Tips For Newbies
Beyond providing a world-class tool to help you generate fantastic narratives, we
want to share knowledge to help to process flow as smoothly as possible.
Okay, it's that time of year when you need to write narrative report cards. What could be more stressful and time-consuming than composing insightful and tactful comments for the dozens of students you teach, especially if it's your first time! No worries—below are general tips to help you get going.
Check Out Examples
If writing progress reports seems daunting, sit down with your principal or a lead teacher and talk about the school's grading and reporting polices. Request a few exemplary models written by fellow teachers. If obtaining examples is infeasible, check out some of our examples for a similar discipline or grade level.
Getting off to an early start helps ensure thorough and polished narratives without feeling rushed. If you can "finish" your narratives a week or so before they're due, you'll have a chance to revisit your work with fresh eyes. Be consistent by writing in the same tense and perspective throughout the narrative. Naturally you'd check for spelling and grammar. Also check for clarity and tact.
A wonderful way to begin each narrative evaluation is providing a brief paragraph summarizing the academic term—key information, concepts and skills incorporated into class discussions, activities and projects. Since report cards are often considered keepsakes, sharing an overview of what was covered will afford a fond trip down memory lane when the student revisits it years later.
Show You Know
Parents are curious how their child is doing in multiple developmental areas. This is especially true in lower grades as parents want to know the teacher really understands their child's needs. Though academics is often the focus, whenever possible share aspects of personal development such as: behavior, social skills, work habits and overall engagement. Since these areas can influence academics, it's common for these paragraphs to precede paragraphs relating to academics.
Go Beyond Describing Actions
Feedback actually starts with the consideration of grade-level curricular standards. It then highlights observable actions and behaviors based on those standards. Many teachers include recommendations for moving forward. But one oft-overlooked area is providing insights into how student behaviors and actions—or lack thereof—can impact outcomes. Sharing these insights helps students better appreciate why or how certain aspects of learning is important.
Mention Strengths First
Occasionally there are times when some students struggle mightily. Naturally, teachers are still obligated to render honest evaluations. But being the messenger of bad news is rarely easy. With that said, there's a thoughtful approach to establish and maintain rapport with parents. After all we want them engaged and onboard. It may be tempting to launch right into all the challenges a student faces. Overloading the front end with negative or disheartening comments can be off putting, making any positive comments seem like they were inserted as an afterthought. When the teacher shares positive aspects first, the teacher comes across as being more objective and helpful.
Address Low Marks
On many report cards, numerics or check boxes indicate the level of student performance. When a student earns low marks, parents deserve (and expect) to know why. Before mentioning recommendations for improvement, support your evaluations by sharing evidence why the student earned low marks in academic or personal development. If a student earned low marks on a previous report card, parents will likely expect an update on the subsequent report card.
Focus On The Significant Few
In business, leaders often face multiple challenges at the same time. But they know there's not enough time, money or resources to address every area of concern. Instead, smart businesses leaders focus on the "significant few" or the most salient challenges that will generate the greatest benefits. We recommend a similar approach. So render just a handful of recommendations.