Writing student reports is always a stressful time of year for teachers. To a new teacher, the task can become quite overwhelming. Where do I start? What do I write? How can I individualise my reports?
The main aim of a report is to inform parents and students of a student’s achievements at the time of reporting. It provides information on the progress the student has made since the last reporting period and outlines suggested steps that can be taken to ensure improvements are made.
To assist with your next reporting period, we have outlined ten helpful tips from teachers in the know about writing student reports.
Teacher Tips for Writing Student Reports
(1) Know your school
Your school, like every school, will have its own system for report card comments. Make sure to consult with your principal or curriculum coordinator to get a clear understanding of their expectations. If you’re a first-year teacher and are feeling totally overwhelmed, take the initiative to set up a meeting with a mentor or more experienced member of staff and seek guidance. Prepare your questions and take notes.
(2) Start early
Do you find it hard to get started with report card writing? Getting started can often be the hardest bit. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and the thought of how long it’s going to take to finish report card comments for an entire class. Why not get a head start on your general comments as soon as you have gathered enough observational information from your students.
Tips for getting started on report cards…
- Set a timer for fifteen minutes and commit to writing two or three report card comments. Tell yourself you’ve only got to do it for 15 minutes.
- Break the huge task of report writing into smaller chunks. Consider starting with your general comments. Break your general report card comments into chunks of two or three a day.
- Start with the hardest task. You’ll be surprised how empowering and motivating it is to know that you’ve completed the bit you were dreading most. It’s all downhill from here!
- Use positive self-talk. Tell yourself I’ve got this, I can do this, I’m on a roll, and kid yourself – this is easy!
- Throw a report card writing party. Invite some of your nearest and dearest colleagues to come together and motivate each other to make a start!
(3) Ease of understanding
When writing reports to parents, it is important that you make each comment easy to understand. Try to use two connected ideas per sentence to explain how the student is progressing.
For example: ‘When problem-solving, Sarah needs to explain her mathematical thinking’ (first idea) ‘rather than recording the answers’ (second idea).
(4) Report card comment bank
Comment banks are a useful go-to when you are struggling to express yourself in a clear and concise way. There’s no denying that they are a time saver. Opinion on whether report card comment banks are a good thing is split. In some schools the use of comment banks is compulsory, in others, they are frowned upon and in others, comment banks are optional.
During my teaching experience, I found a happy medium and used a combination of general comment bank statements with my own personalised comments.
If you need some help and support, download our Report Card Comments.
(5) Consider peer marking through the term
Marking is probably one of the biggest time saturators. During report card writing time, be strategic about the tasks you set to reduce your marking workload. One way to alleviate this pressure is to consider peer marking and self-marking. This is probably more suited to older students. Not only does this alleviate the pressure of you, but students also gain a lot from marking their peer’s work. Here are just some of the reasons we love peer marking:
- Exposure to a wide range of ideas and perspectives.
- Motivation to improve their own work.
- A deeper understanding of quality and the importance of meeting the success criteria.
- The opportunity to work in collaboration with others.
- The opportunity to develop self-assessment skills.
(6) Stick to the point
When report writing, it can be very easy to divert from the point and include unnecessary information. Parents only need to be informed about important matters that are relevant to their child. Unnecessary information will only cause confusion.
For example, instead of ‘John delightfully expresses a range of different ideas during whole-class discussions in our inquiry sessions’, write ‘John participates in class discussions and shares his ideas with others’.
(7) Avoid teacher jargon
Most parents don’t know ‘teacher talk’. Avoid using teacher jargon and specialist terms when writing reports. Present information in a clear and precise manner which makes it easy for parents to understand.
For example, instead of ‘Grace applies a range of higher-order thinking skills and comprehension strategies when decoding texts’, write ‘When reading, Grace uses a range of skills to identify the meaning of the text’.
(8) Inform parents about their child’s level of achievement
When report writing, try to avoid detailed curriculum descriptions or lists of all the units and activities you have covered in class. Parents want to know how their child is performing in relation to the expected levels of achievement, as well as the areas in which their child needs to improve.
For example, instead of ‘Daniel has developed efficient mental and written strategies and uses appropriate digital technologies for multiplication and division where there is no remainder’, write ‘Daniel uses his knowledge of multiplication facts to solve a range of division problems. He is now working towards solving problems with larger numbers.’
It’s also a good idea to notify parents if their child is potentially dropping a grade from the previous report card. There’s nothing worse than a parent receiving a report card and not knowing their child may have dropped a grade and not understanding why.
(9) Refer to the child’s ongoing performance
When reading their child’s report, parents want to know what was learned, how well their child performed, whether there are any areas for improvement and what should be done for their child to meet the next achievement standard. Try and avoid any comments that may only refer to task completion or that only provide an evaluation.
For example, instead of ‘Emily has completed the required writing task’, write ‘Emily has achieved a personal writing goal by constructing an informative text without the use of a scaffold. She is now working towards punctuating her writing correctly’.
(10) Use evidence to support your comments
When writing reports, continuously refer back to samples of students’ work. Use these work samples as evidence to indicate individual student achievements against the standards, or in comparison to other students in the class. Base your comments on quality evidence and be prepared to provide parents with examples of their child’s work.
Evidence also includes data collected by the teacher; such as anecdotal notes, tracking sheets and a record of scores. Ensure you have evidence for areas of strength and improvement, ways in which the school has or will support the child and how parents can assist their child at home.
(11) Consider the collection of data
Collecting data throughout the school year is greatly important for report writing. It enables you to track the progression of each student and their learning, as well as provide you with a collection of quality evidence.
Don’t leave your collection of data and report writing to the last minute. This will not only create stress for you, but for your students (who will certainly not appreciate being given a year’s worth of assessment tasks in one week!) Keep a scrapbook to take notes as you walk around the classroom, use samples of work from daily activities, or take photos during group tasks. The more you collect, the more evidence you will have and the easier it will be to write your reports.
For more ideas on how to get organised for the collection of data for report cards, check out our blog – The Ultimate Time-Saving Tip for Report Cards.
(12) Use a checklist
Prevent the chance of leaving something out or writing too much by using a report writing checklist. A checklist will ensure that you have included student achievements, areas for improvement, what the school is doing to support the student and their learning, suggestions for the parents to help their child progress and a general comment with new learning goals.
(13) Prepare the parents
There will be times when you will need to write a report that doesn’t reflect the expectations of the parents. If you are aware that a child is not going to achieve a standard or has required additional support to complete set tasks, then it is strongly recommended that you interview the parents of those children, prior to them receiving their child’s report.
When meeting with parents, have an open conversation about how their child is performing in class and what support you are already providing, with suggestions for the future. Create a partnership with the parents and provide them with suggested activities to support the child at home. Continue an open dialogue with the parents about the progress of their child. Parents greatly appreciate being informed about their child personally from their teacher, instead of waiting for a report card to read about it.
(14) Involve the student
When writing reports, try to involve the students as much as possible. Get students to set personal learning goals and evaluate these goals at the end of the learning period. Let the students identify their own strengths and areas that need improvement. Include these learning goals and evaluations in your reports to make them more personal and to give students some accountability for their own learning.
(15) Proofreading tips
Leaving adequate time for proofreading is very important. Even if the ultimate responsibility to proofread lies with your grade coordinator or principal, it is your responsibility to deliver report cards that are as error-free as possible. The quality of your work reflects on you and your level of care.
Here are some general tips for proofreading:
- Proofread first thing in the morning.
- Read your report card comments out loud and also silently. Read them slowly.
- Use a spell checker and grammar checker as a first screening, but don’t depend on them.
- Keep a list of your most common errors and proof for these separately.
- Double-check the spelling of names.
- Double-check little words: “or,” “of,” “it,” and “is” are often interchanged.
- If you’re not 100% certain about a comment, don’t include it.
- Ask someone who is not a teacher to proofread your report card comments. If they understand your comments, your students’ parents or guardians will too!
- Check for overuse of the pronouns he or she and the student’s name. Try to alternate the use of the student name and the relative pronoun.
Lastly, but most importantly, take care of yourself! Writing report cards can be very stressful and it takes its toll on your mental wellbeing. The combination of this huge administrative task, classroom and co-curricular responsibilities in your day-to-day life can really add up.
Make time for a giggle. Read Cassie’s blog Stop. Laugh. Report Card Writing Memes for a little brain break (teacher style).