Both novice and experienced teachers can be stymied by report card comments. These jottings must be informative, critical without being negative, useful and personalized for each student — no small task. Instead of relying on pre-made lists of statements, teachers can craft their own by choosing their language carefully and selecting the most pertinent information to highlight.

Not Just Any Old Words

Instead of relying on weak adjectives or vague language to describe student performance, use strong descriptive words that convey easy-to-grasp and concrete meaning. Words to use, for example, include “prompt,” “dependable,” “cooperative” and “attentive” instead of “good” or “okay.” Avoid teacher jargon that parents might not understand, such as “nominated tasks” and “cooperative learning” — use the simpler forms, in this case “assigned activities” and “group work,” instead.

What Are You Saying?

Inspire student growth by writing comments that evaluate with insight instead of stating the term’s outcome or whether the student enjoyed the term. Don’t write, “Sally finished all five units.” Instead, point out the specific areas where the student either struggled or excelled, and note the areas that will need work moving forward. Back up your assessments with examples, as well, drawing from either classroom actions or completed assignments. Then write, “Sally understood all the concepts in the first three units quickly, but she struggled during the last two, only scoring a 75 percent on the final two exams.”