Report Cards – Make it Personal

There is lots of talk about using comment banks to create report card comments. I remember when I started teaching, a retiring teacher handed me a USB drive and said, “I am giving you years of work, use it well!” Trying to complete my first set of report cards with that drive was a complete disaster! I didn’t teach the same things she did, nor did I teach them the same way she did, so how could her comments possibly convey what I wanted them to? And she didn’t teach the kids I was teaching, so how would her comments really and truly reflect the kids I was teaching?

After about 3 report cards, trying to find the right comments in her drive, I gave up and wiped the drive clean. Using a bank of comments that someone else has created is not terribly effective. From then on, I started writing my own comments. I am going to describe my process as I have used the same process ever since and it has always worked! We are all different, but this might help you get started!

I would start each report card writing session by taking the strands I was reporting on, and picking the overall expectations I wanted to address. I would write them down or highlight them, and then think about what we had done that term that would demonstrate that. I had done all of this previously in my planning of the unit, but it is nice to refresh and make sure that in the end, you accomplished what you set out to! Once you have established what it is you assessing, find a student you know did really well with it. Review their work and make sure they did as well as you thought, and then write their comment. Then go through and find some more students who are similar in their achievement/work style and give them the same comment, but modify it to truly make it reflect that student. These would be for  your Level 3ish kids. Their next steps should be all individualized. Then bundle up your Level 2 kids and do the same. Then do it again for your Level 1 kids. Level 2 and 1 will often just need an individual comment each anyway, without any copy/paste/modify.

I use that process for subjects like the Arts, Science, Social Studies, Health, Phys Ed., etc.

For Math I do each strand individually and I generally do each strand as described above with some variations.

Language and Learning Skills, I take an entirely different approach. I generally set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, depending on how much time I am feeling like I need. If I have gone through portfolios and have lots of evidence and details to support where that child is working, 10 minutes should be lots. If I need to double check portfolios, etc., then 15-20 might be necessary. I give myself just that much time per student per strand. It seems like a lot of time, but I know I can give each child an individualized account of their abilities, strengths, needs, and next steps, and be sure in my mind that it is accurate and that I have seen the evidence as I was writing it. Learning Skills is usually more 10-15.

I generally do Language in the middle, after I have done a few of the smaller ones (Science, Social, Arts, etc.), and Learning Skills are generally at the very end for me, once I have had a thorough look at that student and all of my records, notes, anecdotals, etc.

Writing report card comments is a very personal, involved process. As a parent, I have read comments that were from a teacher that I could tell knew my child, and I have read comments that were obviously stock comments applied to the whole class or a bunch of kids, that did not reflect my child at all. Once you see a comment like that on a report, it is difficult to take anything else on the report seriously. Take the time and make it meaningful. You don’t have to fill the box, just put something meaningful in the box so parents see that you know their kid and you know what they are capable of.


**Note that I always wrote the IEP comments last as they were pretty quick and easy to write**


The Author


I am a teacher in the Upper Grand DSB. I have worked in classrooms from K-8 and have worked as a classroom teacher, planning teacher, teacher-librarian, resource/special education teacher, self-contained special education teacher, and this year I am starting a new role as Chief Negotiator and Staff Officer at the Upper Grand ETFO Office.

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