Don’t get me wrong – I definitely don’t enjoy writing report cards, but over my years of experience in the classroom, I’ve gradually learned how to get through the writing without feeling stressed! Writing report cards can definitely be taxing and some teachers need time to decompress after completing the task since it’s so mentally demanding. However, I find if you’re prepared ahead of time and stick to a system, you’ll find the reports are so much easier to manage and you’ll be spending your precious time actually writing the report, instead of searching for what to write!
I’ve put together 5 simple tips, tricks, and even an added bonus for making report card writing stress-free and enjoyable… or maybe I should just say, tolerable. 🙂
- Be Decisive
I’ll be honest – Being indecisive is probably one of the biggest time-wasters associated with writing report cards. To reduce your stress and stay focused, know beforehand exactly what areas of development and skills you’ll be addressing to keep your writing focused.
Also, be sure to use simple language. Parents don’t want to read about educational jargon! Keep your sentences and language straightforward to eliminate confusion. When we start fussing over little words or changing our minds over what we want to write, we become second guessers and all that time spent editing or rewriting our thoughts becomes costly!
2. Get Clarification on What is Required From Administration
Every administrator and school is going to be different and have their one “thing” that they stress the most on report cards. This is why it’s super important to converse with your administrator at the beginning of the year as to what you need to be addressing. Knowing how much needs to be written for each subject area or what field needs to be focused on the most will be very helpful to you.
If you’re new to your building or administrator, I highly recommend asking them if you can see examples of completed report cards from previous years so that you can understand full well what the expectations are. I know I have experienced administrators who want report cards to be written in complete sentences with correct grammar and punctuation instead of a note-taking format. Some were fine with more generic writing, while others wanted more personalized content to a specific child.
One method of writing that I have found is received well by parents, teachers, and admins is strength-based reporting. This method focuses primarily on the strengths and capabilities of the student rather than explicitly stating their areas of weakness. While it does incorporate areas of improvement, it emphasizes how the child can use their strengths to improve areas of weakness. It’s a very positive approach and especially works well at the elementary age.
Overall, once you get clarity from your administrator and find a method of writing that works for you, you won’t be questioning yourself throughout the writing process!
3. Know What You Are Assessing and Be Specific
This tip definitely ties into conversing with your administrator about the specifics of the report card! If you can find out what needs to be included on the report card at the very beginning of the year, you can immediately begin gathering information in your subjects and setting up a system for taking observational notes and measuring growth in your students.
I have found that setting up a system and routine for my note-taking helps me to take specific notes and gather information that is meaningful. It also allows me to not forget to take notes! For example, before you start teaching a topic, know exactly what it is you will be assessing. The more specific you are on this, the better data you will obtain. You’ll want to make sure you are taking notes and assessing that one specific thing you have chosen for the lesson, so be sure to keep that in mind as you plan. Also, your area or skill that you assess doesn’t always need to be a “teach to the test” mentality. Your focus could be on listening, speaking and class discussion, or even working well with others.
As you plan your lessons, ask yourself, how do I want to measure capability and understanding in this lesson? Am I giving the students multiple opportunities to display the skills that I’m assessing? This will help give direction as you plan your lessons and ensure you’re getting the evidence that you’re looking for!
4. Gather Evidence All Year
Gathering the evidence that you’ve observed throughout the year doesn’t necessarily mean that you have fully evaluated each child, but have a quick statement for their performance in specific areas. My markbook is my go-to resource when it comes to recording that performance!
As you gather information, I highly suggest measuring math and science achievement against specific standards with a rubric. A rubric will always make assessing easier and unbiased. You can evaluate that achievement from tests, daily homework or assignments, or even participation in whole-class discussions. I also assess against specific standards in Common Core when teaching ELA, but I mainly incorporate strength-based reporting for this subject since it’s much more personalized. I firmly believe that reading is something that has to be listened to aloud, frequently, in order to know where the child’s ability is at. I practice taking notes after I listen to each child while using strength-based reporting. It’s personal, specific, and parents understand it!
If you don’t already, I highly suggest looking into a digital portfolio, such as FreshGrade, to showcase your students’ work. It keeps everything super organized and easily accessible for you and the students’ parents!
5. Refer Back to Your Evidence While Writing
The last piece to the puzzle – Using your evidence while writing! 🙂 Since you’ve done the work of gathering throughout the year, writing will now be so much easier! Keep it simple, but try to use a variety of formats of evidence such as your notes, student portfolios, reading assessments, quizzes, daily assignments, etc. Using a variety of formats will show a more consistent evaluation of each child!
To help get you on your way to taking good notes and getting your evidence organized, I have created a FREE online spreadsheet for note-taking when assessing reading, as well as a table to keep your notes organized for each child!
I hope these tips and tricks can help get you prepared for writing report cards and alleviate some of the stress that comes along with them. Just remember – Get a system that works for you and start implementing it right away! 🙂