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How to Write Report Card Comments

Teachers need to be effective communicators at all times. Whether they are teaching a class, collaborating with coworkers, meeting with administrators, or attending a workshop, they need to be able to express themselves well. However, when it comes to filling out those report cards narratives, they may sometimes need a little nudge to get things going in the right direction. Assessment and reporting of a student’s progress is a major part of the education process. Without these two steps it would be difficult to determine the student’s progress in class. The narrative comments added to the report card can lay the foundation for the next level in the student’s educational future.

As a teacher, it is important to convey that information in a clear and concise way that will be meaningful to the student and to the parents. However the comments you include should reflect more than just how well the student is doing. As Leah Davies, M.Ed. for KellyBear.com explains,

“Report cards provide parents with essential information concerning their child’s progress in school...these written remarks elaborate on the student’s strengths, and frequently offer ways the child could improve his or her academic work and/or classroom behavior.

Writing report card comments requires a bit of skill and effort in order they could effectively communicate the message and help a child to continue the progress.

Couch Negative Comments

When you have to encourage parents to help with a problem you’re having with a student try to avoid pointing out a list of the child’s weaknesses. If only negative comments are mentioned, the parents may feel the need to protect their child rather than support your efforts and the result will be the opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve.

Instead, try to couch the weak points in between a few strong points. For example, instead of writing “Susie doesn’t pay attention in class” you could write “Susie has strong social skills but she could benefit more from her lessons if she regularly practiced her reading and listening skills.”

Parents are more inclined to support your efforts when weaknesses are a part of an overall picture of the student’s achievements in school and not presented as the only identifying trait their child has.

Make the Comments Easy to Understand

Simplicity is a key ingredient in effective commenting. Limit your comments to one or two related ideas. The first comment should always identify some positive aspect of the student while the second could either elaborate more on the subject, offer a practical suggestion to enhance the learning process, or describe a particular behavior a student may be demonstrating in class. By keeping your sentences short and simple and avoiding unnecessary information you reduce the risk that your comments will be misconstrued or misunderstood.

Always review your comments to make sure that you’re not repeating yourself and that your writing is consistent. Delete any comments or sentences that could be misinterpreted in some way and avoid the tendency to embellish. Report card comments are not a literary exercise; additional comments may be better reserved for a face-to-face meeting or a phone call.

Use Comments That Actually Show Assessment

You also want to avoid making statements that do not show progress. For example, a comment that says the student turned in all his/her homework does not give an actual assessment of the student’s learning. There is no information about how well the student has done or if the progress is consistent or not. Your comments should concentrate on what the child has achieved in the classroom and not what they enjoy.

Always have something to back up your statement when you’re commenting on student achievement. This could come in any number of forms as long as it can be measured and assessed. Use evidence that shows the student’s strengths and weaknesses, and offer suggestions on how they can continue to progress in the future with the parent’s support.

It is not always easy to write effective report card comments but with a little forethought and preparation you can give a parent or student some useful insight into their role in the education of their children. By remembering to keep it simple, positive, and quantifiable, you’ll be able to communicate well with those who can give you the support in their children's need.

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