Words Fitly Spoken
Teachers often find writing report card comments to be a daunting and dreaded task. And, certainly, there are some pitfalls to avoid. However, a well-crafted report card comment can bless our students and families.
Here are some principles for crafting effective report card comments.
Say something specific. General comments like “Johnny is a good student” or “Sally needs to focus more” are too general to be helpful. Be specific with comments, such as “Johnny consistently does his work and engages in class discussion” or “Sally is often distracted by extra materials on her desk.”
Keep it simple. Keep your sentences short and your word choice intentional. If you haven’t conferenced with parents before, you should shortly after they read this comment. Allow you comment to summarize a previous conference or set the agenda for a future conference. A report card comment should not explain concerns in detail.
Compliment thoughtfully. Comment on what makes the student different from other students. Parents are encouraged when teachers share what they see in their child.
Choose one or two “opportunities for improvement.” Word your comment carefully to help students and parents recognize weaknesses as opportunities. For example, “Sixth grade offers Suzy the opportunity to strengthen her organizational skills.”
Make a target suggestion or goal. Give parents and students hope by offering specific suggestions. The sentence above about Suzy might be followed by “Getting her daily agenda initialed by teachers every day would be a great place for her to start.”
Keep comments student-focused. Don’t refer to yourself too often. A well-crafted comment often never contains the word “I.” Instead of “I enjoy teaching Ralph” (too general and too teacher-focused), try “Ralph’s curiosity makes him a joy to teach.”
If in doubt, don’t. Report cards follow students throughout their educational career. If you are in doubt about the content or tone of a comment, don’t use it. Seek advice from a colleague or administrator and try again.
Do you find writing report card comments daunting? What have you learned as you’ve undertaking this challenging task?