Tips to survive report writing season

Tips to survive report writing season

Plan ahead

If you can, begin writing your comments as students achieve their goals. The more that you can do before the frenzied period of report writing begins the better, be kind to yourself and lighten your own load. My advice would be to have a Word document at the ready, so that you are always able to add to it as you go.

Evidence of learning

Make sure you have the evidence of student learning. If a parent or administrator, Principal or colleague should ask you what that student did to achieve the goal, you have the physical evidence available. Even if your evidence is an observational checklist, that's valid evidence. Don't put anything into a report that you cannot prove.

Time Management

Enter the relevant due dates in your diary and work backwards, to determine when you really need to be writing. Then, set aside a few weekends to focus on it. It’s really hard to write mid week whilst still teaching. I find writing in a block allows you to get into the swing of it and to write good quality comments. I also have colleagues that refuse to use their weekends - quite right too. One colleague prefers to stay later for a couple of weeks, so that her time at home is completely separate to work. Do what works best for you, but ensure you plan - it's the only way to keep to time.

Missing a deadline

If you think you are going to miss the deadline, speak to your line manager early. They are very forgiving if you give them fair warning and will often agree to proofread or print your reports last. You may even be given more release time to complete your reports.

Language, tone and content

  • Write what the student CAN do.
    Parents already know what their child's limitations are and have possibly been called to speak to the teacher countless times throughout the semester. They don't need to have the bad news sent home on paper to remind them.
  • Avoid teacher speak.
    There is a lot of educational language that we frequently use as educators, believe it or not most people don't always understand it.
  • Be concise.
    Say exactly what you mean, talk about what your student does in the classroom and their attitude to learning. As a parent I can't stand the fluffy wordsmithing that teachers often provide.
  • No more than two connected ideas per sentence.
    Think of the readability of your reports, the simpler your sentences are the better. It's just good writing and the less overzealous we can be, the less likely we are to write something that could get us into trouble later on.
  • Phrase comments positively.
    This is often hard to do because we have all had those tricky students. Parents knowing their child's limitations applies here also and if you have written your goals to the SMART principles, your students should be achieving their goals.
  • Be specific.
    Again, if your goals are SMART they will be specific - your comments should be just as specific.
  • No comment should be a surprise for parents.
    If a student has not achieved their goals and their report reads negatively, this should not be a surprise to the parents. If a child is failing to achieve, I would hope that there has been consultation with their parents before the report comes home.
  • Use formal language.
    Remember reports are legal documents and as such we should not be using colloquialisms and we should be referring to students by their appropriate name for example Sam should be Samantha, Nick should be Nicholas.
  • Start and finish with a positive comment.
    Leave parents with a positive feeling when they have finished reading the report. Encouraging positivity from all relationships surrounding a child is imperative, none of us knows what goes on behind closed doors and every student - regardless of academic success - deserves to feel good about themselves for some aspect of their school career. It can only serve to encourage engagement, we want out students to keep trying their best.  

Ask a colleague

Don't be afraid to run a comment by a colleague if you are feeling uncertain about its content. This is a good idea if you are struggling to be positive in a report for a student that you don't have a great relationship (despite what people think we should be, it's impossible to like everyone and you won't like every student that enters your classroom).

Editing and Proofreading

As you write, don’t worry too much about editing and proofreading. Get your thoughts down first. Set them aside for a few days before you begin editing. Edit content first, then proofread grammar and punctuation second.

When it's all over

Have reward ready for when you have finished! Celebrate with your favorite relaxation or celebration activity - youve earned it, well done :)