Writing School Reports – During school closures

This is probably the most requested blogpost at the moment as many teachers struggle with report writing during school closures. Generally reports are written in late May/early June and then sent to parents in mid June after we have taught the children for 9 months. This year however, school closed (quite suddenly) on 12th March and children have been doing distance learning for over 2 months. I often find that September – Christmas is the time when I get to know the children, they’ve learned the expectations and we’ve built up really positive relationships. January – June is the time where I really feel I know the children well and the final term (after Easter) is always such a lovely time in classrooms. Now we won’t be back in school until September,  we haven’t seen the children for over 2 months and we need to write  reports about their progress throughout  the year.

What to include

  • Clear, concise, honest information about the child in the classroom; how they interact with their peers, their learning/progress, areas of achievement and areas for development
  • Specific information about the child – things they really enjoyed, things/hobbies they loved, things they achieved throughout the year
  • Tips on how to continue to support them at home
  • Child’s engagement with distance learning (positive only!)

What not to include

  • The child’s engagement with distance learning (if the child has not engaged)
  • Information you have not previously shared with the parents (particularly around issues/difficulties that the child may have presented with in the classroom. The report card at the end of the year SHOULD NOT be the first time parents hear about these things).

Honesty

Reports need to be honest accounts of the child’s progress throughout the school year (September – March in this case). This is really important for the parents and the child to know the areas they have progressed well in and the areas that they may need to develop further. It’s also really important for the teacher the following year. If you don’t include information that is important or areas that you feel the child needs support in then it starts the following year on the wrong foot for the next teacher as the parent will be surprised that any issues/concerns that the teacher shared weren’t previously mentioned.

Specific information

Think about the child you are writing the report about. What are their hobbies/interests? What moments stand out to you throughout the year? Did they overcome something they initially found difficult? Did they do a really fantastic piece of work/project etc. What made this child unique/stand out in the classroom?

Imagine if you handed the report to your support teacher or the teacher from the previous year –  would they be able to quickly recognise who the report is about?

Parents should read the report and know this is written about my child. They really value this and it shows how much you know and care about their child too.

Report Card Comments

These are really valuable as they help you with phrasing certain things in the report. You will however need to reword them slightly to fit the child you’re writing about.

These are some of the report banks I’ve used in the past

Report Card Template

NCCA

Tick boxes and Subject Areas

This is the section I always fill in first for each child. Usually it is laid out under the following headings

  • Your child as a learner
  • Social and personal development
  • Subject areas – literacy, numeracy, Gaeilge, s.e.s.e., p.e., arts education, s.p.h.e.

There is also a 1-5 section

  1. experiencing significant difficult
  2. experiencing some difficulty
  3. managing comfortably with support
  4. capable and competent
  5. highly capable and confident

Some things to remember with the tick boxes;

  • You can tick between two boxes
  • Be careful when ticking a 5 – this should really only be for children who are exceeding all expectations and it is very unlikely (for most children) that they would get a 5 in every area.

Comment boxes per subject

The report card comments above will definitely help with each subject area.

General comments section

I use a sandwich approach. Positive – area for development – positive.

I always start with the child’s name and 3 adjectives to describe them and the progress they’re made this year. This sets up the general comments section. For example;

  • John is a happy, helpful, hard working student who has made excellent progress this year.
  • Mary is a funny, kind and diligent girl who has made very good progress this year.

Next I think of all the examples for the child which backup the adjectives I used or a little anecdote or something that the child really enjoys/did well in during the year.

Mary loves gymnastics and was really helpful during our P.E. lessons where she demonstrated different stretches and movements for the class.  

Following this I mention an area of development that the child can continue work on over the summer/next year in their new class.

Mary needs to continue to work on her times tables and should continue practising these over the summer.

I always end with a positive again.

Mary has worked really well in 3rd class, she entered the classroom with a bright smile each day and showed great kindness towards her classmates. Continue to keep up the fantastic work in 4th class. 

Use the child’s name in this section. (Not every single time but at least twice.)

Implications of Covid

  • Our knowledge of the children – March to June is a huge amount of time to really know the children and really see the progress
  • Difficult/impossible to assess progress during school closures (and this shouldn’t be mentioned in school reports as per DES guidelines)
  • Curriculum wasn’t finished in any subject area by the time schools closed in March
  • Parental support at home – probably know more about their child’s progress now and the areas they are struggling with (than they may have known/understood before)
  • No standardised tests – definitely not 100% accurate but they do give teachers (and parents) an idea of where the child is at and they are very evidence of the child’s level in English/Maths (not for all children and not 100% obviously as English only really tests reading etc.)

Other tips

  • Use a timer – I do the tick sections for each child first and I give myself 4 minutes per child. For the comments section I give myself 5 minutes per child. This keeps me on track – I can get some done slightly faster and some take a lot longer. But it is definitely something I’d highly recommend.
  • 5 a day – I tend to do 5/6 reports a day rather than doing them all in one block.
  • Mix them up – I try to mix the reports between ones I think will be easier to write and ones I’ll need to think more about. (This is really dependent on your own individual class. If you’re worried about wording something then this would be a ‘trickier’ report)
  • Type/write out the general comments elsewhere first. Personally I type them out and reread them and then write them into the report. This ensures that what I’m writing makes sense and reads the way I want it to.
  • Get someone else to read over anything you’re not sure of especially if there is an area for development – many principals will do this.