Like most teachers (Graduates in particular), reports were not something I was particularly fond of last year, in my first year of teaching.
All teachers know that report writing times, although generally only taking place twice a year, are extremely stressful periods. How do we, as educators, record students’ learning over a semester, as well as set students up for success by coming up with achievable goals?
In my team, we don’t.
Instead of a traditional reporting schedule, we have embarked on a journey (some might call it an ambitious experiment), whereby we write and send home ‘mini reports’ on student progress , once per 4-5 weeks (roughly twice per term).
I would be lying if I said that I have not found some aspects of this experience challenging, both from a personal perspective and as a member of a teaching team. However, on the whole, I have found the experience to be rewarding and beneficial.
How our reporting system works
I have set up a reporting schedule, labelled weeks 1 to 5. I have 23 students, so each week I write and send home either five or six reports.
Here is a copy of our reporting template, with an example of a report (with changed student name). Click on the report to enlarge.
As you can see, the report isn’t too detailed; we tend to identify between 3-5 things that the student has achieved for each key learning area. Similarly, they have one succinct, achievable learning goal for each of these areas, which will often be determined based on the unit/topics we are teaching and learning at the time.
But how do I find the time?!
It may sound complicated and time consuming, but, actually, if you’re organised, it can generally be incorporated into your teaching time.
Each day, at different points and lessons throughout the day, I will find time to sit down and confer with one or two of my focus students for the week. I will listen to them read, review their current writing pieces, and use materials to explore their understandings of mathematical tasks. All is takes is 5-10 minutes during reading (while the rest of the class is reading independently); 5-10 minutes during the writing block (while the grade is working independently or in mixed ability pairs/groups), and 5-10 minutes during maths, when the students are involved in a Just Right task.
I discuss their writing/reading/maths with them. I ask them which aspects they feel they are doing well. I ask what they would like to/need to improve. We then come up with a goal together, based on growth points within the curriculum. I discuss the report with them, making sure they understand every word, for their own success, but also so that they can discuss their learning goals with their families. Throughout each conference, I insert my observations directly into the reporting template, which means I’m not double handling at a later stage.
But what about the other 22 students?
Whenever I am working with a student/small focus group, I wear a pair of bright yellow striped tiger ear headband. Yes, they look ridiculous. Yes, the students always laugh at me on the first day of school. But as soon as I explain the ‘ears’ early in the year, they consistently act as a visual reminder for students; Miss S is busy helping someone with their learning. Whenever they interrupt, I always ask the following question:
Is this an emergency or can it wait?
It can usually wait, and the student returns to their independent work while I continue conferring with their classmate.
Some of the benefits
1. Having a better understanding of our students and their learning needs. As I am reviewing students’ progress on a regular cycle, I find myself much more aware of their learning needs, achievements and goals.
2. Setting students up for success. When students know their goals, they are more likely to achieve them. Simple as that.
3. Increases involvement of families in students’ learning. With parents receiving up to date information about their child’s goals and achievements, they are able to support their children at home, as well as to contact the teacher for any clarification.
4. It makes ‘real’ report writing an absolute *pleasure*. As well as sending out two reports per term, we are obviously still bound by Department regulations on reporting in each semester. However, as I am constantly evaluating my students’ achievements, this is no longer a daunting prospect; I simply review their latest ‘mini report’ for the necessary data.
5. Makes planning for learning easier and more targeted. I will often notice over the course of writing my weekly ‘mini reports’ that many of the students seem to be struggling with similar things, such as using the correct tense in their writing, for example. Having this information helps me form small focus groups to address the learning needs of my students across the curriculum.
Do you engage in a similar reporting practice at your school?