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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Need help writing your general report comments?



I can remember the first time I had to write report comments. It was scary! What do I put in them? How long do they need to be? The pile of questions I had were long and I had no one I felt I could ask for help. My principal was a little scary and all the other teachers at the school were freshly graduated like me! Then I found a gold mine! The previous teacher had left a copy of her reports on the computer! I was saved!

This gave me a starting point, something to go off of and suddenly reports weren't so hard. Then the next year my reports were made up of 75% of the previous years report comments thanks to copy and paste!

Today I am going to show you what I put in my general comments and give you a few sample comments.
First though, a disclaimer. Different states and different schools have different expectations of what goes into comments (and what can't) so make sure you follow any guidelines given to you.

Length:

I aim for 80 - 100 words for my general comment. This usually works out to be about 7 sentences.

Opening Sentence:

I start my general comment off with three virtues that the student regularly displays. This starts the comments off to a nice happy tone and instantly gets the parents onside. This work especially well if you are at a school that has the virtues approach, if your school does the values approach then use that wording instead.



Topics to Cover:

Here are some things I like to include when I am writing general comments. I think about the student in question and the things that pop into my head first are usually the things that need to be included. If I am struggling to think of things this list gives me ideas for what to write.
  • ability to work in a group and leadership skills
  • listening skills (be careful not to step too much into speaking and listening here as that's for English)
  • ability to follow instructions
  • ability to finish tasks diligently, in a timely manner and work ethic
  • their relationships with other students
  • participation in discussions
  • confidence in their ability
I will often choose a day to really observe my students on these items and jot down what things I might like to cover in a student's general comment. Here is an observation grid template you can use. Write the name of each student on a separate square and any notes relating to that student go in their square. 

Goals:

I like to include a goal in my comments. Something the students can work towards or something that will help them improve. This can often follow a comment that states something the students is lacking or doesn't do.

Sandwich the negative:

You have probably heard this a million times in many areas of teaching and it is the same for report comments. Place any negative comments between two positive comments. This helps soften the blow and reads better to parents.

Relate to ABE's:

If you have marked students down for anything in the Attitudes, Behaviours and Efforts then this is also a great place to explain why. This is why I do the ABE's prior to doing the general comments and also in hard copy. Get my template for this in this blog post.

Closing Sentence:

I usually put a comment that ends things off nicely such as 'Keep up the good work, Bob!' or Congratulations on a great semester, Carol!'

Tips:

I make report writing easier by going opening up my last years comments next to my current document where I am writing my comments (Read about this document and get a copy here). I copy over an opening statement for each student and a final comment (changing the name when appropriate). I then read each sentence that remains from last year and ask myself 'does this sound like a student I currently have?'  If it does I copy it over and continue this till I have been through the entire documents. This gets my general comments over 50% complete.
I then go through each child one at a time and fill in any gaps using my my observation sheet and making sure I have said anything I need to. 

I hope this blog has helped you and motivated you to start (or finish your comments). Now to leave you with a few examples.

Cassie is a confident, responsible and honest student.   She works diligently to complete set tasks and is able to accept responsibility for, and show initiative in, decision making.  Cassie is a confident speaker in front of the class.  She enjoys asking questions and regularly joins in class discussions.  Cassie participates equally during group work.  Next semester I would like to see her take on more leadership roles.  It has been a pleasure having Cassie in the class this semester.

Carly has become a more forgiving, responsible and tolerant student this term. She needs to improve her ability to work quietly on independent tasks and avoid disrupting those around her.   When Carly commits herself she is able to produce good work.    However, she can be resistant to working depending on her mood and the difficulty of the task. Carly often has great ideas and questions and I would like to see her share these more readily with the class. Keep up the good work, Carly.

Jack is a friendly student who is working towards being more honest and diligent.  When faced with a challenging situation Jack will often exhibit a wide variety of poor behaviours in an attempt to avoid completing his work.   I would like to see him persevere when working on tasks and make good choices more frequently.  Next semester I would like to see him become more willing to seek help and to ‘have-a-go’ without prompting.   Jack enjoys participating in class discussion and asks thought provoking questions.  I look forward to watching him progress next semester.

Carl is a confident, responsible and honest student.   He is a quick learner and has made fantastic progress across the board.  Carl is able to work and learn independently and enjoys being presented with challenges.  He loves working in groups and takes on leadership roles.  Carl perseveres and achieves goals in amazingly quick time and is intrinsically motivated.  He has a cheeky sense of humour and a quick wit.  Carl frequently assists other students with their learning and is developing skills to better help them.  Congratulations on a great semester, Carl!

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