Report writing can be a tedious time to say the least! In my experience, it often finds teachers over worked, over stressed and over life! (Dramatic, I know!) But at the end of the day, report writing is an important part of our role as teachers, so I have complied my top 12 tips for report writing success. They have helped me keep a smile on my face over the years and I hope one or two will help you as well:
1. Set yourself deadlines and limits
Make sure you are clear from the beginning when you are expected to have your reports complete. Work backwards from there. Consider what needs to be done and estimate how long it might take you to complete it. By setting some personal goals (or deadlines), it will hopefully save you from the last minute ‘all-nighter.’ Just as importantly, set limits. Block out times in your week that you are not willing to work on reports and make that time to do the things you love.
2. Have all work marked and graded before you start
Being a Type A teacher, I mark and grade EVERYTHING as I go. But if you are not like this (no judgment I promise!) then you need to make sure you have all your data together before you dive head first into your report writing. It is vital that you have evidence to support your grades and comments and will save you time in the long run.
3. Record comments in table format
This may seem a little OCD to some of you out there. But I like to record all my comments in a table so I can see every comment about a particular student at the same time. It is very easy to contradict yourself when writing report after report and this helps to make sure your comments flow and you are adding varied comments and descriptors about each child.
4. Record all drafts somewhere secure
I have heard horror stories of people I have worked with, loosing report grades and comments when working directly online. I always use a word doc or google doc to start with for a few reasons: security, access for the future and the ability to see all comments about a child together (see tip above).
5. Use language from the curriculum
Refer back to the outcomes you are writing about and use the language from the outcome. It will help make it very clear about what that student has or hasn’t achieved. It might also save you from ‘racking your brain’ to find the correct word.
6. Review comments from previous years
This one may be frowned upon, but you are a professional and of course you need to use your professional judgement. I believe, it is always a good idea to revisit old comments (that were approved by your leadership team in previous years) to help you formulate comments for your students this year. Copy and paste sentences, match similar students, pull out words or descriptions that may help you this year. (If you are new to a grade or a first-year teacher, ask others to share with you. Most teachers are willing to help each other out when it comes to report writing season!)
7. Grouping is important for reports too
We group our students for all sorts of different things in the classroom. Reports are no different. Grade and write comments according to ability groups. Each child in that group will have achieved outcomes at a comparable level and you will be able to use similar phrasing and language. I also find this helps me find a flow, particularly when writing academic comments.
8. Put your phone away
Phones, social media, emails and anything else that dings and rings does not mesh well with writing reports. Try putting your phone in another room for one hour. Set your alarm and start working. You will be amazed with how much you can get done when you are focused with no distractions.
9. Ask for help
Unsure or sitting on the fence about a comment or grade? Speak to your colleagues. Simply by talking it through, clarity can be found. Additionally, asking someone to read through your comments with fresh eyes before they get handed into your principal can be helpful. Find a buddy at school and swap, ask a friend or your loving partner (haha my husband wouldn’t be up for this, but my mum is a teacher too and we have proof read each-others reports many a time!)
10. Use exit tickets for quick checks
Ever get to report time and wondered “Has …. really mastered that particular skill?” Exit tickets are a quick way for checking understanding of individual students without the bells and whistles of a formal assessment. There have been so many times I have just wanted to check one small thing… hello, exit tickets! They also provide additional evidence if you need it to back up a grade or comment.
11. Remember it is part of your job
There always seems to be a lot of extra negativity at school during report writing time. I know it can be stressful, I know it is an added load on top of teaching your students but it is a vital part of your job and jumping on the bus with the resident negative Nancy isn’t going to make it any better. In fact, it will probably make the task worse. Attitude plays a huge role in our success. Put your head down, think positive thoughts, and before you know it the report writing season will have passed!
12. Treat yourself
Once it is all done and dusted (or as you achieve goals along the way) treat yourself for a job well done! You deserve it.
There is no doubt that report writing is time consuming and not the most treasured task on our teacher to do list. But at the end of the day, they need to be written and no one (no matter how much procrastinating you do) is going to write them for you. Put your head down, stay happy (if you can) and remember this overwhelming feeling will pass… until next year that is!
If you wish you had of been more organised this time round, you might like to check out our Assessment Book to help keep you on track next time report season hits!
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