Do you struggle with writing report cards or maybe put them off until the last possible time? If so, you’re not alone! I’m here with 8 report card writing tips that will save you time and stress so you can get your reports done.
Report Card Writing Tips
Start Earlier Than You Think You Need To
Easier said than done, I know. With all of the tasks teachers complete daily – report cards are usually low on the list until it’s crunch time. But it always takes more time than you think … plus, it increases your stress.
- Tackle the task in chunks. Do 20-30 minutes per week during prep or early/late at school. Try to avoid repeatedly bringing home your marking; more often than not, it goes back in the same bag, which adds to your stress level rather than resolving it.
- Use a time management system like the Pomodoro Method. Set a timer for 25 minutes, remove distractions, and work, then take a break. Read about the system in this Forbes article and use an online timer like this.
- To help with productivity, focus on one thing. If you’re a homeroom teacher, tackle a single subject for all students rather than trying to complete all of one student’s report. This more singular focus–aka batching–will move you forward faster.
- Get your students to write a teacher report card while you’re working on their reports or getting organized to do so. Read more about the activity in this post.
You probably have already completed several assessments throughout the reporting period, but what do you do with that information?
- Take note of these assessments by jotting a line or two in a paper or digital student tracker. When you’re writing report cards, you’ll be thankful to be able to refer to these notes about specific progress.
- When I am grading major assignments – think unit tests or summative tasks I assign a number to the major feedback areas I give students. I use a class list that I label the next steps: next to each student’s name, I write down the number corresponding to what they need to work on.
- These numbered next steps are the next steps I use on my report cards. This helps to differentiate each student’s report card, which is often a requirement from your principal.
- For example, if I was marking a class set of essays, I begin to see patterns of the next steps emerge after the first few. I would then give the next step, “develop your conclusion paragraph with more details explaining the arguments presented in your essay,” a number. Then I would write this number next to the name on the class list where it applies.
- Ongoing assessment also means there should be few surprises for you, the student, and the student’s caring adults when it comes to report cards. When you see issues throughout a term, you can reach out to establish a plan of action.
If you’re already mostly digital with an online learning management system, this is a bit easier. If you have a mix of digital and paper then staying organized can be a bit more challenging.
- Keep a log for observing students. It can be a simple online spreadsheet or a small notebook where you record observations, progress, and even learning skills. I like to take notes on class lists so that I can reference each student.
- Input grades as soon as you can if you use a digital assessment tool. Set up a quick reminder like a sticky note that says INPUT MARKS on your desk and move it from left to right each week as a visual reminder to complete the task.
- I write my grades in a paper grade book (as a backup) then I input them into a Google Sheet to calculate the report card mark.
Have Evidence of Student Work Nearby
There’s nothing worse than sitting down to do reports and then realizing you have to gather examples so you can speak to specific students and their work.
Some things to consider:
- If you’ve returned it to students, do you have comments saved? Consider scanning rubrics to have them on file for each reporting period.
- In that same notebook or spreadsheet where you’re tracking observations about each student in class, write down some bullet points for each assignment.
- Use the wording from the rubrics in your notes since these are likely tied to terminology directly from curriculum documents.
Have Students Self-Evaluate
In some education circles, teachers are moving to ungrading and while this is not possible in all circumstances, there are some great takeaways from this approach.
One of the most useful is to incorporate more student self-evaluations.
- Relate a self-evaluation to a particular skill within a unit.
- Ask students to assign themselves an overall grade for the term with some justification.
- Complete this as a 1-2-1 discussion with the teacher or have students submit it as a recording or written reflection.
If you’re worried that students might not take it seriously or will inflate their grade, then use the same concept for learning skills instead. Walk students through the different skills that are evaluated and have them complete a reflection on each learning skill. Set this up as an ongoing option for each reporting period.
I give students a Google Form to self-evaluate their learning skills. Then they have to explain their strengths and weaknesses following a format I provide them. I use their exact words placed in quotation marks on the report card. I outline this process in my Learning Skills Comment Bank resource.
Pre-Write Comments in Google Docs or Sheets
When you’re writing report card comments, we all know Murphy’s Law will strike and the program will crash. No one needs that panic, especially not in report card season!
Instead, pre-write your comments in an online program (e.g., Google Docs or online Microsoft Word) that will autosave your work. No need to frantically hit save 412 times for each entry!
- You can reuse them across students and in different years of teaching!
- Colour code for subjects or skills so it’s even easier for you to find what you need.
- Plus, you can sort comments according to levels in a spreadsheet. Future-you will thank you for this past effort!
Use a Report Card Comment Bank
And if you want to save yourself even more time and avoid even more stress during report card season, then use a comment bank. This is a report card writing tip that is gold for new teachers and experienced teachers alike because comment banks are gold mines for teachers!
- Teaching grade 7 and 8 ELA? Then use these comments, which are sorted by Reading, Writing, Oral and Media, as well as Levels 1 – 4 . Strengths and next steps comments are included. Plus, they’re 100% editable so you can tailor them to your students.
- Need help with comments for learning skills so you’re not writing the same thing each time for every student? This bank of learning skills-specific comments is what you need! These comments can be used all year and include strengths and next steps too.
If you’re teaching another subject entirely, such as Social Studies, History, Geography or Science, you can still get your time back with a comment bank that’s right for you. Check out all of these Ontario report card comment banks.
Keep A Copy Of The Report Card For The Student Led Conference
If your district requires parent-teacher conferences/interviews or student-led conferences, make sure you have a copy of the report card ready for the meeting. Parents will most likely have questions about it, and you don’t want to be scrambling during this formal meeting. Check out these tips for running student-led conferences.
Unofficial Report Card Writing Tips
The goal during report card season is to go slow and steady so that you’re not scrambling and stressing.
- While there’s lots of advice about how to write report cards at the moment, it’s also important to consider your own self-care! This blog post has many tips to avoid teacher burnout – it’s worth the read!
- And if you need a bit of humour to get you through report card season, and of course you do, check out this post: How Do Teachers Know It’s Report Card Season!
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I hope you can use these report card writing tips when you write your comments this session.