Reading Between the Lines

Report cards will be sent home in the near future for many school aged children. That envelope with the enclosed report card represents about 17 hours of collective teacher work– especially if you receive personal comments on your progress report. My son receives comments from 9 separate teachers. Some of the comments are only one sentence long, but if you know how to read between the lines, they say much more than you might think at first glance.

Match your report card comments with the key words and phrases listed below to determine if your kid is an Intelligent Follower or a Friendly Underachiever. Suzy will be playing the part of your daughter; Johnny will be playing the part of your son.

Hard Worker, Reliable, Independent, Intelligent

  • Suzy is organized.
  • Johnny exceeds expectations on assignments.
  • Suzy is an eager participant
  • Johnny is a conscientious student.
  • Suzy often contributes ideas that show an understanding that go beyond the surface meaning.
  • Johnny has consistent work habits.
  • Suzy is a self-starter.
  • Johnny volunteers ideas often that enhance class discussion.
  • Suzy is a pro-active learner and asks questions or seeks help if she needs additional practice with a skill.
  • Johnny meets objectives for the “X” assignment.
  • Suzy has good time management skills.
  • Johnny has creative ideas.

Kind, Thoughtful, Friendly

  • Johnny arrives at school with a smile every morning.
  • Suzy makes an effort to show consideration to others.
  • Johnny is a leader both as a friend and as a student.
  • Suzy is cooperative.
  • Johnny is respectful.
  • Suzy works well during group work.
  • Johnny makes good choices in the classroom.
  • Suzy thinks of others first, and I appreciate her kindness.
  • Johnny goes out of his way to help classmates and teachers.
  • Suzy has a caring attitude.


  • Suzy does not always like to work independently and needs support to start assignments.
  • Johnny has not embraced the effort required to be a successful “X” grader.
  • Suzy does not take ownership of her work.
  • I would like to see Johnny demonstrate more personal responsibility.
  • Suzy is struggling with the amount of time and effort required to complete assignments well.


  • Johnny is capable of making his own decisions.
  • Suzy should consider what she believes is right and not make choices based on her classmates’ decisions.
  • Johnny’s peers have a strong influence on his behavior.

Disruptive, Hyper, Chatty

  • I need to re-direct Suzy’s attention often.
  • I would like Johnny to settle into class more quickly.
  • Suzy’s self control is improving, and I appreciate her effort.
  • Johnny seeks attention that delays instruction.
  • I sense that Suzy is looking for loopholes, so she can create her own set of rules for completing assignments.
  • I want Johnny to focus on classroom procedures.
  • Suzy is enthusiastic in class, but she should give classmates a turn as well.
  • Johnny needs to make sure he is chatting at appropriate times.
  • Suzy needs to focus on the teacher, not classmates, during class instruction.

Know-it-All, Bossy, Bully

  • Johnny is a leader in the class but does not always influence the group in a positive way.
  • Suzy struggles with peer relations.
  • We are working together to make sure Johnny is setting positive examples.
  • I would like to remind Suzy to consider her classmate’s feelings.
  • Johnny is working to improve social skills.
  • Suzy does not need to monitor the activities of classmates.
  • I do have to remind Johnny not to worry about his classmates’ choices.

Underachiever, Careless, Disorganized

  • Suzy does not always show what she knows on assessments.
  • Johnny should carefully read directions.
  • If Suzy will review work before giving it to the teacher, it will reduce errors.
  • Johnny has great ideas even though it might take him some time to organize his thoughts.
  • Suzy has made great efforts to improve her organization and focus in class.
  • I would like Johnny to stretch his abilities.
  • Suzy’s final project was not as polished as I had hoped.
  • I am encouraging Johnny not to rush to finish first.

The positive comments are easy to decipher. Constructive comments are difficult (these are the negative ones). Teachers want to set goals for improvement but let parents know in a way that is not overly confrontational. What kinds of comments do you receive on your children’s report cards? What comments worked well, which ones were confusing, and which ones were so generic they did not give you any insight into your child’s progress at school? Please share.

End of Year Writing Portfolios

writing portfolio binder

Several months ago I submitted my name to guest post on the teaching blog, All Things Upper Elementary. Today’s the day that my post goes live! In my guest post, I share one of my favorite teaching projects of the year. My students always create an end of year writing portfolio to showcase their writing (and growth in writing) from the school year.

Whether you are a parent or a teacher (or a writer) being able to look back through a year’s worth of work is always a thrill. In the case of my students, there are obvious changes in handwriting, sentence structure, word choice, and style. Since I am with my students every day, I am not always aware of how much they improve over the course of nine months. As soon as my students complete their portfolios, and I can compare writing from August to the writing from April, it is immediately obvious how much a child’s writing can progress in a school year.

portfolio requirements

My students use a 3-ring binder and select favorite writing from the year based on a checklist I give them. They organize the writing with a table of contents. Since we complete this project at the beginning of May, these portfolios often end up as Mother’s Day presents (hint, hint).

my children's work

With my own children, I keep *significant* project and writing samples that come home. I deposit these special items in a big pile on a shelf in my closet (and secretly throw away school work that does not make the cut when THEY are not looking). At some point during the summer, I sort the stack and organize the work into a storage box with Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars’ name/year on the front. Then, I am ready to start over again in the fall.

If you have not already clicked through to my post at All Things Upper Elementary, feel free to do so now. The writing portfolio teacher instructions and handouts are available for free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Happy almost end of the school year!

portfolio samples

Going on a Field Trip

field trip

The bulk of the field trips my teammate and I schedule occur during the last 6 weeks of school. This includes a 3 day overnight trip related to our science curriculum. If it were up to me, I would not have any field trips and definitely not any overnight trips.

When my students are in the confines of the school building, I have full control (more or less). As soon as I leave campus with my students, all kinds of untold dangers are lurking around every corner, and the number one thing on my mind is getting these students back to their families in the same condition in which they left.

We have parent volunteers accompany us on all of our expeditions and let me tell you, I am slightly picky about parent volunteers. It is not always first come, first serve in my classroom. This is what I need from parent volunteers.

Charlestowne Landing

  1. Have a cell phone in case of emergency but do not use it on the field trip. Do not make a phone call or check e-mails or texts. If you have a job that requires you to check in often, do not volunteer to chaperone.
  2. Spread out from the other parents. If all parents clump together at the back of the group, you can’t help with crowd control, discipline, and safety, and that is why I invited you along.
  3. Be at the pick up and drop off locations on time and as instructed. If you decide that it would be nice to take the kids in your car out for ice cream on the way home, or if you drive them to your house for pick up at the end of the day rather than back to the school for regular carpool line, you just created a giant liability issue for the school and me. If students ride together on a bus, this problem is eliminated!
  4. It is OK for you to discipline students if they wander away, are too loud, or are rude to the tour guide. I want your help in this area. If you are uncomfortable disciplining, let the teacher know. Please don’t sit back and watch the unacceptable behavior continue.
  5. Do not complain about school issues or faculty members on the field trip. This is not a time to vent any problems you may have with the school. It puts me in an awkward position, and it is poor manners. However, feel free to tell me what a great school year it has been.
  6. Do not try to have a parent/teacher conference while on the field trip. I can’t give you my full attention, and it is not exactly a private forum.
  7. DO enjoy yourself and this time with your child and his/her classmates. Field trips are supposed to be a little bit of fun. I do want parents who participate in the activities when appropriate and are engaged.
Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.

Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.

Managing parent volunteers on field trips for my classroom has made me more aware when I attend a field trip as the parent volunteer for my own children. I try to anticipate where a teacher might need back-up even if it is simply counting children and letting the teacher know everyone is present. Because, in the end, I always consider it a successful trip if I arrive back at school with the same amount of students I had when I left. What are your best (or worst) field trip stories? The teacher or parent version!