Johnny Is A Bad Student! (Or How Not To Write Student Report Comments)


No matter the time of year, teachers of all ages need to write student progress comments. Whether you write them quarterly or once each semester, it’s a task that can be quite daunting. It can also be a very time-consuming task if a teacher has over one hundred students to keep track of.

Now, not all teachers may have had to write student comments, but for those who’ve had, they know how difficult it can be to write effective and balanced comments. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the negatives for some students, and the positives for others. All teachers have their “favorites”, but it’s important to be fair and balanced for ALL STUDENTS when writing comments. Below I will give some tips and examples for what makes effective and ineffective comments.

What makes an ineffective comment?

  • The length is too short or too long – if it’s two or three sentences, or more than five, it’s
  • Contains spelling and/or grammar errors
  • Focuses too much on the negative aspects of the student’s skills or behavior
  • Contains vague statements without supporting evidence (details about student’s skills)

I’ll provide a couple of examples below:

Johnny is a good student. He works hard and completes his homework on time. He understands the content well.

The above comment is too short with no actual information related to the student’s ability and skill. It gives vague statements of fact with no supporting evidence.

Johnny constantly disrupts class and fails to pay attention. He is unable to work in groups or alone, and is often quite noisy. Johnny performs poorly in class and does not demonstrate a level of understanding appropriate for his age. He refuses to do his assigned homework and/or classwork. He also may physically harm or poke fun at his classmates and inhibit their learning.

That comment focuses on the negative qualities of the student without providing any way to help out the student or situation at hand.

What makes an effective comment?

  • The comment is an appropriate length – between four to five sentences in length
  • It provides positive and negative aspects of the students skills or behavior
  • It provides advice to help improve the student’s situation in the class
  • It contains supportive evidence of the student’s learning and skills

Here’s an example:

Hubert is an excellent student. He completes his assigned classwork and homework on time. He also shows an appropriate level of understanding of the content. Hubert can give full-sentence answers to content questions and also use target vocabulary appropriately. Hubert also works well with his classmates as well as by himself. Hubert seems to struggle with fluency and pronunciation, but he can improve those skills by reading sentences aloud after hearing them spoken first (by a parent or teacher). He also can expand his vocabulary skills by reading novels and choosing four or five unfamiliar words from each chapter. Overall, Hubert does well and can improve with more practice over the year!

The above comment may be a bit long, but it frames the student’s behavior in positive light, as well as provides ways of improving certain skills the student may need help developing.

If a new teacher is unsure as to how to phrase something, it’s best to ask a mentor or another teacher who is experienced. Looking at past comments by previous teachers can help new teachers think of the proper phrasing, as well as content for the comment. Also once the comments are finished, print out a few copies for proofing and then edit/revise anything that needs to be changed before the final reports with comments go out. Student progress comments can really help teachers plan more effective and engaging lessons as they get to know their students and students’ learning styles. They also are good records to keep in case future teachers need any information regarding a particular student, or during parent-teacher conferences.



I am an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience. I teach kindergarten and elementary students in South Korea. I have taught middle school and adult ELLs in the past, too. My goal as a teacher is to help my students develop and achieve fluency in English, but also in other areas of their lives. I try to educate the whole child.