As we approach the close of first term, I can’t help but think of the most effective way to give feedback to my students-personalized report card comments.
Report cards provide parents with essential information concerning their child’s progress in school. Even though various formats are used including letter grades, numbers, or even checklists, a teacher’s written remarks are the most important as they elaborate on the student’s strengths, and frequently offer ways the child could improve his or her academic work and/or classroom behavior.
It is therefore imperative that these comments be personalized and not merely computer generated. Coming up with unique, personal comments can be overwhelming when faced with the combination of final exam grading, accumulative grading, and a large class roster, but they are incomparable to the automated comments from a machine that knows nothing of a student.
More importantly, first term report cards are a key opportunity to engage students and parents beyond assessing the measurement of grades, assignment scores, and attendance. By the end of the first term, teachers have worked intimately with students on a consistent, daily basis and should have an excellent sense of each students’ strengths, weaknesses, and key areas to work on. For this reason, teachers need to include thoughtful, insightful comments that accurately assess their academic progress and communicate to both the students and parents the positives to acknowledge and celebrate, the negatives to discuss and work on, and the ideas on how to progress into the second term and beyond.
While at it, be sure to give constructive comments. Positive comments on a report card can inspire students to live up to their teacher’s observations. For example, if the teacher wrote that the child excels in “Being dependable” or “Shows outstanding sportsmanship,” these statements could become part of the student’s self-image. It is important for teachers to remember that their written words can motivate and challenge their students to be their best.
While not every comment will be – or should be – glowing, write in a positive, informative manner as much as possible. Focus on what students do well so that they – along with the parents – can build on these strengths. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest because the ultimate goal is to help improve the student’s educational experience. It is all about how you say it. Only, try to phrase negative comments into more positive statements when possible. For example, instead of describing someone as a poor reader, comment that the student “would benefit from practicing their reading and comprehension skills.”
It is also important to avoid repetition. Your students and their parents will probably not be comparing their report cards to others, but you should still make each unique and not rely on generic comments. Challenge yourself to use relevant adjectives and other remarks to ensure you are giving each student distinct, quality thought personalized comments. Again, this will help improve engagement and relationships with parents who will recognize thoughtful observations on their children.
In conclusion, personalized comments are too comprehensive and labor-intensive but are more effective than the generic ones. If you want to have collaborative effort from both parents and students, tailor your comments to the strengths and weaknesses of your students.
The writer is a Language Consultant