- 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 :)