Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
Why Use Comments on Report Cards?
Although different report cards have a variety of standard measurements, such as letter grades, G=Good, or a plus/minus sign, they all have one thing in common: a section for teacher comments. Perhaps the most stressful aspect of report card writing is coming up with information on each student that is specific, accurate and honest. Parents want to be told how their first grader is progressing in school, and it is the teacher's responsibility to communicate this information in a way that will allow parents to hear it.
Because of this, it is important for report card comments to be truthful and tactful. Instead of looking at this task as tedious, try to view it as a chance to demonstrate how much each student has grown. Let's go over a few important things to remember about writing report card comments for first graders.
Four Features of Report Card Comments - PEGS
When writing report card comments for first graders, each should reflect the uniqueness of the individual child. However, comments do have four common features you can plug in while creating them. Once you get into the flow, you'll find writing comments a breeze.
What educator doesn't love an acronym? For developing comments, think of PEGS - positive, evidence, goals and support. Let's take a closer look at what each of those looks like.
Start each comment off with a positive statement. Let the parent know how much you've enjoyed a specific aspect of their child, or communicate how much their little one has learned or grown. Some possible sentence starters include:
- Bobby has worked so hard this quarter on being a great friend to the new student.
- Bobby has been wonderful to get to know. I love his easy smile and calm manner.
- Bobby takes great pride in his work. I enjoy watching him craft careful answers!
- Bobby has a fantastic sense of humor and keeps us smiling throughout the day.
The goal in this section is to highlight the uniqueness of each child, so stay away from comments generally made by teachers, such as 'It's been great getting to know..' or 'I've enjoyed having him.' Create a deeper sense of personalization by using the child's name in this opening section.
Depending on how report cards are set up for your first graders, you may need to write comments under each subject strand, or you may simply have one section in which to include comments. Showing evidence, or supporting information about the grades the child receives, is vital; this is the section parents will look at in order to understand why the grades are what they are. Be thoughtful, but honest, focusing on actions and how the child did in relation to the standard.
For work habits or behavior, lead with verbs:
- Shows kindness and grace when working in groups
- Demonstrates the ability to make good choices
- Focuses his attention correctly and appropriately
- Stays on task and is self-motivated
- Follows directions and shows good listening skills
For academic areas, focus on the child's level of accomplishment of the standard:
- Can identify the attributes of most two- and three-dimensional objects
- Is able to identify 19 out of 20 sight words
- Adds single digits with 80% accuracy
- Identified all seven continents on a map
- Uses punctuation, grammar and spelling on grade level 90% of the time
For both of these sections, the goal is to relay accurate, specific information in a neutral, objective way. Parents will want to know how and why their child received the grade, and this is your chance to let them know where the numbers came from. Keeping your record book close by as you complete this section allows you to be as accurate as possible.
The next step is to move beyond the current grade/quarter and look forward by setting goals. Think about what the student is most in need of, and suggest at least one specific objective you'll be working on. For example:
- Coming up, we'll be focusing on helping Bobby add ending punctuation to his writing.
- This next quarter, we'll work on one-to-one number correspondence skills.
- We'll be spending additional time on identifying blends in reading.
- At home and school this next quarter, we'll increase reading time by 20%.
Keep all goals plural; this will communicate that you're working with the parents and the child as a team to learn and grow.
Finally, show your first grader and his family how much you support and appreciate his efforts. Ending on a positive note leaves the child feeling good about himself and the parents feeling like a positive member of the team. Below are a few examples:
- You're such a talented mathematician!
- I can't wait to see how much you grow next quarter!
- I wonder how you'll wow me next!
- I'm amazed by your kindness and empathy!
- You're a fantastic friend, and we all enjoy being around you.
Again, try to keep away from generic statements, like 'Have a great summer!' or 'It was a great year.' Both parents and first graders will feel the insincerity, and it communicates little about the actual child.
Writing report card comments is often stressful, but it doesn't have to be. Seasoned teachers will tell you how important it is to keep accurate records and remain objective when grading. When writing comments, use the PEGS system - positive, evidence, goals and support.
Think about each child's unique characteristics, and write about how they help the first grader be successful. Finally, don't forget to save your comments; things happen, and you might need them! Also, in future years you can take a look back and use them for inspiration.
Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge to get the creative juices flowing. Soon, you'll be a pro, and your first graders will be proudly hanging report cards on their refrigerators.
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