It is that time again, or maybe the first time for you – writing reports. It seems to loom over us as the due date for reports approaches. Yet, it isn’t always as insurmountable as it seems. Here are some tips for assessing, organizing, and preparing reports:
- Create at-a-glance observation pages. These can be created in a grid or a list. Organize students in boxes or lists alphabetically by first name only. Print the observation sheets in a different colour than white, and put about 10 copies on 3 to 4 clipboards. Now they are handy to pick up and record what you notice, hear, see, throughout the day. If you prefer, you can title them to focus your observations, such as Learning Skills or Math skills. When writing reports it is easy to flip through a pile, looking at the same location on each page for anecdotal notes or examples to include in your reports.
- Self-assessment. Provide time and guidance for student’s to self-assess particular work or their learning skills. It also beneficial to work on goal-setting and reflect on their goals prior to the end of each reporting period. These self-assessments can be useful when writing about their learning skill development.
- Take photos. Using a smart phone or iPad to take many photos throughout the day can be valuable when writing reports (there are also apps for documenting student work, such as ThreeRing or Sesame). Often, you see students collaborating or participating in photos that you may not have realized during the activity. This happened for me when we had a guest dance instructor in the classroom. I took video and photos throughout the workshop. When I reviewed the video before writing reports I was surprised to see that the students I considered reluctant in dance, were actually dancing!
- Record marks and brief comments. When I record marks in my assessment binder, I also add a brief comment. For example, after recording the students’ marks for a math test, I add a brief comment such as “doesn’t understand concept (knowledge)” or “needs work on communicating ideas” or “learning to apply…”. Then, when it comes time to write a comment for math in the reports, I have a quick reference that I can use to personalize the comment and the next steps for learning.
- Maintain student portfolios. Use a crate or plastic bin for files. Make one folder for student and file all tests and work samples. Refer to the file when writing reports to have specific pieces as examples. Then return work to students and start anew for the next assessment period.
- Build comments. Build subject specific or learning skill comments using brackets or *** to be filled in with comments and examples that are unique to each student. Cutting and pasting the same comment using only modifiers forces students to fit into a high, medium, or low category that may not best represent them.
- Prepare for interviews. Before parent interviews, review the reports and jot down a few strengths and needs in a notebook (I organize one page per student) to guide your discussion. Then, make notes regarding any comments or concerns the parent offers, as well as any follow-up accommodations or communications you need to do. Then, you have these notes to refer to in any meetings that follow or for your next reporting period.