Report card season is upon us again but never fear, Teach Starter is here to help! You might have seen our blog, 10 Tips for Writing Report Card Comments which references some of the many report card resources we have available.
We often have requests for differentiated report card comments that align to the Australian Curriculum. As you could all appreciate, schools are extremely different in the manner in which student understanding is assessed, recorded and reported and we cannot possibly create a comment bank that would suit everyone.
However, I would like to offer you some tips on how to use one of our existing resources to create your own differentiated comment banks.
Before you read on, there are some assumptions I’m making with regards to how you write your reports. They are:
- The Achievement Standards are used for your report card comments.
- You write your own comments.
- You know your school’s expectations for report card writing.
If this sounds like your situation, let’s continue…
How to Write Report Card Comments
I’m using the Australian Curriculum Achievement Standards for English and Maths resource that breaks apart the standards to show teachers how specific skills develop across the year levels. It can have several applications but one very handy function is its ability to be used for report card comments. Here we go!
Tip 1: Level Up!
The Australian Curriculum is developmental, which means skills progress and extend across the year levels. These progressions can be used to differentiate report card comments.
As an example, let’s use this Year 3 Achievement Standard regarding comprehension:
Students can identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text.
If your student is performing above grade level for this standard, you might be able to use a comment based on the equivalent standard from Year 4 e.g. Students describe literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different texts.
The key difference here is that students are now describing the meanings and connecting ideas between texts as well. You would need to make sure your assessments give students the opportunity to demonstrate these extensions.
Similarly, you could use the Year 2 equivalent standard if your student is performing below the expected level.
The major advantage of this approach is that the Achievement Standard resource is a ready-made, differentiated comment bank.
Tip 2: Say Less, Say More
Sometimes, a particular standard doesn’t progress past, or isn’t introduced before, a certain point which makes applying Tip 1 somewhat problematic.
In this case, you could use the desired standard as a base and then add or subtract from it.
Once again, let’s use this Year 3 comprehension Achievement Standard: Students can identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text.
If a student is performing below the expected level, you could adjust the standard to reflect what they can do. For example, the student might struggle with implied meaning and making connections, so you could adjust the standard to make a comment that says, “He/She can identify literal meaning in different parts of the text.”
This approach keeps the comment positive and highlights what the student can do. The student’s limitations could then be relayed to parents/carers via an interview.
If the student is performing above the expected level, then you might be able to add to the standard. Again, you could borrow from the standard in Year 4 e.g.
He/She can identify and describe literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text
He/She can identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different texts.
Alternatively, you could add your own extensions that reflect your specific differentiation.
Tip 3: Get Descriptive!
Teaching adjectives and adverbs can be the nemesis of even the most experienced teachers but these parts of speech can be your best friend at this time of year!
I liked to use a set of descriptors to differentiate my comments across the expected levels.
Add Adjectives and Adverbs
On a five-point scale, some examples may include:
A = insightful, expertly
B = solid, strong, thorough
C = sound, satisfactory
D = variable, somewhat, with assistance
E = minimal, some, only with assistance.
So, using our Year 3 comprehension standard once again, a differentiated comment list might look something like this:
A = He/She can expertly identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text.
B = He/She can thoroughly identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text.
C = He/She can satisfactorily identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text.
D = He/She can somewhat identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text.
E = He/She can identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text only with assistance.
The major advantage with this approach is that once you have selected the relevant Achievement Standard, you can make a ready-made, customised comment bank that you can copy and paste into your reports. Too easy!
Hopefully, Teach Starter’s Achievement Standard resource and these tips on how to use them can help you save some time at this very busy time of year. And remember…