I might say, "___ is currently reading at a level M.  Grade level for this point in third grade is levels N/O.  ___ is able to answer questions from within the text and make simple inferences while reading.  We are working on reading with expression, using context clues to determine the meaning of tricky words, and making thoughtful inferences about the text."  Similarly, in math I may say something like,
    "This trimester _____ has demonstrated a good understanding of multiplication and division.  ___ is working on applying these skills to solve word problems and problems with multiple steps.  
  • Focus on the positive.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you need to write a comment about a negative behavior a student is working on, it's all in the wording!  For example, I might write something on a report card like, "____ does her best work when she focuses on instruction and follows directions the first time."  Much more constructive than, "___ needs to follow directions and listen to the teacher," right?  Another example would be, "___ is most successful when he comes to school prepared with his homework and materials."  
Sorry for the lack of pictures in this one!  Not much of a picture-worthy post.  Oh well :)


  1. One thing I miss about teaching elementary is the relationship you form with each student and also with each family. I have 155 students now so no way can I do report cards like this, but I wish I could! The best I do are "one-liners". These are great tips!

  2. Great tips! Report card time is creeping up on us! My next round of conferences are on the 13th and 14th of this month so I've already started compiling stuff. I try to keep tons of work samples for this time of the year. I feel like it gives parents something nice and concrete to check out. Love all of your tips! Good luck!

  3. That's good to see this post.


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