(1) Don't wait until the last minute to write them. I always think I can do report cards in 7 - 10 days; that just doesn't work. I need to give myself at least 3 weeks because there is always some other end-of-year task that needs to get done immediately after report cards are due, and because writing report cards isn't just about assigning marks or writing comments. There is a lot more prep work that needs to be done before getting to that point.
(2) Do take about a week to 10 days to gather evidence. Read over notes from one-on-one conferences, review student work, anecdotes, and recordings of conversations, etc. Then, jot down what I notice in terms of trends, work habits, use of strategies, and other important observations that I can use to write comments.
(3) Do try to start each comment with something positive that a child has done or said. I have a colleague who will often quote children in her report card comments to support her own assessment of a child's academic and/or social progress.
(4) Do enjoy the process of revisiting my students' work for the term. I found myself lingering over certain pieces of work and picturing my students doing that work in class. In some cases, I was able to visualize students as they engaged in a particular project; this allowed me to remember things that I had forgotten.
(5) Do make a point of taking the time to stand back and observe children at work throughout the year. And, make sure I have a clipboard or a notebook to jot down what I see. This will help me back up my comments with concrete examples.
(6) Although I don't do this in order to aid in report card writing, do ask children to write or say one thing that they have learned at the end of each unit of study with this purpose in mind. This will help when writing comments and can provide insights into a child's metacognitive awareness. I can also see this spurring further conversation if a child's comments surprise or perplex me.
(7) Whenever possible, do ask a colleague to read my comments. Sometimes I sense I've said something that doesn't sound right but I'm stumped as to how to rephrase it in a manner that parents can hear and understand.
(8) Do use allotted release time during the day to work on report cards. I have usually not taken advantage of this time to do report cards. I always think that I'll have more time at home and so I put it off. But, the reality is that I don't have another 8 hours when I get home to do school work. What I'm really doing is procrastinating by not effectively using the time I do have during the day. This marking period, I did use time during the school day and I learned, again, that I can get a lot done in 30 minutes if I focus my attention on what needs to be done.
(9) Do maintain my regular exercise schedule and fulfill family commitments during report card writing. I'll need the breaks and it will keep family life a little less crazy during an otherwise intense period of work.
(10) Don't wait until the last minute to write report cards. This bears repeating because it's the one thing I seem to forget from marking period to marking period. Once I finish all the comments and determine the marks for each area of the report card, I need to transfer this information to our online reporting system. This doesn't seem like it would take a whole lot of time but it does! When I give myself enough time to do all of this, I don't get sick and grumpy like everyone else around me.
What about you? What new insights did you gain from doing your report cards this year?
Cross posted on Two Writing Teachers SOL