Getting Through Marking Season
When writing report card comments for the first time it is good to refer to a comment database that may be floating around the school or in the hands of a veteran teacher. Use references (veteran teacher’s comments, examples, etc.) to get an idea of the tone and style of writing subject and student comments. But it is also important that you begin to develop your own database of comments with your own unique style and tone. One of the worst things that can happen to a new teacher is hearing from a parent who claims you have left a comment on her son’s report card that is exactly the same as his older brother’s from three years ago! Take a look at what others have done in the past, but be unique and develop your own voice.
Examples from veteran teachers and comment databases are a trusted go-to, especially if you can personalize them to your own program. Mix and match, build, and personalize each subject and leveled comment so that you have a bank of personal and unique comments suited to a multitude of students. I am not going to lie, I will not have 30 unique comments for every single student in my seventh grade history program. But I will design my comments in a way that can be tailored to each student based on the learning they have demonstrated and the unique projects they have completed. Here’s one hint to make sure you are unique: a project may have demonstrated a learning skill acquired (e.g., understanding different persuasive techniques in writing) but that project (e.g., a speech) should be different (in terms of topics) for most, if not all, of your students. This is where differentiated instruction and report cards go hand in hand. If you ensure that you are differentiating your instruction, inevitably your report card comments, while underlining the same key objectives, will be unique to the particular student.
The report card season is long and grueling, but it is so rewarding when it is over! Set up a schedule and a timeline for completing your report cards. If you make a plan and stick to it, your “report card season” will not be as strenuous as you fear. But one thing is for certain, report cards seem to be the “Holy Grail” of teaching; the basis of all substantiated and empirical evidence of what you have done and what they have learned. So do not leave these to the last minute and do put in a sincere effort to ensure that each student gets as accurate a comment as you are capable of imparting.
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