Teacher Comments on Report Cards

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Report cards provide parents with essential information concerning their child’s progress in school. Various formats are used including letter grades, numbers, checklists and teacher comments that indicate how a child is performing in different areas. For each report card period, teachers usually write descriptive comments for every student. These written remarks elaborate on the student’s strengths, and frequently offer ways the child could improve his or her academic work and/or classroom behavior.

Writing unique and meaningful report card comments takes effort. If only negative statements are written, the parent may feel overwhelmed and thus be unable to help their child. Examples of definitive words that should be avoided are:

  • the child will never;
  • the child will not;
  • the child cannot; and
  • the child will always.

Parents are more willing to cooperate if a comment concerning a child’s weakness follows a positive one. So it is more productive to state a student’s strength first, then follow it with your concern – but make sure that is written in a constructive way. For example, you could write, “Bill excels in science,” and then add, “He needs more opportunities to develop his friendship skills.” Or, write something like, “Leslie is friendly and well-liked,” and add, “She would benefit from practicing her reading fluency and comprehension skills.” Teachers need to choose their words carefully since the report card is part of the child’s permanent record.

Examples of Positive Adjectives that Describe Children


Here's a phrase: A positive role model for classmates

Since your comments need to be as specific as possible, avoid using ambiguous words alone such as wonderful, good or great.

Examples of Statements Concerning a Student’s Strengths

Has an expansive knowledge of ...
Enthusiastically participates in ...
Demonstrates superior work in ...
Comprehends quickly
Takes pride in his/her work
Demonstrates initiative
Listens and follows directions well
Asks for responsibilities and follows through
Expresses ideas clearly
Writes fascinating stories
Exhibits organizational skills
Does neat, thorough work
Seeks information independently
Enjoys dramatization
Uses English correctly
Has a delightful sense of humor
Is well-liked by peers
Demonstrates leadership skills

Examples of Encouraging Comments (to use when a student is making progress)

Has developed a positive attitude toward ...
Has advanced in ...
Has demonstrated a desire to ...
Has shown steady progress in ...
Has shown noticeable improvement in ...
Has demonstrated increased social skills, such as ...
Is showing enthusiasm for ...
Is gaining academic skills, such as ...
Is developing consistent work habits, such as ...
Is learning to ...
Is becoming self-reliant.
Is developing concentration skills
Is gaining self-confidence
Is becoming a good listener
Is occupying his/her time constructively
Is learning English speaking and/or writing skills
Is developing more positive ways to interact with others
Is learning to be cooperative when working in groups

Examples To Use When Concerns Are Evident and
A Student Is in Need of Assistance

  • Needs help to increase academic skills, such as ...
  • Demonstrates a need for consistent effort and motivation, especially in ...
  • Requires help with organizational skills, such as ...
  • Could benefit from ...
  • Needs to be encouraged to comply with school rules, such as ...
  • Demonstrates a need for improved social interaction skills, such as ...
  • Could benefit from improving his/her work habits, such as ...
  • Needs to be encouraged to listen and pay attention in class
  • Needs help to understand instructions
  • Requires repetition to retain information
  • Needs encouragement to do work on his/her own
  • Demonstrates a need for direct supervision to complete work
  • Needs to be encouraged to work more slowly and accurately
  • Would benefit from supervision of homework
  • Requires support to interact with classmates in a positive way
  • Would benefit from learning self-control skills
  • Needs to be encouraged to accept responsibility for his/her errors and/or misbehavior
  • Needs to demonstrate improvement in academic work if he/she is to gain the fundamentals needed for this grade

Since some parents never attend a parent-teacher conference, a teacher may want to complete and include a copy of the following statement or something similar with a student’s report card.

Dear (Parent’s Name):

Spending time and helping (student’s name) in the following ways will provide an incentive for him/her to work harder and learn the skills necessary to achieve in school.

(List ways parent can help)

Since I care about your child, I would like to meet with you. Please call the school office at (phone number) or see me to decide on a time to meet and share ideas. The effort you make working with (student’s name) today can make a huge difference in his/her future success.

(Your Name)

Sometimes it is difficult to elicit parental cooperation. However, written comments on a report card and completing the above short form might serve to encourage their participation. Due to language barriers or other reasons, parents may be unable to help their child directly (see, “Increasing Parent Involvement in Schools”). However, parents could to be encouraged to provide a quiet place for their child to complete his or her work without television interference or other distractions, as well as a healthy diet and adequate sleep.

Positive comments on a report card can inspire students to live up to their teacher’s observations. For example, if the teacher wrote that the child excels in “Being dependable” or “Shows outstanding sportsmanship,” these statements could become part of the student’s self-image. It is important for teachers to remember that their written words can motivate and challenge their students to be their best.

Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [www.kellybear.com], 5/06.

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